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Rahm Emanuel letter to Gov. Rod: What was he thinking?
By Chuck Goudie | Daily Herald Columnist
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Published: 1/12/2009 12:07 AM

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Gov. Rod Blagojevich isn't all bad, according to the incoming chief of staff for President-elect Barack Obama.

Blagojevich may have become the scourge of the cosmos since being arrested Dec. 9 on corruption charges, but Rahm Emanuel apparently still finds Blago has some redeeming values.

Longtime Blago buddy Emanuel wrote some kind words in a letter to the governor that arrived just a few days ago. Emanuel's letter states "Dear Governor Blagojevich: I am writing to resign my position as United States Representative from the Fifth Congressional District of Illinois, effective January 2, 2009."

Obama's new chief of staff had to notify Blagojevich of his resignation from Congress so the governor could schedule a special election to fill the seat.

Emanuel didn't have to write anything else in the resignation letter, but he did. And what he wrote to Rod, considering the governor's predicament, is curious.

"As sons of immigrants to this country," Emanuel stated to the governor, "you and I have a deep appreciation for the opportunities America provides to those who are willing to work hard and sacrifice for their children."

Emanuel wrote those inspiring, praiseworthy words well after Mr. Blagojevich was rousted from bed by the FBI and charged with crimes that could land him in jail for 30 years, and have humiliated all of us.

It is astounding that Mr. Emanuel would want to publicly pair his own "deep appreciation for the opportunities America provides" with Gov. Blagojevich, who is accused of being a corrupt opportunist and taking advantage of his public trust, which is as anti-American as you can get.

Work hard and sacrifice? According to the federal criminal charges and last week's impeachment festivities in Springfield, Rod did work hard - for himself. And he did sacrifice - his family, his supporters and himself. But I don't think that's what Mr. Emanuel was referring to.

Considering the weeks of suspicion that Emanuel had a behind-the-scenes role in the bidding for Barack Obama's Senate seat, wouldn't you think he would avoid any further perception of being connected to Rod?

But no. The letter concludes with a send-off to an old friend. "With gratitude and best wishes," writes Obama's right-hand man. "Sincerely, Rahm Emanuel, Member of Congress."

Gratitude for what, a one-way ticket to Washington? Best wishes for a friendly roommate in the penitentiary?

If such niceties didn't make the governor feel warm and toasty enough, then a few days later Rod must have been just hot and tingly.

On Jan. 6 the "Certificate of Election for Six-Year Term" was entered into the record on behalf of Dick Durbin. The government is big on official-looking papers, ink stamps and signatures.

Even though everybody knows Mr. Durbin was handily re-elected in November, the State of Illinois had to send along a special certified letter addressed to "To the President of the Senate of the United States."

The document states there was one witness certifying the truthful outcome of the election and Mr. Durbin's victory: "His excellency our governor, Rod R. Blagojevich." At least excellency wasn't capitalized as it should have been.

The certification was signed by Blagojevich on Dec. 1 in Springfield. Eight days later in Chicago, "his excellency" was in handcuffs.

You can tell a lot about people by examining what they have said in the past. Back in 1997 when Rod Blagojevich was a new congressman from the Northwest side, he made an impassioned speech on the floor of the House of Representatives in Washington. It was one of his first speeches in Congress and concerned campaign ethics.

"When we spend all the time we spend trying to raise money to get here," Blagojevich said, "and when we consider all of the special interest money that helps us get elected to office, if that system is not corrupting, it certainly is corruptible. Unless the governed believe that we are acting in good faith and are truly trying to govern them in a fair way, we will not have a democracy worth protecting."

In 1998, Congressman Blagojevich made another speech on the floor of the House to talk about then-President Bill Clinton. "He misled the American people, his Cabinet and staff, to cover up an affair," Blagojevich said.

But Mr. Blagojevich tried to convince fellow members of Congress that Clinton's lies and deceit didn't warrant -impeachment.

And what Blagojevich said in 1998 seems to have foreshadowed the fight against his own impeachment in 2009.

"Congresses will use impeachment as a tool of political destruction and not as the intended remedy for the grand abuse of power," he said back then, before voting against the Clinton impeachment.

Did I mention who was one of Mr. Clinton's top advisers during that scandal and the impeachment revelry? It was none other than Rahm Emanuel.

I wonder if Mr. Emanuel sent Rod a nice letter after the anti-impeachment speech and signed it "With gratitude and best wishes".

• Chuck Goudie, whose column appears each Monday, is the chief investigative reporter at ABC 7 News in Chicago. The views in this column are his own and not those of WLS-TV. He can be reached by e-mail at