There’s no one more dangerous to The Squid aka the Democratic Party than a fallen angel who once occupied high status.
Rod Blagojevich, the most corrupt governor in Illinois history, who once dreamed of the presidency for himself, is in training to become the Rocky Balboa of national politics. With certain differences.
Balboa, you remember, was played by Sylvester Stallone, the lead in the 1976 smash pop-art film Rocky. It’s the story of a good kid from the poor side of Philadelphia who worked in the perpetually sub-zero temperature of a meat-packing company freezer, training by punching frigid carcasses of cattle…moonlighted as a collector for a loan shark…had a girlfriend who believed in him when no one else did…and who spent most of his evenings as a so-so boxing club fighter, a human punching bag at a neighborhood gym—looking for a chance.
A chance not to go big-time—but just to prove he wasn’t another bum.
You remember how it continues. Burgess Meredith, a `20s bantamweight contender and owner of the local boxing gym, Rocky’s genius trainer finds out that the major contender to the national champion has just broken his hand—and the fight must be held a few weeks later, Jan. 1, 1976, the dawn of the Bicentennial. The title holder is the impressive, statuesquely black Apollo Creed and national marketing is all set for the fight.
Trouble is there aren’t any really credible competitors so the great Apollo Creed himself must pick who will be the sacrificial lamb. Meredith concocts the dramatic name “the Italian Stallion” for Balboa to catch Creed’s eye. It does and Creed says “I like it! We’ll bill it as Apollo Creed Meets the Italian Stallion!”
Switch now to Rod Blagojevich. There are subtle similarities.
(1). Rod Blagojevich, a Serbian immigrant’s son, always wanted to prove something, too--that he was better than his big brother Rob, 16 months older, who was smarter, better looking, a better athlete, much better student.
(2), Rocky worked in a meat packing plant; so did Rod for a time—also as shoe-shine boy and pizza delivery man.
(3). Both were boxers, although there are differences. Rocky was a part-time fighter who seemed to fly at his foes without much self-protection, taking a beating but giving blow for blow like a street fighter. Rod fought only two fights in the Golden Gloves--so careful was he to protect his face that he moved his arms up to his head, leaving his solar plexus open which opponents concentrated on.
(4). Rocky was a rough-`em-up collector for a loan shark. Rod was accused of running a North Side book even while an assistant state’s attorney (details later).
(5). Rocky’s girlfriend, Adrian, supported him in everything he did. Rod’s devoted wife, Patti sided with him even when he assailed her powerful, wealthy father, stood by placidly when Rod refused to allow their children to see their dying grandmother (Patti’s mother). In fact when Rod was hired as a contestant on the TV reality show “Get Me Out of Here—I’m a Celebrity!” and a federal judge refused to allow Rod to leave the country claiming he was susceptible to flight to avoid prosecution, Patti replaced him and scored first in a dead tarantula-eating contest mandated by the script. (Rod has been performing these cameo appearances in an effort to win at least one sympathizer on his future jury pool to vote to acquit—all he needs to walk out a free man).
(6). And there’s a final similiarity—almost identicality: Rocky’s trainer and Rod’s lawyer. Of that later.
Of course there is at least one definite dissimilarity.
Rocky’s family was devastatingly poor. Rod’s was not: the Blagojevich family lived on the northwest side, 2nd floor of a well-kept 5-room two-flat, the neighborhood flowing with Serbian, Polish, Latvian languages. His Republican father would out-do himself finding jobs to keep his family afloat. His mother, the Democrat, had modest connections as a volunteer in the ward run by a Squid crown prince, finance chairman Tom Keane, enabling her to become a ticket-taker for the CTA [Chicago Transit Authority].
As a result, the Blagojeviches occasionally did slightly better than just get by but enjoy some of the things the middle class had.
Rod’s Struggle to Equal His Big Brother.
Always the leader of the two, older brother Rob won a baseball scholarship at the University of Tampa. Rod didn’t but the family scraped up enough to send him as well. It didn’t work out. Rod mailed a long-shot application to prestigious Northwestern University. He was accepted, majored in history, lived at home and spent evenings running pizza orders.
While at Northwestern, saving money for law school, Rod used his Mom’s Democratic connections to land a clerk’s job at the Recorder of Deeds. His proficiency with Serbian and Croatian led him to a second job as an interpreter for the Cook county courts.
Flunking his law school aptitude test erased any hope to go to Northwestern Law…but a girl-friend impressed with his curly black hair, imitations of Elvis Presley, phenomenal memory that retained reams of verses of poetry…as well as his puckish round cheeks… got him an interview with a favorite law prof uncle at California’s Pepperdine University. He borrowed the travel dough and while his LSAT score was unimpressive, his personality-plus interview with the uncle, did it. Thus he studied law there just enough to get by, spending hours as a sun bum on the gorgeous beaches of Malibu, home of the rich and famous.
He graduated middle of his class at Pepperdine (better than expected). He returned home, used his Croatian language to land a translator’s job in Eddie Vrdolyak’s law office, an alderman about whom there was always detected an aroma of corruption.
