As the full extent of Rod Blagojevich's alleged scheme to auction off the vacant Illinois Senate seat became known, some of the Governor's Illinois colleagues were at a loss to explain what, exactly, he was thinking.
Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D), in an interview Tuesday afternoon, was nearly shell-shocked by the full extent of the Justice Department's complaint, saying that Blagojevich had exhibited remarkably reckless behavior.
"I think, perhaps, [crazy] is sort of a clinically appropriate word," she said of Blagojevich, who allegedly sought to reap massive financial rewards from candidates vying for Obama's seat. "If you think about it, this individual who was still willing to entertain the notion of himself as Secretary of Health and Human Services or being a candidate 2016. There is something not right there ... It is absolutely so fanciful or delusional and individual. It's not representative of, 'well here are the rules.' It is not, in fact, the way most political people would handle a serious situation."
Schakowsky, considered a possible replacement for Obama, argued that Blagojevich, in light of these charges, should step down from office. Absent that, she added, the Illinois state government should launch impeachment proceedings. She agreed with the notion -- put forward by State Senate President Emil Jones and Senator Dick Durbin -- that the legislature should pass a bill allowing the people of Illinois to determine Obama's replacement (legislation that Blagojevich would, if governor, have to sign). And she cautioned that anyone appointed by the embattled governor to the post -- even if that person was herself -- would not enjoy political legitimacy.
"Sen. Durbin has already said, and I would agree, that an appointment by Gov. Blagojevich would be tainted," said Schakowsky. "The view of the voters in Illinois would be that that association would be damning. I think it would be easier if it was someone who had a record of his or her own that could actually overcome that. But I think it is still tough right now."
After word broke of the Blagojevich arrest, a number of Illinois officials weighed in with harsh and solemn words. Obama himself, said he was "saddened and sobered by the news that came out of the U.S. Attorney's office today." But, he added, that with it being "an ongoing investigation involving the governor, I don't it will be appropriate for me to comment on the issue at this time."
Republican officials were quick to pounce on the President-elect, sending out memos touting his connection to Blagojevich throughout the day and criticizing his unwillingness to cast immediate judgment.
"Leaders of both political parties have a responsibility to clearly condemn the actions by Governor Rod Blagojevich as alleged by federal prosecutors today," read a statement from RNC Chairman Mike Duncan. "Americans expect strong leadership, but President-elect Barack Obama's comments on the matter are insufficient at best. Given the President-elect's history of supporting and advising Governor Blagojevich, he has a responsibility to speak out and fully address the issue."
Asked how she would advise Obama to respond, Schakowsky noted that legal matters required a certain amount of prudence. At some point, she said, "[Obama] may choose to say something about the context. But the president-elect should not be involved right now."
As for the potential taint or embarrassment that the issue could cause the president-elect, Schakowsky said she saw no liabilities, noting that Obama had -- according to the complaint -- refused to play ball with Blagojevich.
"There is probably no one happier to be called the F-word than the President-elect being called that by Gov. Blagojevich," she said. "I think that he comes off very well in this. The governor says he got 'appreciation' and that was all."
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