Is this, or is this not, the face of a gifted comedian?
Former Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich delivered a lecture on ethics in politics at his alma mater, Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, last night. The purpose of his talk, said Jordan Fein, president of the Northwestern College Democrats, in his introduction was "to make sure tomorrow's leaders respect the rule of law."
Sadly, Blago's appearance was not intended to be a comedy routine. This only became apparent, though, when the former governor seemed surprised that the capacity audience of 1,000 students and faculty started laughing when he said that, as Elvis proclaimed at Madison Square Garden in 1972, he was "innocent of all charges."
Blagojevich intended his Northwestern appearance to be an opportunity to defend himself against the corruption charges that led to his impeachment last year.
"Many of you must think it's kind of ironic that I would agree and accept an opportunity to come here and talk to you about ethics in government," he said, as quoted in the student paper, the Daily Northwestern. "For all the courage and testicular virility you think you have, if I did the things they said I did, and I did wrong things like they want you to believe I did, I would be nowhere near this event."
Yeah, he said "testicular virility." And he didn't intend this to be a comedy routine?
All this buffoonery was not intentional, Blago told his Northwestern audience. It's merely a way of earning a living. Since the impeachment, both he and Patti have been unemployed and have bills and private-school tuition to pay. "Necessity compelled my wife to go to the Costa Rican jungle and eat tarantulas," he insisted.
That wasn't meant to be funny, either.
After Blago's fifteen-minute talk, three Northwestern professors grilled him on the subject of political ethics. Things got heated when law professor Tonja Jacobi challenged the former governor on his interpretation of the events that led to his impeachment.
The Chicago Democrat also admitted he intended to barter for President Barack
Obama's vacant Senate seat, but insisted he didn't propose any of the
trades outlined in his indictment.
Instead, he said that he wanted to cut a "routine" political deal in
which Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan assumed the post in
exchange for Michael Madigan's support on expanded health care and a
public works plan.
When that deal fell through, he said, he decided to tap Roland
Burris for the seat. Blagojevich accused other U.S. senators -
including Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois - of acting like Southern
segregationists when they tried to stop the appointment.
"Shame!" someone in the audience yelled out.
"You don't like Burris?" Blagojevich asked.
"No - you," the man yelled back.
And the audience laughed.
Footage of Blago's comedy speech after the jump: Read a Daily Northwestern live blog here: