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Thursday, January 29, 2009

Blago's Masterful Closing Argument - First Take

Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich just finished his closing argument in the Senate impeachment trial. In an impassioned argument, Blagojevich invoked images of his immigrant parents, the people he tried to help by providing health care benefits, and working families.

Blagojevich followed a strategy of saving his arguments until the end, when the prosecution cannot call more witnesses. Blagojevich's arguments at many times were more like testimony, bringing up facts regarding various legislation at issue in the trial to show that nothing wrong took place. At times, Blagojevich called certain Senators out by name to recollect the projects they worked on.

Blagojevich argued that the criminal charges against him have not been proven, and that he has been denied the right of every American citizen to confront the evidence and witnesses against him, and to call witnesses. Blagojevich said that he wanted all the tapes played, and all the witnesses to testify, including Rahm Emanuel, Harry Reid and Dick Durbin. Blagojevich said he wasn't even getting school-yard justice; even in a school yard someone accused of fighting is allowed to bring other children to say that he didn't do it.

On the non-criminal charges at issue, Blagojevich argued that not one of his actions has been shown to be illegal, and on most of these issues, he worked with the Democratic leadership in the legislature and even Republicans. Blagojevich pointed out that each of the programs at issue was intended to help the working poor, not himself, and that the courts have not yet determined whether he acted properly or not. On importing prescription drugs, he worked with other governors and U.S. Senators Kennedy and McCain, and the entire idea came from then Congressman Rahm Emanuel. On flu shots, he said Illinois was not alone in trying to import flu vaccines due to a shortage, and other Governors such as Bill Richardson wanted some of the vaccines obtained by Illinois until the FDA stopped the program.

In summation, Blagojevich asked the legislators to walk a mile in his shoes, and not to set bad precedent for future Governors. Blagojevich asked the Senators to extent the process, reopen the evidence, listen to all the tapes, and allow him to call all the witnesses.

The Senators are in recess until 1 p.m. Central Time.
Afterthought No. 1: Blagojevich did about all he could do. He made the points, and played some psychology with the Senators by requesting that the process be extended. Will the Senators simply push forward with a vote this afternoon, or will they be concerned with the perception Blagojevich created in his media interviews this week -- hammered home in his closing argument -- that he is being railroaded? We'll find out pretty soon.
UPDATE: The Senate prosecutor gave his rebuttal, which was less than 15 minutes. The rebuttal started by the prosecutor saying he couldn't give as good a speech as a politician -- not sure that's the argument I would make to a jury of politicians. Also, I hate it when lawyers put themselves down as a means of trying to paint the other side as fast talking, it's an admission that you were outperformed.

On the substance, the prosecutor did well by contrasting the transcripts of taped calls with the Blagojevich who gave the closing. A rhetorical comparison of the Rod Blagojevich who says one thing when people are listening or watching, and another thing in private. The prosecutor could have been more methodical in this. The rhetorical device really didn't fit Blagojevich's argument, which is that the Senators have not been allowed to hear all the tapes and he has not been allowed to call witnesses. The prosecutor then went into campaign mode, arguing that "the people of this State have had enough, is today going to be more of the same, or a new era in this State. The people want to know are we finally going to turn the page." [My notes, not from an official transcript.]

There is a one hour break, then we should find out if there will be a vote today.



    It´s time to move from Illinois--
    Corruption rules the land:
    Blagojevich, a whipping boy,
    Took his defiant stand,
    But, since his manner did annoy
    (No evidence to hand)
    Due process thereby to destroy
    Voted an angry band.

    The legislators painted him
    A kind of reckless goof,
    Because his words weren´t always prim--
    Yet still they had no proof:
    The angels and the seraphim
    May fly up near the roof,
    But in the chamber men were grim
    As justice turned aloof.

    Presumption of one´s innocence
    In this case having waived,
    The mobocrats, they did commence
    Upon the path they paved
    Long in advance--and who knows hence
    Their precedent depraved
    Will lead to what? The consequence
    May be freedom enslaved.

    He strove to do the people´s good,
    The governor´s words came rich,
    But still the motley angry brood
    Preferred to bait-and-switch:
    Although his truth they understood
    It was a witch-hunt which
    To judgment rushed, and him they booed
    As though he were a snitch.

    Sententious proud the Mighty Quinn
    He led them in their jeers,
    The angry throng, and by his spin
    Turned truth, from what appears
    Self-evident, to something thin
    Which mob concensus clears,
    And though the governor sought to win
    Commonsense no one hears.

    "A world of allegation doth
    Not make a criminal act,"
    So said he, but, as behemoth
    The mob cared not for fact:
    "Impeach, impeach!" they cried, none loath
    Reticence to retract,
    Conjectures hurling rancid wroth
    As calumnies attacked.

    So their removal of the Guv
    Went off without a hitch--
    Whom none might bend so they did shove,
    Wrath wrought to feverish pitch;
    Ill-tempered legislators of
    Corruption in each niche,
    Sans justice--much less human love--
    Due Rod Blagojevich.

    Yet, whom all shun, the gods salute,
    And so man´s race is run:
    Although the facts men may confute
    Colluding everyone,
    Who falls so low in men´s repute
    The heavens do not shun,
    Telling him, "Your speech was a beaut,
    And you a man, my son."

    Before the mob he had his say
    But they removed him anyway
    Ere evidence came into play:
    Good people, it is time to pray
    That when the court your work reviews
    In calumny and wrathful ruse
    The judgment-sitters in their pews
    Be not the same ole kangaroos.


  2. Illinois has had some good governors and some not so good, some crooked governors who got sent to prison, some crooked governors who didn't, some non-crooked governors. They have never had a governor removed, no matter how bad, by impeachment.

    Blagojevich is a (for those here who evidently know nothing about him except what they've heard from him on tv or about him on tv) a *remarkably* bad governor.

    Is he glib? Sure. Is that a mark of a good governor. No.

    Public opinion turned against Blago shortly after his re-election in 2006. If the Legislature had any guts he would have been removed shortly after he attempted to spend hundreds of millions (possibly billions) of money not appropriated by the Legislature for programs not authorized by them.

    The Federal problems merely offered the Legislature a handy excuse for doing what they wanted (and should have done earlier) to.

    Those who forget that impeachment is a political crime should probably cease commenting as if it were a criminal trial.

    If the impeachment was 'wrong' the voters will punish the impeachers (I give you Bill Clinton in 1998). The rest is irrelevant.