Opinion: Rod Blagojevich, now <em>ex</em>-governor, in his very own words
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We’d like to be able to say we’re gonna miss Illinois’ Democratic Gov. Rod Blagojevich, who was turned into a Democratic ex-Gov. Blagojevich yesterday by the Illinois Senate.
But saying we’re gonna miss him would imply that he’s going somewhere.
Not yet. Not for a long time.
Patrick Fitzgerald, the federal prosecutor in Chicago who’s been after the gov for three years now, has obtained an extension until April for filing actual corruption charges against the 51-year-old veteran state-federal legislator and twice-elected governor. Then there’s prep time and more delays and we probably won’t be seeing B-Rod in a courtroom until next year. So he’s not going away.
He’s going to continue to make his case outside the courtroom. A sort of opening pretrial opening statement. Blago promised the hungry media outside his Chicago house last night that he’d have more to say soon about the inside story of the Senate conviction. Oh, please. He does love the spotlight. Yes, it is all about him with him.
Just watch some of the video below here. (The video is better. But for those who prefer to read, we’ve added the complete transcript on the jump; just scroll down or click on the ‘Read more’ line. Warning: B-Rod likes run-on sentences.)
It’s Blago’s alleged plea to the Senate not to convict him. But the gov knew he was toast. He’d already packed his bags from the governor’s residence.
He was really talking to the ‘regular people’ of Illinois, 12 of whom plus two alternates may just end up as his jurors someday.
You don’t need to be a student of politics, although it helps, to watch his communication skills with admiration. Forty-six minutes. No notes. He talks about his immigrant father who didn’t get to live out the best of his dreams but worked hard as a steel man. And his daughters. And, sure, maybe he pushed a little hard at times but it was all about the people. The people he’s helped with prescription assistance and public transportation help, etc.
And the time in Washington that the very important Virginia Republican Sen. John Warner -- who was married to Elizabeth Taylor once, you know -- thought the new Congressman Blagojevich was a staff person and asked him to fetch a cup of coffee. So Blago did. It was black. The coffee was.
You know who Blago reminds us of?
Jack Sparrow. He’s so good at being bad that you can’t not watch. And they made three of those movies.
Sure, Blagojevich talks a fog. But it’s a very well-made one. They should give the ex-gov a cable talk show. We’d TiVo it.
Photo credits: Chicago magazine
Closing Argument of then Gov. Rod Blagojevich to the Illinois State Senate, Jan. 29, 2009
I’m grateful for the opportunity to be here today and present my closing argument and my chance to talk to you and talk to the people of Illinois and talk to anybody else who is listening.
In the last couple of days I’ve had a chance to be able to go out and talk to as many people as I possibly could about my desire to be able to appear here before the Senate, the Senate trial--to have a chance to be able to have the whole story, have every single witness I could possibly bring be able to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, present as much evidence [as] is available to be able to have the story told, and have the chance to show you here in the Senate, show the people of Illinois and show anybody else who is listening that I have done absolutely nothing wrong.
That I followed every law. That I never, ever, ever intended to violate any law and that when the whole truth is heard and the whole story is told that ultimately [is] what will be shown. I was hopeful I would be able to do that in a Senate hearing in this trial, [have] a chance to be able to bring witnesses in--a whole list of witnesses, every single witness in the criminal complaint.
It would be nice to have them here so they can tell the truth and tell you under oath what they know. I wanted to be able to bring in witnesses from Rahm Emanuel, the president’s chief of staff, to Sen. Dick Durbin to Sen. Harry Reid and [Sen.] Bob Menendez to every single person connected with any conversation I may have had in relation to picking the United States senator.
Unfortunately, these rules have prevented me from being able to do that. In spite of efforts to try to get you to give me that chance to do it, it didn’t work. So I went to the people, talked to as many people as I possibly could, and I was over and over repeating to them--just give me a chance to be able to let the truth come out so sooner rather than later I can show you that I have done nothing wrong, so sooner rather than later I can clear my name and we can put this behind us and get on with working to do things for people, get on with the business of the people.
Now, when I did that and met a lot of different people and made that case to them, they were mostly sympathetic. They understood my position. They said, ‘Of course, you’re entitled to a fair trial--every American citizen is. Of course, you’re entitled to bring witnesses in so you can disprove things that are being said about you and show that they’re not true. Of course, you’re entitled to confront your accusers. This is the United States of America--it’s guaranteed by the Constitution, it’s a fundamental civil liberty that every American enjoys.’
And imagine what it would be like to live in a country like this if you weren’t allowed to be able to defend yourself. And of course, an impeachment trial is not a court of law. It’s different. But whether it’s a court of law or administrative hearing or whether it’s schoolyard justice when one kid hits another, but the kid that hit him wasn’t the one who did it, he’s got other boys he’d like to have tell the teachers he didn’t do it.
