Tuesday, 13 July 2010

Two "Pees" In A Pod? - Sarah Palin and Rod Blagojevich

Sarah and Blago 4

Guest Post by BfromC

As a long time reader and commenter on Palingates, and an Illinoisan going through the "Summer of Guv" that is the Rod Blagojevich criminal trial, I am struck by the similarities in personality and circumstances between our former governor and the former governor of Alaska. Each day, tidbits from the trial just scream to me — What is it with these governors, their egos, and their questionable work ethic?!

Besides the fact that they both have "big hair" issues, spouses who seemed to play just a bit too integral a part in state decision-making, and in-law family-feud troubles, "Blago" and the "Babe" have both become known for the limited amount of time they put in as governor, their motives, and their madness.

At the Blago trial on Thursday, former Deputy Governor Robert Greenlee portrayed Blagojevich as disengaged from daily affairs of state government, saying the governor spent on average two to eight hours a week in his office. He said that during working hours, the governor generally was at home or attending high-profile events.

Former budget director John Filan, Greenlee testified, had to chase after the governor to get him to discuss important items. "He would hide in the bathroom, the backroom or leave early," Greenlee said, adding that Blagojevich went to great lengths to avoid staffers whom he felt disagreed with him too often.

More info about the current developments in the trial from Associated Press HERE.

Screenshot surreal moments

On July 1st it was revealed that the Blagojeviches spent over $400,000 on clothing from 2002 to 2008. I especially enjoyed Chicago Tribune columnist Eric Zorn's take on this extravagant spending,

Blagojevich’s Dondi-like haircut was our first clue that he was a man who wanted his appearance to leave a strong impression. And perhaps our first clue that he really didn’t have the hang of the whole image thing.

Look, it’s not a crime to be a dandy, as the dwindling number of Blagojevich supporters are pointing out. And it’s not even a crime to spend extravagantly on luxury duds when you’re already ruinously deep in credit-card debt, though it may be evidence of sickness.

But it certainly provides a motive for criminal behavior and is, at the very least, a shame. In a November 10, 2008 telephone call played for jurors Thursday,
Blagojevich is heard bleating, “I can’t afford college for my daughter,” which suggests how ridiculously desperate his profligate ways had made him.

This same tape showed a governor consumed with paranoia and self-pity worthy of one of his early political idols, Richard Nixon.

“I don't wanna be governor for the next two years,” he says “ wanna get going. I'll, I, this has been two (very bad) years where I'm doing the best I can trying to get through a brick wall and find ways around stuff but it's like just screwing my family and time is passing me by and I'm stuck, it's no good. It's no good. I gotta get moving. The whole world's passing me by and I'm stuck in this (very bad) job as governor now. Everybody's passing me by and I'm stuck.”

He goes on a bit later, “Here's the immediate challenge. How do we take some of the financial pressure off of our family here? Okay? And then I have a personal issue which is, I feel like I'm (doing bad by) my children. That's what I feel like. The whole world's passing me by, I'm stuck in this(very bad) gridlock for two more (very bad) years, okay, and nasty (very, very, very bad) press and everything, you know, and every (bad person) out there.

Blago drawing

Were he and Palin separated at birth? I ask.

But the recordings show Blagojevich was most obsessed with the Senate seat. On one call, Harris suggests Blagojevich could just go ahead and appoint Barack Obama's friend Valerie Jarrett to the Senate like the incoming president wanted. Having Obama happy with him was "not a bad thing."

But Blagojevich brought the conversation right back to where it had been for days, asking how that would be something on which he could cash in.

Blagojevich said he had "scrutiny going on and lawyers to pay," speaking about the ongoing federal probe. "How in the hell am I going to send my kid to college?"

And this, from a June 30th Chicago Breaking News Center post, really shines a light on the similarities of what we know about Palin:

Scofield, a former top Blagojevich campaign aide and deputy governor, returned to the stand for a second day to explain how Blagojevich sought to enlist him and others in a constantly shifting tableau of alleged schemes involving the Senate seat.

As a lobbyist, Scofield said he needed to maintain good relations with Blagojevich. So he was loath to throw cold water on ideas tossed around by Blagojevich that Scofield admitted were "absurd." When the governor went on one of his frequent and erratic tears, Scofield said he would only half-listen and more than often pretend to agree when he really didn't.

Scofield isn't the first witness from Blagojevich's inner circle to testify that they found placating the governor the path of least resistance when he obsessed on something. Former chief of staff John Harris said earlier that he had been pretty much worn into submission by Blagojevich, who fancied yes men over naysayers.

