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Tamara N. Holder

Tamara N. Holder

Posted: June 28, 2010 11:36 PM

Crazy or Reasonable Belief? The Latest From the Blagojevich Trial

What's Your Reaction:

I am a Democrat. I voted for Obama as President. I want him to succeed -- if he fails, America fails.

But, the case against former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich leads me to question the intra-party political games. Did Governor Blagojevich play "Politics as Usual" -- an argument Judge Zagel will not allow -- or did he really behave so differently than other politicians?

It's time to call a spade a spade.

Thus far, the Blagojevich trial revealed that Barack Obama apparently wanted Governor Blagojevich to appoint Valerie Jarrett to his soon-to-be-vacant Illinois Senate seat. The Government alleges that, in exchange for the Jarrett appointment, Blagojevich wanted Obama to appoint him to a Cabinet position or as an Ambassador to India or South Africa. That's right, India.

Last week, the Government played a recorded call between Blagojevich and his Chief of Staff, John Harris, where they discussed the appointment idea. Here is a portion of the conversation:

Harris: You know. The question now is what's a reasonable request.

###
Harris: You know, I wouldn't do any ambassadorships. I mean Obama would do amba-, ambassadorships.
Blagojevich: He would?
Harris: Yeah, I think he'd do ambassadorships.
Blagojevich: Okay. I'm interested. How about India? South Africa? How about India? India's vital.
Harris: Yeah, India's vital. I'd say India...
Blagojevich: Is that realistic or would he reject that?
Harris: No, that's realistic.
Blagojevich: Is it?
Harris: I think so.

###
Blagojevich: Indonesia, it, okay, India, you India's not out of the realm of possibility, huh?
Harris: Well, no, I take that back, 'cause I don't know who his Indian donors are. You know, in terms of he might uh...
Blagojevich: I don't, understand that, but I don't think he's gonna' put an Indian there. I don't think he'd put an Indian...
Harris: That would seem to be much more professional person, lot of credentials.
Blagojevich: That's what I think, it's vital.
Harris: Vital, big, you know, corporate CEO type.

When the Government played the tape, many of us -- who listened in the over-flow courtroom -- laughed at the discussion. India? Really?

That's because, on the outside looking in, the idea sounded ludicrous. But was it?

Fast forward six months after the Blagojevich/Harris conversation to May of 2009: President Obama appointed several Ambassadors, three of whom were:

1. Louis Susman aka"The Vacuum": Appointed to Ambassador of Britian, Mr. Susman is an ex-Vice Chairman of Citigroup; according to Public Citizen and AllGov,

Susman bundled at least $100,000 for Obama's presidential campaign and no less than $300,000 for his inauguration, including $50,000 in personal funds. Further, over the years he and his wife have contributed at least $581,400 to federal candidates, committees and parties, with 99 percent of that sum going to Democrats, including at least $12,800 to Obama.

In fact, I voiced my concern over Susman's appointment last year:
Well, I guess it does not matter WHAT you know, it matters WHAT you give. And it does not matter WHO gives the money, it matters WHO hears you talking about giving the money.

Isn't it interesting that Harris predicted an Obama appointment would be a "corporate CEO type" and Susman fits that exact description?


2. John Roos: Appointed to Ambassador to Japan, Mr. Roos was a key fundraiser for Obama, from California. He did not speak Japanese, nor did he have any foreign relations experience. According to OpenSecrets.org, Roos bundled at least $500,000 for Obama.

3. Charles Rivkin: Appointed to Ambassador to France, Mr. Rivkin was another key fundraiser from California and former-CEO of The Jim Henson Company. According to AllGov.com and OpenSecrets.org, he bundled $500,000 for Obama's campaign committee then an additional $300,000 for the inaugural committee.

I am not suggesting Obama engaged in quid pro quo appointments. But, instead, I am suggesting that before we laugh at Blagojevich for what appears to be, on the surface, completely delusional ideas, we must look at the entire appointment process as a whole.

It is becoming more and more clear that Blagojevich sought the counsel of many of his staff members. Thus far, we have not heard one advisor tell him, "No, you cannot seek something in exchange from Obama. That is illegal and you will go to prison." Not once.

Maybe that's because Blagojevich's desire for an exchange is not illegal...

 

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