Whether it’s them or whether it’s an impeachment process where you’re seeking to remove a governor who is twice elected by the people, I think fundamental fairness, fundamental justice, natural law and constitutional rights suggest I should be able to bring witnesses in to say I didn’t do the things they said I did.
When I made that case to people, they listened to me and were supportive. But they also said to me, ‘If you feel so strongly about it, governor, then why don’t you go to the Senate and tell them yourself? Why don’t you go there and tell them instead of you just telling us?’ And so that’s why I’m here. I’m here to talk to you and appeal to you--to your sense of fairness, to your sense of responsibility, your commitment to the Constitution, your commitment to basic fairness.
And I’m asking you as I speak to you today to imagine yourself walking in my shoes. Think about you, if someone said the things that they’ve said about me and you know you didn’t do it, but there’s been a rush to judgment and an evisceration of the presumption of innocence. Imagine how you would approach this and what you would do.
Think about it. If you know you were right and you were innocent and you didn’t do anything wrong, whether you should be rushed out of office, disgrace your family, disgrace your children and imply--and imply--that you may have actually done the things they said you did.
Think about your responsibilities when the people choose you and you know you’ve kept your faith with them but everybody else is saying you didn’t, but if you quit and give up and leave without having a chance to prove your innocence, how you’ve abandoned them and you quit on them and you violated your commitment to them.
I’m here to give every possible explanation to every one of these allegations and I’m grateful that you’ve at least given me that. But I would hope that maybe when you consider what I have to say, who knows, maybe you’ll reconsider and give me a chance to call those witnesses I’d like to call.
And who knows, maybe you’ll reconsider and give me a chance to see if there’s some possible way where every one of those conversations that were taped can be right here before you so you can hear all of them, warts and all--the truth, unadulterated truth--maybe not flattering in some cases, but it’s the truth. And there was never a conversation where I intended to break any law. So I’m here to do what I can to explain to you my side of the story.
Now, the articles of impeachment as they’re configured are broken up basically in two portions. One is a portion that alleges that I abused the executive discretion that the governor is given. And the other is the allegations in the criminal complaint. Articles 1 through 8 deal with the allegations in the criminal complaint, but here at this trial only Article 3, only [in] Article 3 was there any evidence presented to suggest that something may have been done. In all the other articles, no evidence was presented to prove up criminal allegations.
And let’s look at the one article where they actually brought evidence. The evidence is the four tapes. You heard those four tapes. I don’t have to tell you what they say. You guys are in politics. You know what we have to do to go out and run elections. There was no criminal activity on those four tapes. You can express things in a free country, but those four tapes speak for themselves.
Take those four tapes as they are and you, I believe, in fairness, will recognize and acknowledge those are conversations relating to the things all of us in politics do in order to run campaigns and try to win elections.
Now, I understand that the federal prosecutor and the U.S. attorney has made it clear and I respect and understand his position--that he doesn’t want witnesses called and he doesn’t want evidence called--and that’s why on all the other seven articles, with the exception of those four tapes that you heard, there hasn’t been any evidence to show or prove any criminal conduct.
I understand that. That’s why I am appealing to you that unless they allow us to bring that evidence in, then that case ought to be heard in the appropriate place, in a court of law and respect the U.S. attorney and his needs to be able to bring those witnesses. But how can you throw a governor out of office on a criminal complaint and you haven’t been able to show or prove any criminal activity? How can you throw a governor elected twice by the people out of office when the rules don’t even require that you prove up elements of criminal allegations? And more than that, how can you throw a governor out of office who is clamoring and begging and pleading with you to give him a chance to bring witnesses in to prove his innocence, to do more than just ask for a presumption of innocence--don’t even give me that? Let me make my case.
Let me bring my witnesses in. Let me show you that I’m innocent and I didn’t do anything wrong. So Articles 1 to 8 do not show or prove any criminal case. And if that’s the case, how can you throw me out of office without proving something like that and set dangerous precedent that can have an impact on people and governors in Illinois and governors in other states?
Now, the four tapes that you heard speak for themselves. You also had a chance to listen to the FBI agent who was here. What did he do? He just read allegations. He didn’t allow you to challenge the allegations. He didn’t allow you to cross-examine any of the people involved in those allegations. He simply read a criminal complaint. That’s not proving criminal allegations.
And, again, I would respectfully suggest to you: How can you throw somebody out of office--whether it’s me or maybe one day it happens to you--without even expecting someone to try to prove something that they’re saying that you did? So I’m appealing to you and your sense of fairness and because Articles 1 through 8 don’t allow for having proven any criminal activity,
I can’t imagine how you could possibly throw me out of office for something that wasn’t shown that I did. As for the other allegations--the allegations that I allegedly abused the executive discretion, I’d like to take each one of those one by one.
Let’s begin with the first one. The first one I’d like to talk about, and I want to talk about each one of these and what I did in each one of those cases. And I’m glad for having finally been given a chance to be able to explain each of these issues because I’ve been dying to do this for years.