There is another shared characteristic between Blago and Palin, beautifully illustrated in this Daily Herald article from July 5 — Psychologists: Blagojevich Trial Reveals Narcissism.

Ex-Gov. Rod Blagojevich's denial that anything was wrong, selling himself to reality shows, even his always-perfect hair have caused some to question his state of mind. But now that Blagojevich's federal corruption trial reveals his interest in running for president, his jealousy of others, and his struggle to get money while he and his wife spent $400,000 on clothes over six years, some psychologists say they believe they can put a name to his mental status.

Specifically, two prominent Chicago psychologists said Blagojevich displays symptoms of a condition officially known as narcissistic personality disorder.

Dr. Daniela Schreier, a forensic psychologist at the Chicago School of Professional Psychology, said it's impossible to make a clinical diagnosis without a personal evaluation, which she has not done. But, she said, Blagojevich definitely has traits of the condition. She compared him to former President Richard Nixon and to French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte.

"Nixon always denied he did anything wrong," she said. "And even when he was defeated, on the island of Elba, Napoleon still tried to round up a local army."

Despite political success that culminated in the leadership of the state, Blagojevich sees himself as the underdog son of an immigrant steelworker, and always maintains an upbeat public persona, she noted.

"He's very glib and superficial," she said. "He's very self-confident, maybe overly self-confident. He's dramatic and erratic. He has an inability to acknowledge, 'I messed up.'"

Blagojevich is hardly alone in those traits. U.S. political culture values many of those characteristics, Schreier said, blaming them as part of the reason we often wind up with political scandals.

Scott Ambers, a Chicago psychologist, said Blagojevich appears to "hit the jackpot" in meeting the criteria for narcissistic personality disorder.

"Everything that's come out has confirmed it even more so," he said, following testimony that Blagojevich consistently wrangled to get a job or appointment in return for appointing someone to a U.S. Senate seat.

"One hallmark of a narcissistic personality is they're motivated almost exclusively by self-interest," he said. "So if you're going to have someone in public office whose motivations are predominantly, 'What's in it for me?' in the long run they're not going to serve the citizens very well."

There are many other similarities between Blago and Palin. But one final one I want to mention is their shared "Obama Hatred-Envy". At the trial on June 30th, tapes were played with Blago making these statements:

An angry Rod Blagojevich is heard grumbling on FBI wiretap tapes played at his corruption trial Wednesday that he is willing to appoint a favorite of Barack Obama to the U.S. Senate but the newly elected president is "all take and no give."

"The arrogance of these people," Blagojevich is heard saying on a tape of a conversation with adviser Doug Scofield a few days after Obama's November 2008 election to the White House.

When another adviser tells Blagojevich in a telephone call at about the same time that he would be wise to go ahead and appoint Obama's friend, the governor explodes, saying no one is willing to help him in his political troubles with Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan.

"I'm left with gridlock, a pissed-off speaker, a potential impeachment and a president who is all take and no give," Blagojevich snaps.

Blagojevich is heard saying he wants a reward such as secretary of health and human services in the new administration in return for appointing Chicago businesswoman and civic leader Valerie Jarrett, a family friend of the Obamas, to the Senate seat that the president-elect was leaving to go to the White House.
Scofield said that his boss assessed his political situation the day after Obama's win, and said there was nothing he could have done about Obama -- unless he'd been able to stop Obama from speaking at the 2004 Democratic National Convention. Obama became famous for his keynote speech.

Blagojevich once had presidential aspirations of his own. Scofield says there was "a measure of jealousy" in what Blagojevich was saying.

Illinois is used to having governors who end up being thrown in prison for corruption. I honestly thought Democratic candidate Blago was going to be different. But he obviously "got the disease" and traded in what integrity he may have had for a big slice of the money/celebrity pie. I can honestly say the one great thing he did for the Chicago area was push for the Open Road Tolling system that has made an enormous difference in the traffic gridlock. I give him props for that. But, of course, he insisted on taking credit by putting his name on every tollway plaza in the region. When he was ousted, a lot of tax dollars had to go to remove those signs,

He also was proud of enhancing and promoting the Illinois All Kids health insurance program (ala Palin at one point). But again, he had to put his name in the logo for the program.

I hate watching "The Apprentice", but I did just to see how Blago behaved, and he showed his true, self-promoting colors during that gig as well.

The State of Illinois and the City of Chicago are really beautiful places with wonderful people and a great mid-western sensibility and work ethic. That we continue to be identified by dirty politics is thanks to just a small, but powerful, group of people. I know the same is true with Alaska.

We are in the process of putting Blago in his place (behind bars). May the many "Gates O'Palin" eventually put her in a similar place as well.

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