Governor Rod Blagojevich Case Less Than Airtight?

The analysis, both political and legal, regarding Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich is as exciting as the daily events that have been flowing from this scandal.  One of the early themes advanced by legal pundits in Chicago was that due to the magnitude of the need to stop the appointment of a U.S. Senator for the most corrupt of reasons, federal prosecutors had to make their findings known before the deed was done so to preserve the integrity of the seat.  But that also means all we have are recordings about the desire to use the open seat for political and monetary advantage by Blagojevich.  The actual deed was never consummated.

While I believe there is more than enough evidence, even at this early stage, to show that a high level of criminal activity was taking place by the Governor, there is also an argument from the other side that still deserves a listen.   Do the feds have an air-tight case, and does the Blagojevich legal team have some points to make that might vindicate them?  As I said in an earlier post on this matter, this is a story that has mesmerized me, and shows no signs of abating any time soon. 

The plot is thickening.

But now some lawyers are beginning to suggest that the juiciest part of the case against Mr. Blagojevich, the part involving the Senate seat, may be less than airtight. There is no evidence, at least none that has been disclosed, that the governor actually received anything of value — and the Senate appointment has yet to be made.

Ever since the country’s founding, prosecutors, defense lawyers and juries have been trying to define the difference between criminality and political deal-making. They have never established a clear-cut line between the offensive and the illegal, and the hours of wiretapped conversations involving Mr. Blagojevich, filled with crass, profane talk about benefiting from the Senate vacancy, may fall into a legal gray area.

Robert S. Bennett, one of Washington’s best-known white-collar criminal defense lawyers, said Mr. Blagojevich faced nearly insurmountable legal problems in a case that includes a raft of corruption accusations unrelated to Mr. Obama’s Senate seat. But Mr. Bennett said the case raised some potentially thorny issues about political corruption.

“This town is full of people who call themselves ambassadors, and all they did was pay $200,000 or $300,000 to the Republican or Democratic Party,” said Mr. Bennett, referring to a passage in the criminal complaint filed against the governor suggesting that Mr. Blagojevich was interested in an ambassadorial appointment in return for the Senate seat. “You have to wonder, How much of this guy’s problem was his language, rather than what he really did?”

Chris Matthews Not Running For U.S. Senate

I really wanted Chris Matthews in the U.S. Senate.  I also knew I would miss him on “Hardball”, the fantastic MSNBC program where I love to get his take on the issues of the day.

The news this morning is that he has signed a long-term contract with MSNBC, and will be staying on as host of the fast-paced and insightful political hour each weekday.  No Senate career for Chris.  But we still have him as a national voice, and that matters.

A formal announcement of the new contract will come later this week.

Evans-Novak Report: Bad Days Ahead For GOP

One can feel the angst within the conservative movement with this latest Evans-Novak Report.


  1. Some press reports suggest Sen. John McCain is writing off Colorado, Iowa, and New Mexico. If true, this means McCain is pinning his chances on pulling off an upset in Pennsylvania — a long shot, but probably the best strategy for desperate campaign.
  2. In House and Senate races, things get worse every week for the GOP. Democrats will approach 60 seats in the U.S. Senate, and have guaranteed double-digit gains in the House.
  3. The tidal wave this year has three causes: the economic meltdown falling on GOP shoulders, McCain’s poorly run campaign, and the enthusiasm for Sen. Barack Obama.


Obama’s Hurdles:Things continue to look bad for McCain, but Obama’s task is still tougher than the polls or most media coverage would suggest.

