Amy Gehrt: Blago back in the spotlight

Amy Gehrt

The trial of ousted Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich has been grabbing national headlines, and it has put Blago back in the spotlight he so clearly loves. Watching him, one must often wonder if the former politician really understands the gravity of the situation.

In pictures and on video, you can see him smiling and glad-handing the crowds outside the Federal Court building in Chicago as if he is once again campaigning for votes. Which, in a way, he is.

But the stakes are far more serious than needing to convince voters to cast their ballots for him on Election Day. This time, he is trying to win over both the court of public opinion and those who will be deciding his fate in a court of law.

What’s baffling to me is Blago’s seemingly sincere belief that he has done nothing wrong. The politician with the big hair, and the even bigger personality, really appears to mean his protestations of innocence. His demeanor is one of a child wrongly accused of stealing a cookie from the cookie jar.

But Blago is no child, and what he did certainly amounts to a crime. Several of them, in fact. Whether his actions really were the norm in Chicago politics is an alarming question but ultimately irrelevant. As my parents so frequently admonished me when I was young, just because someone else is doing something doesn’t make it right.

I must admit, though, watching this all unfold has been vastly entertaining for me — and for all of America, it seems.

For weeks now, I gleefully giggled as I read reports of Blago’s attempts to turn his trial into a three-ring circus. He tried to subpoena Sen. Dick Durbin and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. Blago attempted to compel top Barack Obama administration aides, including Rahm Emanuel and Valerie Jarrett, to take the stand. He even sought to summon the president of the United States himself to the Chicago courtroom where Blago’s fate will be decided. Every day I would wonder who was next. Donald Trump, his “Celebrity Apprentice” boss? Me?

Blagojevich’s antics may be fun to watch, but they do make me wonder about his mental state. Granted, a big ego is virtually a must for a successful politician, but is Blago just a run-of-the-mill narcissist, or is he flat-out crazy? And if he is indeed insane, how on earth did we manage to elect him not once, but twice?

Of course, a third alternative is also possible. It could all be an act, aimed at putting him squarely back in the limelight he so clearly loves. Few politicians have gone so far to court public opinion. Blagojevich has tried his hand at being a radio talk show host, and a reality TV star. His wife, Patti, has also gone the reality TV route in a bid to win fans.

Perhaps only a trained mental-health expert who was afforded unrestricted access to Blagojevich for hours on end could really be sure as to the former governor’s true motives and mental state.

It would be sure to be a fascinating study, but one that Blagojevich would probably only agree to if the proceedings could be broadcast live.

One thing is clear, though. Blago should have plenty of time to dream up his next play for fame on the state’s dime. However, I doubt even a country club jail will have the hair products Blago usually has an aide cart around for him. But who knows? Maybe former governor George Ryan would be interested in that job.

Amy Gehrt may be reached at

The views expressed in this column are not necessarily those of the newspaper.