Chutzpah

CHUTZPAH…. Reading the case (pdf) against Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D) paints a remarkable picture. The charges will, of course, still have to be proven beyond a reasonable doubt, but there are tape recordings of the governor’s conversations that are going to be very difficult to explain.

We’re not just talking about playing fast and loose with ethics rules here; we’re talking about almost comical levels of corruption. It’s not quite as jaw-dropping as the case against disgraced former Rep. Duke Cunningham (R-Calif.) — now that was an interesting read — but it’s certainly in the ballpark.

But there’s some context here that shouldn’t go overlooked. Josh Marshall noted:

Even setting aside the primordial level of corruption of trying to sell the senate seat of the President-elect of the United States, I never fail to be amazed at the brazenness and stupidity of some political crooks. I mean, I think everyone involved in politics or interested in political corruption in the country had to know that Blagojevich’s phones were tapped and probably his offices were bugged, and that Pat Fitzgerald had him under the craziest level of scrutiny. And he tries to sell the senate seat with that hanging over his head? That’s simply amazing. I guess you could say he’s just a traditionalist, trying to keep up heritage of Chicago machine politics. But with some of these characters, it must just be pathological.

Quite right. Think about the chutzpah Blagojevich has shown. He’s under investigation, and he knows it. He’s being watched by a relentless prosecutor, and he knows it.

And what does Blagojevich do, well aware that his every move is under the microscope? He literally tries to sell a vacant U.S. Senate seat. It’s almost as if he’s trying to qualify for some kind of political Darwin Award.

With William Jefferson losing on Saturday, and Rod Blagojevich getting busted today, the Democratic Party should be thrilled to be rid of its two most embarrassing members.

Post Script: I should add, by the way, that it’s unclear who else might be caught up in Blagojevich’s mess, but we know that Barack Obama isn’t part of any of this. Fitzgerald’s statement notes Blagojevich, anxious to cash in on the Senate vacancy, wasn’t getting any cooperation from the president-elect. The governor said Obama and his team are “not willing to give me anything except appreciation. [Expletive] them.”

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Steve Benen

Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.