Selection of a jury which Rod Blagojevich has wooed or tried to taint since his indictment 18 months ago on 24 corruption charges entered its second day Friday.
The impeached Illinois governor has written a book, hosted a radio talk show, stormed the national television networks with self-serving interviews and appeared on a reality TV series and just may have talked himself into prison to claim his innocence of backroom wheeling and dealing. In Chicago? Whose kidding whom?
"The truth shall set you free," Blagojevich-turned religious as do so many crooks who found their way to prison, told well-wishers as he entered the federal courtroom building Thursday.
As a lifelong student of political science, I could care less about the outcome of this trial which attorneys for both sides expect will continue through the summer. My focus will be on the sleazy backroom politics in a city and state known for its political corruptness -- testified under oath.
I only hope that if Rahm Emmanuel, President Obama's chief of staff, chooses to honor a subpoena and "swears" to tell the truth the foul-mouthed former Chicago congressman does not take it literally.The pretrial publicity already has sunk to the gutter.
The jury will listen to 500 hours of tape recordings of Blagojevich and his staff thinking up ways to make money and selling Obama's vacant Senate seat. Two former staffers have pleaded guilty to related charges.
Those include Blagojevich's former chiefs of staff John Harris and Alonzo "Lon" Monk. Harris copped to conspiring to sell the Senate seat. Monk pleaded guilty to conspiring to solicit a bribe in the form of campaign contributions from a racetrack owner.
The G-man in charge of their side of the trial is U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald of Scooter Libby prosecution fame, former Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff, and successful prosecutor of Blagojevich's predecessor, Republican Gov. George Ryan, still serving a 6 1/2-year sentence in stir for racketeering and fraud.
There's no denying interest in the Blagojevich trial is big time, especially in Chicago. "This blows every other political story out of the newspapers and off the air," Roosevelt University political scientist Paul Green said.
Well, Mr. Green, I beg to differ. On a scale of 10, I would rate its news value, except in the narcissistic minds of Rod and Patti Blagojevich, off the radar screen when compared to --
The Gulf of Mexico oil spill threatening to pollute and destroy a third of the Hemisphere. The continual prospects of war between North and South Korea. Israel's belligerent stand keeping arms from being smuggled into Hamas-controlled Gaza. Iran's race to build and develop nuclear warheads. Al-Qaeda's pledge to terrorize Americans. Euro's battle to keep its union from financial collapse. The U.S. economy so fragile it could tank at any moment. The demise of Blagojevich's Democratic Party in the November elections.
If convicted, Blagojevich faces a maximum of 415 years in prison and fines totaling $6 million. That's no laughing matter but don't underestimate the defrocked guv.
From the start of the scandal dating back to December 2008, Blogojevich has been unbowed, saying he has been set up by the Democratic machine in Chicago. "I will fight, I will fight, and I will fight until I take my last breath," he said.
Blow the house down is unlikely to happen. It will be entertaining if not so tragic.