Blago, Bleeps, and—Lincoln?

Federal prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald may be right about a lot of things when it comes to former Illinois Gov. George Ryan’s future cellmate—current Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich—but he got one thing very wrong at today’s press conference.

In a nutshell, Governor Blagojevich is being charged with trying to squeeze the Chicago Tribune into firing editorialists who don’t like him and trying to sell President-elect Barack Obama’s vacant Senate seat to the highest bidder.  After a few weeks of tapped phones and wired pals, Blago managed to give Fitzgerald lots and lots of incriminating comments, many of them laced with f-bombs, including one mother-f-bomb dropped on the name of one President-elect Barack Obama.  Uh-oh.

The real dinger came during today’s press conference, in which Mr. Fitzgerald offered a few examples from the 76-page indictment.  Obama’s Senate seat, Blago was recorded as saying, is “a bleeping valuable thing. You just don’t give it away. … I’ve got this thing and it’s bleeping golden.”  Of course, after each quotation, Fitzgerald reminded everyone that Gov. Rod did not say “bleeping”—”that’s a redaction.”

At one point, Fitzgerald added, “The conduct would make Lincoln roll over in his grave.”

Letting folks buy their way into power?  Threatening newspapermen for writing things critical of the chief executive?  Rod, you have a lot to learn from Honest Abe.

“If [Illinois] isn’t the most corrupt state in the United States, it’s certainly one hell of a competitor,” said FBI Special Agent Robert Grant afterward. “Even the most cynical agents in our office were shocked.”

It ain’t called the Land of Lincoln for nothin’.

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