Blago: The View from Washington
If Rod Blagojevich has one hero in life besides Elvis, it’s Richard Nixon, and if there’s one newspaper that wrecked Nixon’s life and legacy it’s the Washington Post. How ironic, then, that the Washington Post is trumpeting almost the same line as Blago himself.
The Washington Post of Pentagon Papers and Watergate? Yes. Last week, the paper ran an editorial titled “Federal prosecutors should not retry Rod Blagojevich.” The editorial ends with the stunning sentences: “…. the prosecutor took his shot and lost. He should stand down before crossing another fine line—the one that separates prosecution from persecution.”
The piece echoed Blago’s comments from a post-verdict press conference two days before, in which he blasted prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald for “…wast[ing] tens of millions of dollars of taxpayer money to keep persecuting me, persecuting my family.”
In Chicago, both the Tribune and the Sun-Times have called for Fitzgerald to press on and retry the case. The Trib’s deputy editorial page editor, John McCormick—the very journalist whom Blago allegedly tried to get fired from the paper—wrote in an editorial titled “Rod Blagojevich, felon”: “`This is a persecution!’ No, Governor, this is a prosecution. And we're thankful that U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald and his team were swift in assuring citizens that they would take their case to a second group of jurors.”
Tribune columnist and editorial page board member Clarence Page, who lives in D.C., said he was “not surprised” by the Post editorial. In Washington, he said, there’s a view reflected in the Post’s editorial: “The feds got him on one charge; that is good enough.” Page added that while he does not think Robert Blagojevich should be retried, he is “on the fence about a retrial” for Rod. “I know this is a violation of the pundits’ rule of order.”
Steve Chapman, who also sits on the Trib edit board, told me that he did not find the Post editorial “persuasive.” Asked why his colleagues there opined as they did, he answered, “It’s August, it’s a slow news month.”