  1. Since 1944, only two Democratic presidential nominees gave garnered a majority in the popular vote — Lyndon Johnson over Barry Goldwater in 1964, and Jimmy Carter in the post-Watergate election of 1976. The upshot: Democrats begin with the odds against him. Does a black liberal with the middle name Hussein seem like the most likely Democrat to break that streak?
  2. Republicans can take some solace in the knowledge that polling is an art, and not a science. In producing their final numbers, pollsters make assumptions about turnout among certain demographics, including blacks and young voters. If, as happened in 2000 and 2004, youth turnout is much lower than the media expect, Obama’s vote totals could be considerably lower than polls would suggest.
  3. For all the buzz about millions of new registered voters, registering to vote is much easier than actually voting. The media promise a burgeoning “youth vote” every four years — and it doesn’t materialize. On the flip side, early voting turnouts have been startlingly high in a way that has Republicans very worried.
  4. Then there is the talk of the “Bradley Effect:” White voters, eager to be considered racially tolerant, tell pollsters they will vote for Obama, and then vote for McCain. It’s not clear this “effect” is much more than a theory spurred by suspicions of widespread secret racism.

Final Debate:Obama won the final debate, despite an improved performance by McCain.

  1. This was the best McCain has done in any of the three debates, but Obama still bested him in every single round.
  2. Perhaps the most important factor was the visuals. All the channels carrying the debate showed a split-screen for most of the debate, which depicted Obama mostly as relaxed and calm, and McCain as uncomfortable, and again smiling creepily.
  3. Obama made a point of laughing off many of McCain’s charges, which could come across as his being above mudslinging, or it could come across as disrespectful and juvenile. At times, Obama got prickly — for example, when trying to fend off McCain’s tax-hiker charges — but he mostly stayed cool. By any measure, though, Obama looked more confident and more likable than McCain, and that makes the difference for many voters.
  4. Also, McCain’s attempts at sarcasm were confusing and came across very poorly. McCain’s best moment was countering Obama’s continued attack on President Bush, saying Obama could have run against him four years ago.
  5. Obama was well prepared and had an effective defense and rebuttal to every McCain line of attack. This is not surprising, because McCain seems to have telegraphed in previous days every jab he would throw, or he took his cues from the media. Obama had anticipated all the McCain offensives, for example, critiquing Obama’s fine on businesses that don’t insure their employees, or assailing Obama for never varying from the party line — and his rebuttals were usually stronger than McCain’s original attack.
  6. Obama comes across as having a better grasp of the issues than does McCain. For independent voters, this understanding of and confidence with the issues are probably more important than the actual positions each candidate takes on the issues.
  7. McCain hit Obama harder than ever before on Obama’s big-government intentions, and he finally launched a real attack on Democratic enabling of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac as big contributors to the current economic crisis. But when McCain attacked Obama’s “share the wealth” line, he displayed his difficulty with discussing economics. Also, McCain diluted that attack with a big dose of “me-too” calls for regulation.

Evans-Novak Report “Republican Disaster At Hand”

From the pen of a conservative.  Do I hint that the GOP would welcome a terrorist attack for political gain?  Read here, and say it isn’t so Joe?


  1. An Electoral College landslide is in the offing, paired with Democratic tsunamis in congressional races.
  2. Riding the wave triggered by the economic collapse, Sen. Barack Obama‘s adept campaign, and Sen. John McCain‘s hapless candidacy, Democrats will come close to 60 seats in the Senate, and perhaps cross that threshold. In the House, Republicans are retrenching, trying to prevent Democratic gains of 20 or more.
  3. Republicans desperately need some sort of catalyst to turn things around. The GOP, however, has ceded economic and fiscal issues to the Democrats by embracing the bailout.


Overview: The good news for McCain is this: The election is still 20 days away. The bad news is that none of the tacks he’s likely to take will carry him to victory.

  1. Obama’s Electoral College lead right now is huge, as almost all of the swing states have swung into his category. Obama has significant poll leads in Colorado, New Mexico, Minnesota, and Virginia, and has pulled away in New Hampshire, Iowa, Michigan, and Pennsylvania. In previously strong McCain states such as Florida, Ohio, Missouri, Nevada, and North Carolina, the race is now very tight.
  2. While “it’s over” has become the resigned refrain of many Republicans, the race certainly is not over. Three weeks is a long time, and anything can happen.
  3. Still, McCain does not seem to have a clear tack that could carry him to victory. Assailing Obama’s character (by playing up his alliance with unrepentant terrorist Bill Ayers) comes too late. Americans have already seen Obama in the debates and the convention, and he came across as serious and trustworthy. McCain, by playing nice until the fall, missed his chance to define Obama.
  4. Can McCain make this a race about national security? It’s hard to imagine the nation’s attention diverting from the economic mess right now, but again, we have nearly three weeks until Election Day. An al Qaeda terrorist attack timed for the election, unfortunately, is not unthinkable. That could be what it takes for McCain to win.

