Take this with a big grain of salt, if for no other reason than Rod Blagojevich has to remain circumspect about the very machinations he describes in his new memoir. The impeached and expelled former governor of Illinois uses the revelation that Rahm Emanuel wanted help in keeping his old House seat safe in order to argue that Patrick Fitzgerald got it all wrong in his indictment:
Ousted Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich says in a new book that White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel wanted his help in arranging to leave the Obama administration after two years to reclaim his seat in Congress.
Blagojevich writes in “The Governor” that Emanuel spoke with him about whether it was possible to appoint a “placeholder” to the congressional seat Emanuel was giving up so that he could win back the seat in 2010 and continue his efforts to become speaker some day. …
Blagojevich says Emanuel was interested in his own career because he had to give up his congressional seat to work in Obama’s White House. Blagojevich writes that Emanuel dreamed of being speaker of the U.S. House and wanted to know if Blagojevich would work with him to name a successor to “hold” his seat until he wanted it back.
Blagojevich says he told Emanuel he didn’t think he could do that and the House vacancy would have to be filled by special election. But Emanuel reportedly told him “his lawyers thought there was a way.”
Blagojevich writes that he struggled with the idea of appointing Lisa Madigan to the Senate. The prospect “repulsed” him because of bad blood with her father.
But in the end, Blagojevich saw it as a way to entice Michael Madigan to support legislation he wanted, including a long-stalled statewide construction program that he said would create jobs and expand health care access for families.
Blagojevich appointed Roland Burris instead, in large part because of Burris’ large ego. Blagojevich claims that Burris was the only option with enough ego to fight to keep his seat in the Senate after getting appointed by a soon-to-be removed Governor. That misses a lot of history, at least in this retelling, such as the repeated changes of story over Burris’ contact with Blagojevich before the appointment that had even Dick Durbin asking Burris to resign.
It sounds a little odd, anyway. Rahm’s big dream was to be House speaker? That was more important than being Barack Obama’s chief of staff, where he could act as Obama’s hatchet man? Perhaps, but I’d guess that Emanuel may have had other goals in mind — such as Blagojevich’s job, eventually — and that Emanuel would not be likely to quit after a year in the West Wing.
Did I say a big grain of salt? Make that a Lot’s-wife sized grain of salt. If Rod Blagojevich said, “Good morning,” I’d be tempted to check the window to be sure.