The first issue is the issue of my giving health care, my giving health care to parents in low-income families, to parents who have children who are getting health care through the All Kids program, to parents who come from low-income families who used to have health care but then in late 2007 President Bush and the Bush administration changed its policies and those 35,000 people who used to have health care didn’t have it--let me talk about what I did here.
What did I do in this case but provide health care for low-income families?
Now, I understand the importance of JCAR committee, the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules. I understand that six of you here in the Senate are members of that. The fact that you’d be picked to be on JCAR means you’re in good standing with your legislative leaders. I remember when I was a legislator. I remember when I was a freshman in Congress and I got a chance to be on what they called a conference committee--when you get to sit with the leaders of the different committees in the House and in the Senate--and what a thrill it was for me to be able to, as a freshman congressman, be in a room with legendary U.S. senators like John Glenn and Ted Kennedy and John McCain and John Warner, the senator from Virginia who, incidentally, had once been married to Elizabeth Taylor. That’s all I could think about when I saw him in that room.
And then he asked me for a cup of coffee because he thought I was a staffer. And I didn’t tell him I was a congressman. Instead I went and asked him, ‘How do you take it?’ And he said, ‘Black.’ And I went and got him the coffee. I saw him the following weekend and he asked me for another cup of coffee. He obviously forgot I was a congressman.
I remember what it was like to be in that committee and I know how important it is for those of you who are appointed to a committee like that. But let me respectfully suggest a couple of things. The Joint Committee on Administrative Rules is a committee that other states have too. And in nine other states there have been challenges when the executive branch seeks to do something and then that committee, the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules, has another idea.
Now, ever since I’ve been governor, for the entire six years I’ve been governor, I’ve respected that committee. And as far as I know, our agencies have always approached the JCAR committee and sought requests for the rules. So you guys can decide on that committee whether those rules should be issued or not. But I’ve been given legal advice by lawyers and I believe they’re right--and other courts have agreed that those lawyers were right--that JCAR is an advisory committee.
That it cannot dictate to the executive branch. That if the executive branch seeks to do something, that committee can advise you and suggest whether it’s right or wrong, or they agree with you or not. But they can’t stop you.
If you want to stop the executive branch under our constitution and the ideas of separation of powers, then you all know how it works. The House passes a bill. You in the Senate pass a bill. I may not like it. You send it to me. I veto that bill. It goes back to you and then you override my veto. That’s how you stop the executive branch and a governor.
But 12 lawmakers, however--however intelligent and honest and impressive and schooled as you may be--12 lawmakers picked by legislative leaders cannot constitutionally thwart the executive branch. Nine states--nine states--have challenged this case. And in all nine states, the right of the executive branch to do what it sought to do, without the consent of JCAR, was upheld.
There’s a current court case pending now about this health care issue as we speak. And the issue is this--when those 35,000 families, those low-income parents, lost their health care because President Bush changed the rules in Washington, I felt it a moral obligation to try to help those families keep their health care and still be able to go to the doctor.
I worked with the Senate Democratic leadership on this issue. Every decision I made was done in conjunction with your previous leader and presumably with your leadership team. And then we made a tactical decision to try to get the House to see if they could pass legislation and [they] chose not to do it. Then I chose a way through legal advice and agency directors to protect those families and keep them from losing their health care.
Now, how is it an impeachable offense to protect low-income parents from losing their health care? How is it an impeachable offense to keep those families in a position to be able to see their doctors? In addition, just the other day the Illinois State Supreme Court took this case up and approved the payments to those families. So how can you possibly impeach a governor when a case is pending and taken by the Illinois Supreme Court which may rule in my favor?
And even if it doesn’t, how can you impeach a governor when what we did was about helping families and kids and not anything that wasn’t done in consultation with lawyers and others and is now being tested in a court of law? Then again, what I did in that particular case was one I did with the Senate Democratic leadership at that time, in conjunction with the Senate Democratic leadership at that time, and in partnership with the Senate Democratic leadership at that time.
Now, the next article was flu vaccines, the issue of the flu vaccines. What did I do here? Now, in 2005, in my recollection it was somewhere around the early fall of 2005, there were warnings coming from the Centers for Disease Control in Washington saying that we were about to see one of the worst flu seasons in recent American history.
They warned that you ought to get your flu shot and then they warned, especially to seniors and mothers with small children, infants, that you better make sure your kids, your babies and your elderly parents get flu shots because the flu that’s coming could actually take people’s lives. We then sought to get the necessary flu vaccines for the people of Illinois.
The supplier of those flu vaccines, unfortunately a portion of their supply was contaminated. And so there was a shortage. Because we had a creative program--which apparently another article of impeachment has been filed--you go to Canada and get cheaper and safer and affordable prescription medicines for our senior citizens.