  1. The economic meltdown and John McCain’s struggles have dragged down poll numbers in all four of the top-tier Senate races. Democrats currently lead in each of these contests.
  2. Former Rep. Bob Schaffer (R-Colo.) is certainly the underdog in his race against Rep. Mark Udall (D), but he is not out of the race. October has not been kind to him in the poll numbers, as he has fallen from within the margin of error in one Rasmussen poll of 700 likely voters. A Suffolk University poll and a Quinnipiac poll both show Udall with double-digit leads. That margin is inflated, and Schaffer still looks as if he could pull off the biggest GOP upset of the year.
  3. Supporters of Sen. John Sununu (R-N.H.) have long held onto the notion that Sununu is the comeback kid who can never be counted out. But we’re now 20 days from Election Day, and the junior senator from the Granite State has yet to make his move. He trails former Gov. Jeanne Shaheen by 5 to 9 points in October’s polls. The economic turmoil has hurt Sununu, and he needs to somehow turn the crisis into his advantage if he is going to win.
  4. The bad economy has tag-teamed with independent former Sen. Dean Barkley to drag Sen. Norm Coleman (R-Minn.) down from his lead over liberal comedian Al Franken (D). All October polls show Franken ahead, and Coleman well below 40 percent. This has been a very fluid race, and Coleman could certainly surge ahead again but, right now, Franken holds the upper hand.
  5. Oddly enough, Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) could come out of this whole thing unscathed. Stevens runs a fair chance of beating the federal criminal charge he faces, and a jury could acquit the senator in a week or two. The court plans to finish the trial before Election Day. An acquittal could boost Stevens to a 20-point win over Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich (D), while a conviction would probably catapult Begich to Washington.

George Will: “It Is Arguable That McCain, Because Of His Boiling Moralism And Bottomless Reservoir Of Certitudes, Is Not Suited To The Presidency”

When a well-respected conservative power-house such as George Will take his ink and uses it in this fashion, it means he is not pleased.  AT ALL.  And that can’t make the John McCain campaign anything but cranky today.  This article is one of today’s must reads!  Portions are below.

Under the pressure of the financial crisis, one presidential candidate is behaving like a flustered rookie playing in a league too high. It is not Barack Obama.

Channeling his inner Queen of Hearts, John McCain furiously, and apparently without even looking around at facts, said Chris Cox, chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, should be decapitated. This childish reflex provoked the Wall Street Journalto editorialize that “McCain untethered” — disconnected from knowledge and principle — had made a “false and deeply unfair” attack on Cox that was “unpresidential” and demonstrated that McCain “doesn’t understand what’s happening on Wall Streetany better than Barack Obama does.”

To read the Journal’s details about the depths of McCain’s shallowness on the subject of Cox’s chairmanship, see “McCain’s Scapegoat” (Sept. 19, Page A22). Then consider McCain’s characteristic accusation that Cox “has betrayed the public’s trust.”

Perhaps an old antagonism is involved in McCain’s fact-free slander. His most conspicuous economic adviser is Douglas Holtz-Eakin, who previously headed the Congressional Budget Office. There he was an impediment to conservatives, including then-Rep. Cox, who, as chairman of the Republican Policy Committee, persistently tried and generally failed to enlist CBO support for “dynamic scoring” that would estimate the economic growth effects of proposed tax cuts.

In any case, McCain’s smear — that Cox “betrayed the public’s trust” — is a harbinger of a McCain presidency. For McCain, politics is always operatic, pitting people who agree with him against those who are “corrupt” or “betray the public’s trust,” two categories that seem to be exhaustive — there are no other people. McCain’s Manichaean worldview drove him to his signature legislative achievement, the McCain-Feingold law’s restrictions on campaigning. Today, his campaign is creatively finding interstices in laws intended to restrict campaign giving and spending. (For details, see The Post of Sept. 17, Page A4; and the New York Times of Sept. 20, Page One.)