Rod failed the bar exam but niched it on the second try. Then: how to get a law job? Using another girl friend’s Dem connections, he got a second-string prosecutor’s job with the Cook county state’s attorney (Richard M. Daley).
Note: In December, 2008 WLS-TV, Chuck Goudie, (the chief investigator television side of the station I work part-time for) broke the story that during the time he worked for the prosecutor, Rod was a small-time bookmaker on the North Side and regularly paid a street tax to the mob, failure to do which would mean ending up in the trunk of an abandoned car or at the bottom of Lake Michigan but about which years later federal prosecutors had no interest: It was a smalltime bookie operation of an unknown assistant state’s attorney. Rod denied it when it came out but in any event, the statute of limitations had long since expired. The Goudie story has never been disproved.
Finding a Wife.
At age 31, Rod figured he should think about getting married. At the same time one Patti Mell, 23, had just broken up with her boyfriend. Her father, Richard, was a self-made multi-millionaire from the private sector (Mell Spring Co.) and the immensely powerful boss of the 33rd ward, a crown jewel of The Squid. The family is fallen-away Polish Catholic.
One night Mell was hosting a fund-raiser at a German restaurant and prodded his daughter, who was mooning about her lost boyfriend, into coming. “You’ve gotta get out of the house!” he said. At the same time, one who knew them both—a judge—told Rod that his future might be found at that restaurant. Rod showed up, scouted the Mell family and asked out of the corner of his mouth to the judge, “which one’s Patti?”
(Bruce DuMont was there and he tells me I was too. I may have been since at the time I went to a few of Mell’s parties as a guest (we were often on DuMont’s WBEZ show together). But if I were there, I sure missed the historic meeting between Blago and Patti..
He didn’t know who she was but she knew who he was, courtesy of the matchmaker judge.
Patti was impressed and told her then skeptical father: “He said if I go out with him I’ll have the time of my life.”
She did; he was right; he did show her the time of her life.
The rest is history—a very good marriage, thus far, anyhow. Neither Patti nor the non-practicing Catholic Mell family, had qualms about her marrying into, and becoming part of, Rod’s church—the Serbian Orthodox which severed from Rome in 1219.
And as the world knows, the couple made political history, courtesy of her clout-heavy Dad who wanted to see his son-in-law succeed.
Under Dick Mell’s guidance, Rod Blagojevich was: Elected Dem state rep. Then elected 5th district Dem congressman, after Mell-paid billboards sprang up like mushrooms after a Spring rain informing people how Blagojevich is pronounced: “Vote Blah-goy-a-vitch!”
Finally after two House terms Rod was elected Dem governor with Mell running much of the financing. On election day 2002 the 46-year-old Rod could look everywhere and see the political world as his oyster. In command of the state with hefty Dem majorities in the legislature, all he had to do was show up for work every day and things should work out right for him. In his future if he did only reasonably well: a shot as the Democratic presidential nomination in 2008 basis his being Governor of Illinois.
But that was to end. Rod disliked how being known as a sidekick of Mell tied him to The Squid. He wanted to make his own deals, handle his own career apart from The Squid. Just barely spotted on the horizon appeared one who might be a future competitor for president: a tall, skinny black state senator with a funny name: Barack Obama. Rod shrugged him off.
Predictably there came a family breakup between Rod and his father-in-law over whether Rod should be indentured to The Squid. Patti wounded her father by taking her husband’s side. The rupture led to Rod’s handling money raising on his own for the balance of his first term and funding the campaign that led to his second.
Acting on his own, Rod plunged into untold corruption—leading The Squid to identify with Obama for president looking to 2008. That year Obama won the presidency smashingly while Rod was landing in the papers for tawdry deals quid pro quo for money.
Things crested in Rod’s Fed-recorded phone deals to make money off naming Obama’s Senate seat replacement. These phone tapes led to (a) arrival of FBI agents to arrest him at 5 a.m. at his Chicago house on December 9, 2008…(b) his impeachment…removal from office…and (c) indictment by the feds.
Rubbing his scabs, Rod vowed to get even with his Squid assailants who love Obama so: by corruption to Obama. Goal: influencing the one juror needed for acquittal—and irredeemably tarnishing Obama.
He wants to disprove Obama’s protestations of innocence to the convicted Tony Rezko. But when the Feds released their indictment of Blago, they had redacted parts of the allegations concerning Obama. How to get that stuff out?
Rocky’s and Rod’s Brilliant Trainers.
The final similarity between Rocky and Rod: their trainers. Back to the hugely beaten-up, bloodied Rocky Balboa, slumped on his stool, with fisticuff genius Burgess Meredith’s poring boxing strategy in his ears as he was being toweled and rubbed down by helpers.
And now Rod has at last found his own genius-trainer: Chicago’s grandiloquent black attorney Sam Adam, Jr. who matriculated under Ed Genson and whosaved rock singer R. Kelly from almost certain conviction for sexual child abuse when the act seemed clearly visible on video tape.
Remember Rocky Balboa running up the multi-stepped Philadelphia Art Museum on the eve of the main event, thrusting his arms up into the air gladiator style and shouting victory?