We had relationships with some of the manufacturers of prescription drugs and flu vaccines, and so we found a way through our agency to go to companies like Adventis Pasteur and GlaxoSmithKline--legitimate, FDA-approved companies that manufacture medicines and flu vaccines. And understanding that there was going to [be] some risk that I might get criticized because we had this chance to [be] able to get those flu vaccines and because I was foreseeing the possibility that elderly and infants might be vulnerable to flus that could conceivably take their lives, to me it was a no-brainer. Get the flu vaccine. Bring them in and, by the way, if I get criticized for it, that ain’t the first time. That just goes along with the territory
Not only did we successfully get the flu vaccines we sought, but there was a desire and a demand from other states for those flu vaccines. And Gov. Bill Richardson from New Mexico called and we were able to get him some. And my recollection is the governor of Tennessee was interested, Gov. Bredesen, to see whether or not we could share some of those flu vaccines with him. And the FDA ultimately got involved and prevented us from getting those flu vaccines.
But let me point out to you, this case is still pending. The State of Illinois hasn’t lost $2.5 million. It’s before the Illinois Court of Claims, and the attorney general has made the argument before the Illinois Court of Claims that the taxpayer shouldn’t pay the bill because the FDA didn’t approve what those drug companies had started to do.
But here again my question to you is: How can you throw a governor out of office who is acting to protect the lives of senior citizens and infants and trying to find ways to be able to help families? Now I understand that the House prosecutor mentioned, well, the means don’t justify the ends. These were legal means.
These are legal means to be able to get those medicines. There was nothing against the law. The question was whether or not the FDA would allow us to bring them in. Sure, there was a bit of a risk involved, but the risk was that we spend some money and the upside was we protect seniors and children from dying.
And if it doesn’t happen, at the worst I’ll be criticized because we weren’t able to be able to get the flu vaccines for the money that we’d have to pay. But the money hasn’t been paid yet. So, therefore, their complaint hasn’t happened.
And more importantly, we and I pursued what I believe was the moral and right thing to do with [the] legal means to do them, helping families make sure they had the flu vaccines that are necessary to keep them alive and make sure that children and our seniors don’t get sick when we could find a way to try to help and protect them.
Now, let me point out about this particular article: This was not something that happened yesterday. This was something I did in the first term. If it was an impeachable offense, then you should have impeached me before I got re-elected. I did this and then the people of Illinois knew I did it and then they hired me again.
How can you impeach me on a charge like this that happened in the first term? You didn’t impeach me then and then the people chose me again because they evidently approved of what I did because they understand that they’d like to have a leader who’s going to go out and try to get results for them.
Third point: the other article, prescription drugs from Canada. I can’t wait to talk about this one. What did I do here? What did I do? How many of us on this side of the aisle--and I’ve got to thank some of you on that side of the aisle--went all over the campaign trail and talked to senior citizens in bingos and senior homes and kitchens and homes around the state, and understood how difficult it was for them to be able to afford their medicines and pay for their groceries and afford their electric bills? How many of us talked about those things in speeches?
How many of us who are familiar with how the Congress operates actually had talking points that were given by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and they had that line--food or medicine, food or medicine--how many of us said all that? And how many of us kept railing against the FDA because they wouldn’t allow Canada--they wouldn’t allow American seniors to go to Canada and get the same prescription drugs, the same medicines made by the exact same companies?
Only if you go to Canada, you can get it you can get it for 40 or 50 percent less and save money for senior citizens. And how many of us believe in free trade? Democrats believe in it. And I know you guys on the Republican side of the aisle believe in it. And yet somehow on the issue of prescription drugs, we don’t have free trade? We can’t go to Canada--our No. 1 trading partner--and get the medicines that are necessary to save the lives of our seniors and our families and our children?
So we found a way--to go to Canada. And I was the first state. I was the first governor to do it. And the idea came to me not from me, but from then-Congressman Rahm Emanuel. Sen. [John] Cullerton’s congressman--my congressman--came to me with a good idea and said, ‘Why don’t you lead the charge and lead the fight on this and be the first state to go to Canada and test whether or not the FDA will allow you to do it or not? Think about the morality of this. Think about how we can help our seniors. And think about what we can do to help families.’
And I loved the idea and we did it. And then, so did Wisconsin and so did Kansas and so did Vermont. If you are impeaching me on providing safe and affordable prescription drugs--going to Canada and getting the same medicines made by the exact same companies--then the governor of Wisconsin ought to be impeached, the governor of Kansas ought to be impeached, the governor of Vermont ought to be impeached. And, while we’re at it, let’s go reach right into the United States Senate and let’s expel John McCain and Ted Kennedy because I worked with them on this issue of the reimportation of prescription drugs. And then let’s not stop there.
Let’s demand that President Obama fire Rahm Emanuel because Rahm Emanuel was the one who gave me this idea. If you’re going to throw me out of office for something like this, then how can those guys stay in the offices that they have?
