With the FBI knocking on his door, Rod "Dead Meat" Blagojevich was about to be the first sitting Illinois governor hauled from his house in federal handcuffs.
Yet even in this time of abject panic and fear as he writes in his new autobiography Blagojevich thought of a Chicago politician.
No, it wasn't President Barack Obama.
About the only thing Obama and Dead Meat have in common is convicted influence peddler Tony Rezko. But Dead Meat didn't need Rezko's help to buy a mansion. Dead Meat already had one, in Springfield.
So at 6 a.m. on Dec. 9, the phone rang in his Northwest Side home and the then-governor was told he'd be arrested any second. That's when Blagojevich started thinking about a politician:
His good buddy, and shadow-governor, state Sen. James DeLeo (D-How You Doin?).
"I honestly thought that for a fleeting moment, that someone was actually playing a practical joke on me," the former Democratic Illinois governor writes in his autobiography, "The Governor" ( Phoenix Books, $24.95).
"I was quickly trying to gauge the voice and run through my mind who might be doing it. Which one of my friends could this be?…state Sen. Jimmy DeLeo, a lawmaker and a friend, and a guy known for his sense of humor could this be him? For a moment, I thought it was him."
But it wasn't Jimmy.
It was Rob Grant, special agent in charge of the Chicago FBI, and Dead Meat was going down on corruption charges.
This first of several DeLeo references was on page 9. But the book goes downhill from there.
Dead Meat, scheduled to stand trial in federal court in June, takes all 259 pages to send messages to former friends and to enemies, like the Madigans, and U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald.
Throughout, Dead Meat writes he's a regular fellow, like Jimmy Stewart in "It's a Wonderful Life," fighting for the little guy, fighting for his country, fighting against all those evil Mr. Potters of the world.
But regular guys don't quote Shakespeare's "Henry V" to a bunch of Northwest Side Democratic machine precinct captains belonging to his ward boss father-in-law, Alderman Richard Mell.
Dead Meat, whom Mell picked to become a state legislator in 1992, said he felt the need to impress Mell's troops.
So he quoted from "Henry V," the part where Henry encourages the outnumbered English before their historic battle with the French at Agincourt, a battle that would mark the end of chivalry for all time, though Blago didn't mention chivalry. Yet he insists he quoted Shakespeare in that Northwest Side VFW hall.
"We few, we happy few, we band of brothers. For he today who sheds his blood with me shall be my brother, and gentlemen in England now abed, shall think themselves accursed they were not here, and hold their manhood cheap, while others speak that fought with us on St. Crispin's Day!"
Now, I've been covering Chicago politics for years. And I've seen Mell's precinct captains in action. They're pros, and very good at getting out the vote. But picture them at a political meeting, guys on loan from DeLeo like Dominic Longo and Ronnie "Little Pistol" Calicchio, wearing their knit shirts and gold chains, their leathers, smelling of cigars and of Paco Rabanne for Men.
Then out comes the son-in-law with the dry look hair-do, a 30-something Dead Meat screeching at them about St. Crispin's Day and men who hold their manhood cheap.
"What's he talkin' about, this 'gentlemen in England now abed?' Who the #$%^ is this Crispin guy!?"
"He wants to hold my manhood cheap? What the @#$%? Nobody's touching my manhood. Especially this Elvis lookin' spacone."
What's astounding is that after such a display, they elected him to a public office. I'm surprised they'd elect him to the mosquito abatement district.
I can handle the fantastic exaggerations in this book. But what I can't handle are all the bizarre literary references, especially when you get the feeling he never read the books and only watched the movies.
He invokes Daedalus and Icarus, but Blago gets the ancient myth wrong and insists Icarus fell to the ground after flying too near the sun rather than into the sea. Shakespeare's "Richard III," "Othello," "King Lear," "Julius Caesar" are all represented. There is even a misused "Godfather" reference, and another to Robert De Niro's character in "Raging Bull." This is autobiography by Google.
It's all very frightening, with Blago the tragic hero of every story, until you realize that he's just seeding the jury pool. But there is another moment of truth, on page 135, after he compares himself to every hero in Western literature.
"The truth is, I would probably never have had a start in politics if it wasn't for my father-in-law."
And he would never have had so many laughs, if it weren't for Jimmy DeLeo.