With Sam Adam as director, there was Rod shouting to the press “I will fight! I will fight! I will fight!” and involves his attacking icon federal prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald, a tactic no one has ever seen before.
How to blast the Fed-redacted parts of the Blago indictment which pertain to Obama? First. Rod requested Obama be subpoenaed as a witness at his trial to begin this June.Reason: Convicted influence peddler Rezko is key to the government’s case. Blago wants Obama to be forced to undercut Rezko’s story. Which will push the Feds to give them more info—on Obama. But in order to make the case, the Feds’ redactions had to be removed.
There was only one way to lift the redactions. Surreptitiously he media suddenly were given via computer the key to un-redact the Feds’ blackouts. Suddenly they appeared on a website with all the redactions omitted. The federal judge called both parties into executive session and screamed at them. Attorney Sam Adam, Jr. sat placid. Did he do it? Who knows?
The full transcript…without the redactions…shows these things…quite injurious to Obama:
- That the president may have lied about conversations with convicted fraudster the incarcerated Tony Rezko, his former friend, fund-raiser and neighbor that Rezko never passed along a lobbyist’s offer to then state Senator Obama about placing a gambling casino in suburban Rosemont which Rezko could have made a killing on. The proffer was for Rezko to hold a fundraiser for Obama in return for Obama’s support of a favorable official action on gaming legislation. Obama has denied ever receiving such an offer. Says the previously redacted portion: The defense has a good faith belief that this public official is Barack Obama.
- That Obama may have overtly recommended Valerie Jarrett to Blago for appointment to his Senate seat contradicting Obama who insisted neither he nor his staff had any input with Blago on the matter..
- That an Obama supporter may have offered quid pro quo on the Jarrett appointment, specifically fund-raising in exchange for the Jarrett appointment.
- That contrary to what Obama’s aides told the FBI, he offered a quid pro quo to Blago on a Jarrett senate appointment, i.e. fund-raising for Blago in exchange for her appointment.
- That contrary to what Obama has maintained personally and via aides to the FBI, , he maintained a list of candidates other than Jarrett for the appointment.
- That contrary to a flurry of White House denials, Rahm Emanuel told the FBI that he had a conversation with Obama on filling the Senate seat with yet another African American female, on Dec. 7, 2008. This would necessitate Obama’s under-oath testimony either confirming or denying it as an aid to the defense.
Last week the federal judge refused to approve subpoena’ing Obama: a signal victory for the prosecution. But the game is not over yet.
The judge said he is willing to reconsider the issue during the course of the trial which begins June 3—if Blago’s lawyers submit more evidence that they need Obama’s testimony. Count on it: They’ll either submit more evidence directly or more allegations will come out that will warrant Obama’s participation.
Spectacular leakages in the future may force Obama to make an appearance either here in Chicago or in Washington via video-tape. If so, it will be an eerie reenactment of the Bill Clinton scenario. Obama better not fudge the truth. Clinton did, committing perjury for which he was impeached by the House.
Thus Blago is counting on ruining Obama. Earlier he vowed to call “every single witness in the criminal complaint,” said Blagojevich with trainer Sam Adam whispering in his ear. “I’m talking about Rahm Emanuel, Sen. Durbin and others engaged in conversations with me on a variety of different things, all appropriate and all legal, and I’d like every one of them to testify under oath.”
If they all testify, it could produce one of the most corrosive corruption scandals of all times for the White House. That’s what Rod Blagojevich and Sam Adam, Jr. are aiming for. Which is why the Chicago media are more hostile to Blago than they have ever been to other indicted lawbreakers: George Ryan included. Their semi-sacred Obama presidency is in peril.
Rocky & Rod Together At Last?
The film Rocky ends with the massive battle ending in a draw.
Rod hopes the ending in this scenario will be better.
As in the sequel, Rocky II, where Balboa wins and Apollo Creed is deposed.
Will Obama be deposed—in the legal meaning: give testimony concerning purported evidence that has been circulated to his political disadvantage?
Stay tuned: Chicago Squid politics are national box-office.
*: Feast of the Finding of the Holy Cross. [AD 326]. While details of the accounts vary about the finding of the true Cross, St. Ambrose and St. John Chrysostom tell us that the excavations were undertaken at the insistence of St. Helena, the mother of Emperor Constantine. In AD 313 he issued the Edict of Milan permitting Christianity in the empire and releasing all religious prisoners. At about this time Helena was converted to Christianity (she was then 63) and according to the historian Eusebius she zealously supported the Catholic cause, built numerous churches, aided the poor and ministered to the distressed. After Constantine became sole emperor of both East and West and moved to Constantinople, Helena went to Palestine in search of the relic of the True Cross.
While there, according to testimony from fairly reputable scholrs, Rufionius, Sulpicius Severus and St. Ambrose she discovered the True Cross. After careful study, she had directed excavations where she adjudged the crucifixion had taken place. The three aforementioned say that she discovered three crosses and an inscription but there was no say to discover which one was the true Cross. It was then that the Bishop of Jerusalem had an inspiration. He brought to the site a dying woman who was touched with all three crosses. At contact with the third, she was healed. That sealed it.