Here again is an issue that happened in the first term not the second term. And everybody knew about it. And in spite of the criticism--and I understand all that--the people of Illinois elected me a second time knowing what I did with regard to prescription drugs for our senior citizens.
The next paragraph, the next article, is the issue of the auditor general. Now what did I do there? The auditor general apparently, it’s my understanding, had an issue with CMS, Central Management Services. Now, I may be the only one here left who still is proud of all the different things I’ve been able to accomplish as governor, and I want to say most of it couldn’t have happened without you here in the state Senate. You all know what the political dynamic has been here over the past six years, and every one of the big achievements I’ve been able [to] get as governor couldn’t have been done without you.
And sometimes, with you. But I want you to know that one of the best things we did was invest record amounts of money in education--$8.4 billion dollars in new money in education, a 30 percent increase--and we didn’t do it on the backs of the middle class by raising their taxes. We expanded health care to 750,000 families who didn’t have it before, increasing payments within the budget, but we didn’t do it without--by raising taxes on the middle class, but we did it in different ways.
And one of the ways we did it was by efficiency--consolidating function, having agencies do a better job making sure they can streamline their activities--and Central Management Services, CMS, was one of those places.
In the first term, they were successful in saving over $500 million for taxpayers because they found creative ways to do it. And in this particular case, on this issue with the auditor general, they found a way to save some money in some place, and then what they wanted to do was allow us to be able to use that money in the general revenue fund to invest in health care and education and other general revenue items, but then the auditor general got involved and said, ‘Stop, don’t do it.’
Now I have a recollection of actually remembering this, I remember I was in Washington, D.C., when the head of CMS and that Mr. Holland, the auditor general, got into a little bit of a verbal fight. I remember being amused by that, thinking they had a couple of accountants kind of scrapping over the issue of whether or not some money should be spent a certain way or not.
When the inspector general, Mr. Holland, told us, ‘You can’t do it,’ guess what? We did--we didn’t do it.
How can you impeach me and throw me out of office? The chief accountant of the state comes in and says,’You can’t do that.’ We hear you, we’re not doing it. And we didn’t do it.
How can that be an impeachable offense? And here, too, like on prescription drugs for seniors and flu vaccines for the elderly and for infants, here, too, this was an issue that took place in the first term, not the second term. This was something that, if it was so bad, you should have impeached me on before and not now. And in spite of it, the people of Illinois elected me a second time. Now the last article is the report by the AIG, the inspector general.
And just to back up and give you a little bit of history, one of the accomplishments that we were able to have together in the first term, in the veto session of 2003, was to create a new ethics law, change the rules of ethics, and for the first time ever create an inspector general that was independent of the governor. Not the governor’s friend, but [an] independent inspector general who would be brought on to police the system of state government. That he or she would be there to make sure that all of us, all state employees and others who worked for the governor, in this case, are doing things right.
We hired a former United States attorney as our first inspector general. This report from the inspector general alleges that some people, perhaps, may have--it’s an allegation, nothing proven, nothing shown yet to be true, but an allegation--that some people who worked for me may have violated some of the hiring rules. In that very report by the inspector general, there’s never an allegation that I ever knew anything about it.
How can I possibly be thrown out of office on something that the inspector general doesn’t even claim I knew anything about? And, incidentally, something that still has not been resolved. So I ask you to remember, too, that that issue was one that took place in the first term, not the second term, and if it was so bad then, then perhaps I should have been impeached over that.
But yet again, the inspector general doesn’t say I knew anything about it. There hasn’t been any finding that anyone did anything wrong, and I’ve got to tell you, the fact we have an inspector general was something I pushed very hard for, and, yeah, it gets embarrassing sometimes when your own inspector general finds that some people who work for you may not have done something right, but the greater good is served because you’re policing the system and making sure that people don’t do things they shouldn’t do, and have a better understanding of some of the things they shouldn’t be in a position to be able to do.
So I believe in all of the evidence that has been presented to you--in fact I know--there hasn’t been a single piece of information that proves any wrongdoing. You haven’t proved a crime, and you can’t because it hasn’t happened. You haven’t given me a chance to disprove a crime, but so far a crime has not been proven here in this impeachment proceeding.
How can you throw a governor out of office with insufficient and incomplete evidence? You haven’t been able to show that there was anything wrong in my judgment on any of these allegations with regards to things I did in my first term for senior citizens and for children, how we complied with the auditor general when he told us to follow his rules, how we had an inspector general who found some things but didn’t say I was involved in it.
How can those things be shown to be anything but what they are? But not wrongdoing. It’s not evidence of any wrongdoing. In fact, there is no evidence before your body here that shows--no evidence, zero--that there was any wrongdoing by me as governor. And again, if you give me a chance to be able to bring witnesses in, I can show you, not only that I didn’t do anything wrong, I can show you that I did a lot of things that were mostly right.
