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Guilty or not, why Rod really was Tony Soprano
By Chuck Goudie | Daily Herald Columnist
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Published: 7/26/2010 12:00 AM

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Even if he had shown up wearing a cheetah print miniskirt and Parisian stilettos, the former governor of Illinois wouldn't have been as conspicuous in federal court as he was when he kept quiet.

Forget about Blago. Please.

Rod Blagojevich shot off his mouth enough from the day he was arrested he should've had an automatic weapons license.

Back in February he gave us some clues that he was planning to clam up in court.

First, he said, "I'll testify and swear on the Holy Bible to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth."

As I noted in a column back then, they don't swear on Bibles in federal court. As a former lawyer, Blago must have known that.

Then his lawyer filed a motion that complained about the government being heavy handed in dealing with an esteemed former governor.

"This defendant is Rod Blagojevich, not Tony Soprano," they wrote.

I overlooked that clue at the time. The fact is, now that Blago has gone mute, he is Tony Soprano.

Extensive research backs up that conclusion.

Both men sat atop a lucrative, well-oiled organization.

But both questioned their ability to hold on.

"This day and age? Who wants the (bleeping) job?" once asked Tony. Rod was recorded raising similar questions about his own position as governor.

They were both feared by their underlings, many of whom thought that the men could snap at any time.

They saw rats around every corner.

"I gotta be honest with you. I'm not getting any satisfaction from my work," Tony once said to his shrink.

"Why?" she asked the mob boss.

"Well, because of RICO," Soprano told her.

"Is he your brother?" the psychiatrist replied.

"No," said Tony. "The RICO statutes," referring to the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization law that is used as a legal basis for many organized crime and political conspiracy cases.

A similarly paranoid Rod Blagojevich was heard on the undercover tapes that jury members will consider during deliberations this week.

Like the fictional New Jersey mobster, Rod had his quarters regularly swept for bugs - the electronic kind.

"I don't care how close you are. In the end your friends are gonna let you down," Soprano said.

Blagojevich saw that the past five weeks. As prosecutors tried to build a bridge from presumed innocence to guilt, Illinois' one-time hotshot governor watched some of his best friends let him down.

"Every morning I wake up thinkin,' is this the day that one of my best friends is gonna dime me to the FBI?" Tony Soprano once said.

In Rod Blagojevich's case several of his best friends did "drop a dime," to use old-school terminology from when pay phones actually existed and did cost 10 cents.

From his former college roommate to chiefs' of staff, they hen marched to the witness stand and recounted his allegedly organized criminal ways. In most cases they had already pleaded guilty and were describing things they too had done illegally.

The FBI was after them both, Rod and Tony.

They knew it but life went on and both men enjoyed expensive suits.

Still, they had their quarters regularly swept for bugs.

"Maybe I'm just waiting for the other shoe to drop," Tony Soprano said once, in very Milorad Blagojevich terminology.

Even as everyone around them was singing, until the very end, they practiced a sacred code of silence.

One day, when Blago's fate has been sealed, he will have a lot of time to think about what has happened.

The lost time, the wasted opportunities, the voters who stayed with him twice, the wrecked family and the terrible toll on a state he supposedly loved.

Regardless of what his fate may be, at some point he will repeat to himself something like the line that Tony Soprano once said before the show faded to black for the final time.

"After all is said and done," Tony asked himself, "after all the complainin' and the cryin' and all the (bleep, bleep), is this all there is?"

• 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 and followed at