Blago To Letterman: I'll Be Vindicated. Trust Me.

For an attorney and lawmaker, former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich sure seems to have a limited understanding of guilt and innocence.

The coiffed crusader was on CBS' Late Show With David Letterman today (airing later tonight) to once again let America know the truth: He's innocent.

And how do we know he's innocent? Because he says he's innocent. He said it over and over as if a greater number of iterations makes it more true. And just to be sure that Dave got the picture, he provided a nifty metaphor that even a late night talk show host could understand.

Consider a circumstance that might involve your life. Let's say hypothetically there was another guy who had a talk show on another station from in Burbank, let's say he came from New Jersey. And let's say, let's say he said you weren't funny and he had 20 reasons why your Top Ten List sucks, would you want him just to get away with that or would you want to be able to say it simply isn't true? And I can just tell you that it's a very difficult thing that I've gone through, unimaginable, unexpected, unanticipated and I assert my innocence because it is the truth. And the alternative is to sit in some corner, hide, cower in the fetal position and assume – and accept what people are saying that you did and you didn't do it and I didn't do it, and at the appropriate time, I'll have a chance to prove that.
A disclaimer is in order: Maybe (just maybe) the former governor really is innocent. Several times during the interview he alludes or refers directly to his pending appearances in federal court. And it is undeniably true that he has the right to refrain from addressing the charges against him until trial, to call and cross-examine witnesses, to introduce evidence in his defense, and so forth. Perhaps waiting until trial is the wise thing to do.

(AP Photo/Richard Drew)
But in the meantime, Blago is asking us all to do a lot of mental gymnastics. The evidence against Mr. Blagojevich – or at least some small chunk of it – is in the public domain. We've all heard him talking about what a #%!@ valuable thing that senate seat is. From Blago's side, all we've heard is that he's a victim and he is indeed inncocent and will be vindicated. No evidence provided.

The result, on Letterman, was an evening of cognitive dissonance. Letterman would produce some of the evidence of Blago's guilt and Blago would counter with the assertion that he is innocent. He just can't give us any proof until trial.

So why was he on Letterman? Letterman's own suggestion seemed to cut a little too close to the bone:

Letterman: Right now, other people will say, 'Well, what he's doing now, he's working on the jury pool for the spring trial. He's trying to plead his case, trying to prejudice a group of people so that it will be difficult to get an impartial jury for that trial. Anything?

Blagojevich: No, um – your audience obviously likes you, everything you say, they laugh at. And that wasn't all that funny, with all due respect.

But Blagojevich had his own version. He was doing it for his kids. He said:
I have a 12-year-old and a 5-year-old. And they're hearing things about their dad that aren't true. It's very, very difficult to simply sit there and accept the things they're saying about you, taking things out of context and twisting it and to not say, 'It isn't true and I'll prove it's not true.'
And later:
The trial is probably going to be a year from now, it's not anywhere near imminent, so what I'm doing here is I'm just doing the best I can to clear my name. I have daughters who have a right to know that their dad didn't do some of the things they're saying I did.
Wait. They have a right to know and only an appearance on The Late Show is going to convince them? Because you know how big Letterman is with the 5-to-12 set these days...

Blagojevich did make a few arguments in his defense. One was that the incriminating recordings were taken out of context. "There's hours and hours," he says more than once. The bits that sound bad were chosen by the very people that want to indict, try, and convict him. The rest is presumably filled with people saying what a good guy he is.

It's not worth beating this much further into the ground. Blago argued that every recording in which he appeared to be selling a government office or extorting a children's hospital was taken out of context. He didn't defend himself at his impeachment trial because the tools available to him under the Illinois constitution were simply inadequate to allow him to prove his innocence, so he might as well not have bothered. His removal from office was a foregone conclusion given the confluence of anti-Blagojevich political dynamics including a Democratic party just salivating for a tax increase and a Republican party bent on smearing him.

"I'm certain of being vindicated," Blagojevich said.

Note: This post is based on a written transcript of the first segment of the Blagojevich interview only. Yes, even we can't get the whole thing. Tune in tonight for much more.

Update: The segment aired and I think this post still holds up pretty well. The interview ended, more or less, with this exchange:

Blagojevich: When these things are being said, the least I can do for my kids, so they don't feel like their dad's the guy some people are saying he is, is to assert over and over again that I've done nothing wrong. And you've given me a chance to do it and I'm grateful.

Letterman: And everybody's given you that chance. And like I said earlier, the more you hear a guy say, 'I've done nothing wrong,' and the more you hear a guy say 'I didn't have a chance to defend myself,' the more you begin to think, 'Eh… something wrong here."

Blagojevich: Well let me say two things. One, that's the truth. And two, I'm glad you're not gonna sit on that jury in Illinois.

  • Ken Millstone

    Ken Millstone is an assignment editor at