And that some of the things that are being said about me simply aren’t true. And when I get my day in court, I’ll have a chance to be able to prove it.
Now I know, we’ve had some ups and downs. I have mostly had ups with this side of the aisle. I wouldn’t be where I am in terms of the accomplishments I take pride in if it wasn’t for the Senate Democratic Caucus. I know that those of you on this side of the aisle haven’t always agreed with my positions. Those have been mostly philosophical differences--the ordinary differences that separate Democrats from Republicans, honest differences--but we’ve also had a chance to work together, had a good opportunity to work with all of you on a public works programWe’ve been working together for a long, long time, in good faith, trying to get a capital bill passed so we can create 500,000 jobs, put people to work, stimulate our economy and do what’s right.
And I know sometimes we’ve had some difficulties and some disagreements, but isn’t that what a democracy is? And isn’t that how this process is supposed to work? And isn’t it really the way our country was founded? Nothing smooth, but conflict. And out of conflict, hopefully good results occur. And maybe sometimes you likely slowed me down--because my instincts are to keep doing things--and maybe sometimes we were able to find ways to get things done for people.
But always, those ways were lawyer, er, lawful--always those ways were done in consultation with lawyers. With all due respect to the prosecutor, Mr. Ellis, always, the means were legal. And in most cases the ends were moral. When you go out and try to find a way, with legal advice, to save 35,000 poor people and keep their health care, you’ve done it through legal means and you’ve done a moral thing. When you’re trying to help senior citizens afford their medicines--instead of giving them just a bunch of political baloney and speeches and saying you care, but then you don’t do anything about it--but you found a way that you can actually do something and help them be able to have a better quality of life, not ration their medicine, maybe extend their lives, the means are legal, because if they’re not, then the governor of Wisconsin, the governor of Kansas and Ted Kennedy and Rahm Emanuel and John McCain and others ought to be co-conspirators with me.
But how can you impeach me for legal means with moral ends? Those are a lot of the things I’ve done as governor. Now I know my style sometimes--[pause]--I know, I know sometimes I probably pushed too much and prodded too much. I know you guys have the impression that sometimes, you know, I go outside of you and say certain things. I know. I know.
But I want you to know where I come from. I have been blessed to live the American dream. My background is humble, like most of yours. My dad was an immigrant who came here from a communist country--a Republican, Cold War hero, spent four years in a Nazi prisoner of war camp. And then instead of going back to his home after the war, he waited for three years in a refugee camp so that one day maybe he might have a chance to go to the United States--this place he heard so many great things about.
Then in 1948, the Congress that one day his youngest son would one day become a member of, passed a law called the Displaced Persons Act--Persons Act--and permitted him and millions of others like him with these long and hard to pronounce last names a chance to come to America--the land of freedom and the land of opportunity. My dad, his whole world changed. He saw himself as a rising officer in the Yugoslavian army, and then everything changed.
But then he came to this place. And he wasn’t the guy he thought he might be, the career he thought he might have. He was a factory worker, a steel worker. And worked all the time--50, 60, 70 hours a week. Got a second job. Did everything he could to scratch and claw and sacrifice. Because he got to a point in his life--and you know this probably from your parents--when you realize it ain’t there for you, ‘So I’m going to do everything I can to create opportunities for my kids.’ My mother was a working person--CTA ticket agent, passing out transfers at the subway stations.
Everything they did was to work and sacrifice for their kids and give us the chance at a better life that wasn’t there for them. And then one day their youngest son grows up and he becomes governor of the fifth largest state. And he became governor because he had a lot of people helping him. He became governor because he went out and gave a lot of speeches about all the things he wanted to do for people just like his parents.
And then you wake up and suddenly, holy cow, it happened. Hard to believe. I’m the governor of Illinois. And when that happens to you one day, and surely some of you here might have that experience, I wonder if you’ll have the same appreciation I had. I suspect Sen. Cullerton felt that when he became Senate president. Y
ou’ve hit a pinnacle. You’ve hit something that maybe you never thought you’d have, and people entrusted you with a special place, so what are you going to do with them?
Me? In spite of what a lot of my critics have said, it wasn’t about promoting me for higher office. I didn’t go to all those Washington, D.C., functions, I didn’t try to sell myself to the national media, I didn’t go to governor’s conferences--I’ve been criticized for not doing that. I just stayed right here in Illinois to try to do the best I can to get real results for people, and to push and prod--maybe too hard sometimes--but to get real results for people. And who are those people?
People like my parents. My whole life experience. I didn’t go to Harvard; applied on a Monday and got my letter of rejection back on a Tuesday. I went to more modest-type schools. But I’ve been blessed to have a chance, and now suddenly I’m the governor. What will I do with that? Squander it? Or will I try to get things done for people like my parents, and will I try to take my life experience--a life experience that so many of you understand and have experienced?
