WASHINGTON —When he was indicted, Rod Blagojevich quoted Kipling . After his impeachment, he quoted Tennyson. And Monday, on the day he was convicted on 17 corruption-related counts, the former governor of Illinois quoted Elvis.
“My hands are shaky and my knees are weak,” he told reporters as he left his home for the courthouse to hear the verdict. “I can’t seem to stand on my own two feet.”
Luckily, Blago did not have to stand for long. He, his famous Elvis hairdo and his wife ducked into an SUV and made their way to the federal court.
Inside the building, odd Blagosities continued. He removed his belt for the security screening but then walked off carrying it. He flashed a rapid succession of hand signs — open palm, thumbs up, A-OK, thumbs up again — as if delivering a coded appeal for help.
But none arrived.
The jurors found the foulmouthed defendant guilty of all 11 counts related to his attempt to sell Barack Obama’s Senate seat. They found him guilty of the three counts related to his extortion of a racetrack executive. They even found him guilty of the three counts related to the children’s hospital shakedown.
Blago was all shook up. According to the Associated Press, he turned to his lawyer and asked, “What happened?”
Now the greedy governor faces up to 300 years in prison — longer than the life spans of Kipling, Tennyson and Elvis combined. This would seem to be the end for the disgraced Democrat whose primary public service has been the entertainment of a nation for nearly three years.
There were the obscenity-laced recordings and transcripts of him attempting to make sure the bleeping-golden Senate seat that Obama had occupied did not go for bleeping nothing. There was the appointment of the obscure and eccentric Roland Burris to the seat, after briefly considering Oprah.
There were the reality shows: a short and unsuccessful run on “The Celebrity Apprentice” for him and a stint for his wife (whose salty tongue rivaled her husband’s) on “I’m a Celebrity ... Get Me Out of Here,” which involved her consumption of a dead tarantula. There were the rambling news conferences, a visit to every TV set from the “Today” show to “The View.” There were the comparisons of himself to Gary Cooper, Jimmy Stewart, Nelson Mandela, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and Gandhi.
There was the impeachment, the trial and retrial, and, of course, there was Rudyard Kipling’s “If.”
“If you can keep your head when all about you/Are losing theirs and blaming it on you/ If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you/ But make allowance for their doubting, too.”
By Monday, Blago had given up on his fellow man. “It’s in God’s hands,” he told reporters. “I’m praying and I’m certainly hoping for the best.”
Outside the 25th-floor courtroom, the Chicago Tribune’s Stacy St. Clair spied the defendant doing one final round of glad-handing, greeting the people in line to hear the verdict. He blew a kiss to his wife and stood, expressionless, to hear from the jury. Patti Blagojevich shook her head and slumped when the guilty verdicts were read; Rod Blagojevich mouthed an “I love you” in her direction.
The verdict read, it was time for what usually is the main event: the Blago news conference. Would he quote the Tennyson line about “heroic hearts” again, or another passage from Alan Sillitoe?
For once, the fallen governor could not find words. “Well, among the many lessons I’ve learned from this whole experience is to try to speak a little bit less, so I’m going to keep my remarks kind of short,” he said. “Patti and I are obviously very disappointed in the outcome, and I, frankly, am stunned. There’s not much left to say, other than we want to get home to our little girls, and talk to them, and explain things to them, and then try and sort things out.”
For those facing imminent Blagojevich withdrawal, the disgraced pol departed with a final tease. “I’m sure we’ll be seeing you guys again,” he said.
Thanks, Blago. That would be bleeping golden.