On “60 Minutes” Sunday evening, McCain, saying “this may sound a little unusual,” said that he would like to replace Cox with Andrew Cuomo, the Democratic attorney general of New York who is the son of former governor Mario Cuomo. McCain explained that Cuomo has “respect” and “prestige” and could “lend some bipartisanship.” Conservatives have been warned.

Conservatives who insist that electing McCain is crucial usually start, and increasingly end, by saying he would make excellent judicial selections. But the more one sees of his impulsive, intensely personal reactions to people and events, the less confidence one has that he would select judges by calm reflection and clear principles, having neither patience nor aptitude for either.

It is arguable that, because of his inexperience, Obama is not ready for the presidency. It is arguable that McCain, because of his boiling moralism and bottomless reservoir of certitudes, is not suited to the presidency. Unreadiness can be corrected, although perhaps at great cost, by experience. Can a dismaying temperament be fixed?

Technorati Tags: , , , ,

Political Pundit Popularity Contest…Just In Time For The Conventions

If as the article suggests, political conventions are the proms for pundits, then here is the not overly scientific, but fun all the same, breakdown of the most popular and controversial pundits in America.

Technorati Tags: ,

U.S. Senate Election Battleground States For 2008

With a needless war in Iraq, a recession raging in America, health care costs exploding, and energy needs going unmet there is every reason to think that 2008 will be a good year for Democrats, from the White House down to the state legislatures.  With the huge vote totals that will help usher Barack Obama into the White House, more Democratic U.S. Senators will also find a new job in Washington, D.C.

A brief look here at the battleground states where changes in the Senate might take place.

It is still too early to project the exact size of expected Democratic gains, but it will be a major surprise if Democrats fail to add at least three or four seats. The total of projected Democratic gains may well rise considerably, possibly five to seven, depending on the electoral conditions prevailing in the fall. The GOP’s only real hope in Senate contests is that John McCain wins the Presidency handily, generating coattail in some key match-ups. In any event, the Democrats currently seem unlikely to hit the magic number of 60 seats, needed to shut down filibusters. (That assumes all 60 Democrats would stick together on key votes. Good luck.)

As we noted in an earlier analysis, the Senate has changed party control six times: in 1980 (D to R), 1986 (R to D), 1994 (D to R), 2001 (R to D), 2002 (D to R), and 2006 (R to D). This is no longer a rare event. Still, 2008 is virtually certain not to generate a seventh such shift. Let’s go to the states and see why

Thirty-three regularly scheduled contests will take place in 2008, along with two special elections, in Mississippi and Wyoming. As usual, there are many contests that are not competitive. Of the 35 Senate seats on the ballot, the winning party for 24 of them seems set. Of these 24, 13 are Democratic and 11 are Republican. No doubt, two or three of these contests may become more competitive than expected as new events unfold in the summer and the general election. For example, in Texas, early polls have shown Sen. John Cornyn to be weak, though Texas’ statewide Republican majority still appears intact.

An example.

* New Hampshire: No state in the nation has moved so quickly from Republican to Democratic in party orientation. This is a state that intensely dislikes both President Bush and the Iraq War, and the feeling showed from top to bottom of the state’s 2006 elections. Freshman GOP Senator John Sununu has his hands full in a re-match with former Gov. Jeanne Shaheen (D). Most major public and private polls show her ahead, some by a wide margin. Yet Senator John McCain is New Hampshire’s kind of Republican, and the state rescued McCain’s candidacy from oblivion in January. McCain’s nomination was the best news Sununu could have hoped for. Most of the other Republicans were sure losers in this state. Here is a contest where the incumbent senator’s fate is closely tied to McCain’s. Should McCain do well in the fall, the New Hampshire Senate contest could reverse course, but for now we’ll list this one as LEANS DEMOCRATIC (PICK-UP).

Technorati Tags: , , ,