Epiphany about Blago: Read this to understand the man

Everybody missed it at the time.

Buried in all the festivities surrounding Rod Blagojevich's 14-year prison sentence, there was an epiphany.

Not an Epiphany with a capital E, the kind that is celebrated at Christmas.

A lowercase epiphany, something that defines the essence of something else.

Once you know this one thing, you will understand Rod Blagojevich.

The revelation is rooted in Rod's first trial, a year and a half ago, when he still had a chance to beat the corruption charges. Maybe you remember, it was when the former first family of Illinois brought their children to court, looking as if they were in an Easter parade.

Their oldest daughter, Amy, 14 at the time, carried a fancy pink Coach bag. She and her mother, Patti, wore matching dresses.

The Blagojevich's youngest, Annie, age 7, had a sippy cup in her hands — the kind that toddlers use.

Through the closing arguments, as Rod Blagojevich was described as a scoundrel and a snake, the girls looked at those who would decide their daddy's fate; four eyes slit-seeding the jurors hearts, planting kernels of doubt.

That jury ended up hung on all but one of the charges.

Fast forward to Rod's second trial, last June, when the defrocked governor tried another subliminal trick to get inside jurors heads, one that nobody seemed to notice at the time.

During Blagojevich's testimony from the witness stand, he said things that were intended to resonate with individual jurors, according to Assistant U.S. Attorney Reid Schar.

In the middle of his testimony, when Blagojevich mentioned that he would go to library, that was directed at a juror who was a librarian. When Blago spoke of music, it was to ingratiate himself with the musician-juror. His reference to Boston was for the juror who grew up there. When he spoke of stopping by a Greek diner for coffee that was intended for the juror who owned a Greek restaurant. And so on.

They were seemingly innocent, quirky comments within his testimony that no one noticed ... except the jurors for whom they were meant.

Blagojevich had carefully loaded them in his arsenal of words, taken dead aim at specific jurors, and fired.

Prosecutor Schar mentioned Blagojevich's underhanded attempts during last week's sentencing hearing.

“He wanted to manipulate that audience to help himself,” Schar said. The former governor's insertion of factoids during his testimony, whether true or not, were intended to play with juror's minds, he suggested.

“He picks out his audience and says what they want to hear,” Schar told U.S. District Court Judge James Zagel in arguing for a lengthy prison sense.

That was obvious while Blago was in office. As governor, during speeches to not-for-profit organizations, he would invariably end with the surprise presentation of some state funds. A few hundred thousand here or there that drew wild ovations from attendees and raised eyebrows from staffers who had no idea where the money would come from.

“He is incredibly manipulative, and he knows how to be,” Schar said.

Therein is the epiphany, the one thing that brings all of Blagojevich's misbehavior into clear focus.

He is the consummate manipulator.

From the kids in court, to all the TV shows, to the book he wrote, to those money giveaways, to the “impromptu” news conferences on his front steps — they all ran together into manipulation.

And it continues.

The chorus of man-on-the-street interviews since Blago's sentencing include some variation of this line: “I feel sorry for his two children.”

So what does Blagojevich do, on the first Friday night after being handed his lengthy prison sentence?

Knowing that the news crews in front of his house would follow, he takes his wife and two children out to pick up a second family dog. The Blago girls that everyone has said they feel so sorry for, are right there on the TV news and in the papers — needing another puppy to deal with daddy's disgrace.

If you had just been humiliated — dressed down raw by a federal judge who castigated you for grandstanding — would you climb back up on the pedestal as did Rod? And would you pull up your kids to stand there with you?



Both have 11 letters.

Nothing is a coincidence with this man.

Ÿ 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 email at and followed at and

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