Willie Delgado, from a neighborhood like mine, very close; Jimmy DeLeo, from the same kind of life experience like mine--the same kind of life experience. And then try to take policies and set priorities that before we got together to be able to do these things, those priorities were not the priorities of the state. I tried to expand opportunities for families who otherwise wouldn’t have it--opportunities for health care, opportunities for education, opportunities for preschool, how to level the playing field--but do it in ways that don’t burden the middle class.
A different approach, ruffling feathers here--not the kind of thing that everybody agreed with, but an approach I thought would help families and not burden them, and give them a lift up a little bit, and not have them just run in place, hearing a lot of stuff that the governor said he did, but not really feeling like their lives had improved.
I think about my parents a lot. I think about ordinary people I’ve met along the way a lot.
I met a woman not long ago who told me her story, and she’s the kind of person that I believe my policies have been for. And I want to tell the story not because it’s that unique, but I want to tell it because I want you to know how sometimes maybe I get too frustrated, maybe I get too impatient with the process, maybe I forget that I used to be a lawmaker and I just don’t understand why you guys--not you guys, but some of you, your colleagues, mostly in the other place--are holding things up, when we’re about helping people.
And we’ve said we want to do these things for families. But I met a woman who told me the story of her day-to-day life. She’s a mom with an immigrant mother from Mexico; she was born here. A mom in her late 20s, two boys--6 and 4. She works out by the airport, does some clerical work, I think in an accounting firm. They live in the near South Side, I think, in Back of the Yards, maybe Pilsen, maybe Bridgeport. She gets up every morning at 5 o’clock because she has to start work at 7 or 8, depending on when her boss wants her in, and she also gets up because she’s been able to have some flexibility in her schedule.
She lives in a two-flat. Her mother owns the building, where her late father used to live. Dad left the kids and left her all by herself. She lives in a two-flat and pays rent to her mother, for her mother gives her a break and gives her a hand. She’s up before dawn, her kids are still in bed. She sits down, her mom comes up--her mom has a cup of coffee with her, they talk about the things of the day, and then she’s ready to go to work.
It’s still dark outside if it’s winter. She tippy-toes into the bedroom and kisses her boys goodbye and leaves them to their grandmother. And then she walks out, a couple of blocks, goes to a bus stop and waits in the darkness before dawn in the cold of winter to catch a bus. And then that bus takes her to a subway train. And that subway train--[pause]--takes her to her job out by O’Hare.
And then she goes to work. And she works hard, and she’s been there a long time, and she started when she was getting paid less than $30,000 a year, but she did a good job for her boss and she’s getting paid now more than $40,000 a year She gets benefits, she gets health care through the All-Kids Program, which is something we provided. She puts in eight or nine hours a day, and then it’s time to leave.
She gets back on that subway train, gets back to that bus, then comes home and, if she’s lucky, she’s home maybe by 6 or 6:30 and she can spend a little bit of her time with her boys because grandma has just made them dinner. And then maybe she’ll eat her dinner and eat some of that fast, and then she’ll do what moms do--taking care of her kids, get them ready for bed--and then maybe if she’s lucky she might have an hour or two at best where she might be able to actually relax and watch her favorite television program and get away from it all. But she knows she’s got to get up early because this whole thing starts again tomorrow. And the next day. And the next day.
My policies have been all about helping families like those. Give her a chance to afford health care through the All Kids program. Give her a chance to send those boys to preschool. Give her a chance to be able to make a living and hopefully have upward mobility and protect her from those who might want to raise her taxes, and make it harder for her.
My policies have been about trying to help families like those. And then when I run into gridlock, and legislative gridlock, I’m too impatient and I get frustrated and I confess maybe I push too hard, I confess maybe I fight maybe too much, but I ask you to remember it ain’t about me, my kids, it ain’t about me. Charge it to my heart, charge it to a desire to help families I came from, and life stories I’ve heard along the way in my life and as governor. And when you get the experience to be governor and you get the chance to help families like them and you can do it, it’s gratifying. It’s gratifying. Now, I’m asking you, to ook at the evidence that you’ve heard here and ask yourself, is it the right precedent to set to throw a governor--twice-elected by the people--out of office without proving any wrongdoing? Is that the right precedent to set? Think about the dangerous precedent that will be set if you throw me out of office when you haven’t been able--and rightfully you wouldn’t because it didn’t happen--prove criminal allegations, and all those other articles that are not wrongdoing.
Does it set the right precedent? Because there’s some issues now, and I know there’s a certain sense that maybe it’d be good if I wasn’t here and you guys can put all this behind you and move on. But to quote Mr. Ellis, the means needed--the ends don’t justify the means. An improper impeachment not based on evidence are improper means that don’t justify the ends. And even worse in a case where a governor has been elected by the people of his or her state, to remove that governor like this, sets a dangerous and chilling precedent for the future.
Impeachments are very rare and they’re designed to be that way. They’re supposed to be used only in extreme cases. That’s why there’s been so few impeachments in American history. That’s why I stand before you in a very unique and lonely place.
