I cannot get enough of Rod Blagojevich. I cannot avert my eyes. It is like gawking at a car wreck.
Blagojevich is the governor of Illinois who has been charged in a 76-page criminal complaint with conspiracy and soliciting bribes, with threatening to deny funding to a children's hospital unless he got campaign kickbacks and with trying to sell the Senate seat of Barack Obama.
Blagojevich was arrested Dec. 9, was impeached in the Illinois House on Jan. 9 by a vote of 114-1 and is now on trial in the Illinois Senate.
Blagojevich recently compared himself to "Mandela, Dr. King [and] Gandhi." But a more accurate comparison would have been to Larry, Moe and Curly.
Instead of showing up to defend himself in front of the Illinois Senate, Blagojevich has decided to do a national media blitz. "It would have been wrong for me to participate in a farce," he said.
Oh, yeah? What has his governorship been? Blagojevich's approval rating is now down to 7 percent. (If it gets down to 5 percent, I think he is automatically deported to Indiana.)
Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley has now twice called him "cuckoo," and I wish Blagojevich really were. But I think he is calculating, not crazy.
He is trying to build public support in the hope of getting a more sympathetic jury when his case proceeds to a criminal trial.
And, after all, it is not as if Blagojevich will leave no legacy. His legacy is named Roland Burris, whom Blagojevich picked to succeed Obama.
While Senate Democrats and even President Barack Obama originally said they were against seating Burris, they got steamrollered by the race card: After Obama resigned to accept the presidency, the Senate had zero African-Americans and Burris supporters described opposition to him as a "lynching."
Blagojevich said Monday on TV he actually wanted Oprah for the job because she is "an African-American woman who by herself has more influence than 100 senators." But he never made the offer, he said, because he didn't think Oprah "would take the call of the governor of Illinois."
I doubt she would have taken his call. And I am sure she would have turned down his offer, not wishing to be seen as Blagojevich's stooge. Roland Burris had no such compunctions. Stooge was fine for him as long as he could be Sen. Stooge.
Burris got patty-cake treatment from the press during his appointment process, benefiting from what George W. Bush (of all people) once called the "soft bigotry of low expectations." Nobody expected Burris to know anything about real issues, so he never got asked about them.
Sen. Russ Feingold, a Democrat from Wisconsin, now says he will introduce an amendment to the U.S. Constitution to prevent governors from appointing senators, requiring special elections instead. Hold your breath on this one. It will be adopted about the same time we abolish the Electoral College.
Blagojevich's lead criminal defense lawyer quit on Friday, saying Blagojevich would not listen to him, but Blagojevich made up for this by hiring a public relations firm. It is the same PR firm that is representing a former Chicago-area cop who has been named as a suspect in the disappearance of his fourth wife in 2007. Authorities are also investigating the death of his third wife, who was found in a bathtub in 2004.
Although Blagojevich has already appeared or is scheduled to appear on "Today," "Good Morning America," "The View," "Larry King Live" and the Fox News Channel, Glenn Selig, who founded the PR firm, said, "We are not going to go show to show. We don't want to overdo it."
I guess that means Blagojevich has no plans to appear on "Monday Night Football" or "This Old House."
I have now watched Blagojevich on several TV shows. He is unflappable. On Monday, he went on "The View," where Barbara Walters was unable to pin him down, but Joy Behar did reach over and tousle his hair. Maybe she was looking for an undercover agent in there. Or a brain.
On all his appearances, Blagojevich sticks to a simple formula. "Whatever happened to the presumption of innocence?" he asks.
And he is right. Rod Blagojevich is innocent until proved guilty. And so is Bernie Madoff. You want to invest your money with him?