Taking his media blitz national Monday in New York, hundreds of miles from the start of his impeachment proceedings in Springfield, embattled Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich continued to portray himself as Jimmy Stewart in "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington," an idealist who stands up to political corruption.
Yet Blagojevich at times also came across as Jimmy Stewart in "Harvey," an eccentric who seems to see things others don't and says things others consider odd.The governor's string of network and cable TV appearances from dawn to late-night represented a calculated political gamble by a politician trying very, very hard to give the impression he was distancing himself from politics and using the media to say he has been unfairly treated by the media.
Whoopi Goldberg told Blagojevich on "The View."
Whether Blagojevich did himself any favors is open to debate. Potential jurors in the audience who someday will be played tapes in court may come away thinking this is a man who says, well, a lot of things. Maybe there's a book deal or something else down the road.
What's certain is David Letterman, "The Daily Show," Jay Leno and "Saturday Night Live" won't be hurting for material this week.
And that was despite Blagojevich not taking the bait when "The View" co-host Joy Behar asked him on ABC to impersonate former President Richard Nixon by saying, "I am not a crook," then mussed his famous helmet of hair.
Among the day's highlights:
*The governor said he considered appointing talk show queen Oprah Winfrey to the U.S. Senate seat vacated by President Barack Obama.
*He said his youngest daughter has asked if Daddy will still be governor when she turns 6 in April.
*He insisted support from "15 angels and 20 saints led by Mother Teresa" wouldn't be enough to save his job in Springfield, because "the fix is in."
But Blagojevich also refused to take up Barbara Walters' entreaties on "The View" to deny he said Obama's vacated Senate seat was too valuable to be given away, as federal prosecutors said they had on tape last month after the governor was arrested.
The governor, who is being advised by a public relations firm that has worked with Drew Peterson, a former Bolingbrook policeman known for the women no longer in his life, struck familiar chords about the "rush to judgment" that has "denied me the presumption of innocence."
The questions differed slightly with each stop. The talking points did not.
The Illinois legislature's impeachment process, Blagojevich said, is a sham because the rules are stacked against him. Never mind that he and his lawyers skipped chances to challenge the Senate impeachment rules and to file motions requesting documents, subpoenas and witness testimony that could have supported his case.
"Those senators are politicians who make the rules and won't allow us to get them to change the rules, so I'm here talking to Americans to let them know what's happening in the Land of Lincoln," Blagojevich told ABC's Diane Sawyer on "Good Morning America." "If they can do this to a sitting governor, deny me the chance to bring witnesses in to prove my innocence ... that is a scary thing. If they can do that to a governor, they can do that to you."
If you were an elected state official facing impeachment, that is.
"Let's try to work through all that red herring he just served us all for breakfast," Republican state Sen. Matt Murphy said when offered a chance for rebuttal on ABC. "The suggestion that this is somehow unfair to the governor is the most self-serving, ludicrous statement I have ever heard in my life."
All day, the distinction between the impeachment, which is a political process, and the legal proceedings still to come was fuzzy, at best. Murphy pointed out that the impeachment rules were modeled on the ones used by the U.S. Senate for President Bill Clinton, who was acquitted. They're designed to not affect the pending legal fight ahead for Blagojevich's freedom.
Sawyer, who was treated to a brief reprise of Blagojevich's earlier Rudyard Kipling recitation, got the governor to confirm that he at one point considered offering Chicago-based Winfrey the open U.S. Senate seat that federal prosecutors allege he was looking to sell.
As impeachment trial begins ... he's live, from New York
Whether governor's PR gamble helped him is questionable, says the Tribune's Phil Rosenthal
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