But there’s a reason why these impeachments are rare: Because you’re not supposed to just throw the will of the people out unless you have shown wrongdoing. And you haven’t been able to show wrongdoing in this trial. And you’ve denied me the right to be able to bring in a whole bunch of witnesses who will show you I didn’t do anything wrong and have done most things right. Imagine what future governors of Illinois will face if I’m thrown out of office for this.
And imagine other governors in other states--because there’s only been a couple where this has happened--and you look and see what other states have done, and imagine what’ll happen if I’m thrown out of office, what a dangerous precedent like this. So I’m here to appeal to you, to your sense of fairness, your sense of responsibility and to the truth.
And to the truth. I’m asking you to acquit me and give me a chance to show my innocence, and if you’re not comfortable with an acquittal, then extend this process and get more evidence if you can get it, to show that I did something wrong, or give me a chance to bring my evidence in, bring my witnesses in, to show you I did nothing wrong. But don’t set a dangerous precedent removing the governor who was elected by the people on these grounds.
And then I’ll appeal to you personally: Imagine yourself in my place. Walk a mile in my shoes. Think about if something like this can happen to me, it could happen to you.
Imagine going to bed one night, thinking everything is fine, excited about decisions that you’re going to make, confident you’ll be able to get a lot of the things you’ve been trying to do before done, like creating jobs and extending health care and protecting taxpayers, and doing some other things. Imagine going to bed comfortably, and then the next morning your whole world changes--unexpected, unanticipated, not even aware or knowing what it was about--and then imagine what it’s like when you realize what it is, and you get home and the whole world’s, like, outside your house, and then you--before you can even catch a breath--everybody has convicted you.
Imagine how you’d feel when the presumption of innocence that every American citizen has a right to is completely wiped out because of sensationalization of the media and other things. And that you don’t even have a chance to be able to come around and figure out what happened, and before long the rush to judgment has already occurred. Imagine how you’d feel.
Now if I felt I did something wrong, I would have resigned in December. If I felt I had violated a law, I would meet my responsibilities, I would have resigned in December. I wouldn’t put my family through this, I wouldn’t put you through this and, most importantly, I wouldn’t put people, the people of Illinois, through this.
But I didn’t resign then and I’m not resigning now because I have done nothing wrong. And all I ask of you is to give me a chance to show you that I’ve done nothing wrong. Let me bring those witnesses in. And sure, there’s political embarrassment to members of my party and faraway Washington, D.C. Sure, there’s some inconvenience.
But all the witnesses I’d like to call would testify honestly, and they did nothing wrong either. They had political conversations with me about a decision regarding a United States senator. Let them come in here and talk about those conversations, and let me show you that I’ve done nothing wrong. I cannot possibly admit to something I didn’t do.
And it’s not about me as much as it is about not shaming my daughters, so that their dad, they might think may have done some things he didn’t do, and allowing them to have this feeling that I let them down, and even more important than my daughters, the people of Illinois.
It is painful to be in a position like this. It’s painful to hold your tongue and not be able to say too much because people are telling you you shouldn’t do anything, and they’ve already rushed to judgment and said you did something you didn’t do.
It is painful to be in a car and drive to see people sitting, standing at bus stops or walking down the street who voted for you--presumably, more of them did than didn’t--and they’ve hired you and trusted you and you’re dying to tell them, ‘I didn’t do it, I didn’t let you down. Give me a chance to show you.’ It’s painful and it’s lonely.
But I want you to know--I want you to know--I never, ever intended to commit a criminal act, I never--in any conversation--intended to violate any criminal law. All the conversations, warts and all, ought to be heard. This is not Richard Nixon and Watergate trying to keep the tapes from being heard. I want all the evidence heard, and I want it sooner rather than later so I can clear my name and we can get on with doing the things that matter most.
I want to thank you for giving me a chance to be here. I know these are tough times. I want to apologize to you for what happened.
But I can’t because I don’t think--because I didn’t do anything wrong. These are circumstances that have happened and I’m sorry that we’re all in this. I’ll apologize for that. And I’ll apologize for maybe pushing and prodding too much and the rest in the past. But I want you also to know that whatever you do here--and I hope you think about the big, broad picture and the big consequences, not me--think about future governors, think about the constitutional rights that are involved, think about the precedent, think about the civil liberties that we Americans all enjoy, think about the dangerous precedent of removing me without proving any wrongdoing.
If it can happen to a governor, it can happen to any citizen. And then I would say to all of you, think about the things we’ve been able to do together: Health care for all of our kids, first in the nation. Pre school for 3- and 4-year-olds, best in the nation.
Record amount of money in education. All of our senior citizens riding public transportation for free. Holding the line on taxes. Think about all the good things we’ve been able to do for people. Give me a chance to stay here so we can roll up our sleeves and continue to do good things for people.
Thank you very much. ###