Ishmael here. I’ll be live-blogging embattled Illinois governor and all-around hairpiece Rod Blagojevich’s press conference, set to begin at 2 p.m. Central.
Before the press conference starts, let’s talk a little bit about Roland Burris, who Blago is set to name to the empty Illinois Senate seat. He was Illinois Attorney General under one of the few non-corrupt Illinois governors, Jim Edgar. He lost a Senate primary to Paul Simon (the one with the bow ties, not the one with the guitar). And in 2002, he, Blago, and Paul Vallas fought a close primary race for the governorship.
In hindsight, it seems amazing that Blago got elected in the first place, let alone won reelection in 2006. How did he do it? Apparently, through radio ads like this:
UPDATE 1:15 p.m.: WGN reporters wondering what the “opportunistic” Roland Burris will do now that he’s being dragged through Blago’s mud. Tribune reporter Rick Pearson mentions that Burris constructed a mausoleum with space on it for his future accomplishments (e.g. first African-American governor of Illinois). Progress Illinois notes that Burris smacked Blago down pretty hard after his arrest.
UPDATE 1:28 p.m.: Politico has Harry Reid’s statement (emphasis mine):
It is truly regrettable that despite requests from all 50 Democratic Senators and public officials throughout Illinois, Gov. Blagojevich would take the imprudent step of appointing someone to the United States Senate who would serve under a shadow and be plagued by questions of impropriety. We say this without prejudice toward Roland Burris’s ability, and we respect his years of public service. But this is not about Mr. Burris; it is about the integrity of a governor accused of attempting to sell this United States Senate seat. Under these circumstances, anyone appointed by Gov. Blagojevich cannot be an effective representative of the people of Illinois and, as we have said, will not be seated by the Democratic Caucus.
UPDATE 1:37 p.m.: Capitol Fax says Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White will not certify Burris’ appointment. Whether he can actually refuse to do it isn’t clear, but five bucks says that question won’t get answered at the press conference.
UPDATE 1:54 p.m.: WGN’s Robert Jordan is wearing a pretty snazzy suit (on CLTV’s rebroadcast of the 12 p.m. news) and predicting that this will speed up the impeachment process in the Illinois legislature. Jordan’s also an excellent dancer.
UPDATE 2:01 p.m.: And here we go! Blago says Feliz Navidad.
UPDATE 2:04 p.m: Burris speaks! We’re in a bunch of crises, and the people of Illinois need proper representation in Washington. The man looks good for 71 years old.
UPDATE 2:06 p.m.: President-Elect Obama has “strapped it up,” whatever that means.
UPDATE 2:10 p.m.: Burris takes question: Why won’t the appointment be tainted? He’s just accepting his appointment, that’s all. Blago called him on Sunday night. No comment on “what the governor’s circumstance is,” but he’s innocent until proven guilty. Burris is totally blindsided by the idea that his consulting firm gave $14K to Blago. Capitol Fax has the number as $11K. Blago has “enjoyed the limelight he’s had,” but doesn’t want to hog it or answer questions. Yet he is anyway.
UPDATE 2:12 p.m.: Bobby Rush is making his way up to the podium and defending Burris.
UPDATE 2:17 p.m.: This is huge. Rush is saying we should applaud the appointment and is going to take the case to Dick Durbin. He keeps repeating that it’s an issue of national importance, and that we should separate the appointee from the appointer.
UPDATE 2:20 p.m.: Blago, dashing out, repeats that all the political fallout should stay focused on him, although he’s innocent of any wrongdoing. Shakes Rush’s hand and thanks him for coming to the press conference.
UPDATE 2:30 p.m.: We knew this already, but there’s really no good solution to this, other than impeaching Blagojevich ASAP. Progress Illinois has the full statements from Blago and Rush (emphasis mine):
Blago: The people of Illinois are entitled to have two United States senators represent them in Washington, D.C. As governor, I am required to make this appointment. If I don’t make this appointment, then the people of Illinois will be deprived of their appropriate vote and voice in the United States Senate. Therefore, I am hear to announce my intention to appont an individual who has unquestioned integrity, extensive experience, and is a wise and distiguished senior statesman of Illinois. This man was actually once an opponent of mine for governor.
And now I’d like to ask everyone to one last thing: Please don’t let the allegations against me taint this good and honest man.
I applaud the governor for his decision. And I would ask you to not hang or lynch the appointee as you try to castigate the appointor. Separate, if you will, the appointee from the appointor. Roland Burris is worthy. He is the only one, I belive, that can stand in the gap in these tumultuous times and gather the confidence — restablish the confidence of the people of the State of Illinois.
As far as certification is concerned, I think the Secretary of State acted prematurely in issuing the statement. I’m not sure whether or not he has any authority to actually certify or not. But I do know that he should be concerned about how the people of the state of Illinois will react to him not certifying this particular individual, Roland Burris, to replace the president-elect.
As far as my colleagues in the Congress, I intend — or we intend — to persuade them or to challenge them or to do whatever — beg them — whatever it may take to get them to reverse their decision. … I don’t think that any U.S. senator who is sitting in the U.S. Senate right now wants to deny one African-American from being seated in the U.S. Senate. I don’t think they want to go on record doing that.
UPDATE 2:40 p.m.: Lieutenant Governor Pat Quinn is holding his own press conference. The people of Illinois need to stand up for a special election. Blago has disgraced himself and should be removed from office. He thinks Burris made a mistake in accepting this appointment. He’s being very moderated in his responses — Quinn has a reputation as being a little fiery, but he’s being fairly even-keeled here. Cleaning up Illinois politics is a “herculean task,” but he has faith in Jesse White.
UPDATE 2:48 p.m.: Quinn seems confused by Burris’ acceptance of the appointment. He reiterates that Blago should leave office. Press conference over.
[Edited for formatting — DS]