The idea of
as a U.S. senator may seem far-fetched to many — among them
's one-time chief of staff John Harris.
The former governor, however, was quite serious when he threw out the talk show host's name as a possibility for filling
seat in 2008, according to testimony Monday at Blagojevich's corruption trial.
Blagojevich, of course, didn't pick Winfrey, but waited until after he was arrested to fill the vacancy with former
But that doesn't mean Oprah wasn't very much on his mind.
As prosecutors wrapped up their questioning of Harris, they played a secretly recorded conversation in which he and Blagojevich mulled over a range of possible Senate picks, Winfrey among them. Blagojevich is accused of scheming to profit, politically and personally, from his Senate selection.
On the recording, Blagojevich kicked around several possibilities as he simultaneously talked and lifted weights, the sound of clanging iron clearly heard in the background.
While Blagojevich seemed most intrigued by Winfrey's name, Harris told his boss that the idea sounded "crazy."
"That's where you're wrong," Blagojevich said.
"Oprah, by the way, is not far-fetched," Blagojevich continued. "She's up there so high, no one can assail this pick."
In this and subsequent wiretapped conversations, Blagojevich and Harris agreed that it would be best for Blagojevich's political future if he picked an African-American to succeed Obama in the Senate.
At one point, Blagojevich declared the goal should be to find a "black
At another point, Blagojevich seemed to decide his search should be narrowed even further, to African-American women.
"You know, appointing the first African-American woman is historic," declared Blagojevich, who fancies himself a student of history. He apparently forgot that
voters already had elected the Senate's first black woman,
After Assistant U.S. Attorney Carrie Hamilton was finished with Harris, defense attorney Sam Adam Sr. strode toward the lectern in a powder-blue sport coat and launched into a rambling cross-examination that was broken up early and often by prosecution objections.
Adam has a reputation for having a sharp legal mind, but he often butchers names and allows his sentences to wander. Early in his questioning, he asked Harris to talk about what Springfield was like given Blagojevich's brewing feud with
Harris said things weren't bad at first. "There was a mutual convenience and a detente," he said.
"That's Russian, isn't it?" Adam said.
"I believe it's French," Harris answered.
Adam then delved into the allegation that Blagojevich tried to get
editorial writers fired in exchange for the Tribune Co.'s support of a plan to have the state involved in the sale of
. He asked whether the ballpark was "kind of falling apart."
And he wanted to know which Tribune executive Harris spoke to about negative editorials — it was Nils Larsen.
"Is it Nils?" Adam asked, making the name sound more like "Neils."
"Nils," Harris said.
"Neils," Adam said twice, later calling Larsen "Niles."
Adam appeared to make a few points. Blagojevich has contended that his real plan was to appoint
to the Senate seat in a political deal with her father. And Adam got Harris to agree that the governor did say, in effect, "I hate the idea of appointing Lisa Madigan, but if it's best for the people of Illinois, I'll go ahead and hold my nose and do it."