The Corner

‘Innocuous Compromise’ in Illinois

Yesterday afternoon, the Associated Press cited two anonymous aides to Sen. Dick Durbin (D, Ill.) as the source of a report that Durbin had spoken to Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D) about the latter’s upcoming choice of whom to appoint to Barack Obama’s Senate seat. Blagojevich said he was considering appointing Illinois Attorney Gen. Lisa Madigan (D), daughter of his bitter rival Mike Madigan, the Democratic Speaker of the state House. AP reported:

The 10-minute conversation took place Nov. 24 as Durbin was in his car using his cell phone, according to the aides. One aide said Durbin considered the idea an “innocuous compromise” and offered to help, but was told by the governor to “do nothing,” and never heard more on the matter….

According to the Senate aides, Durbin was delighted to hear that Blagojevich was thinking of naming Madigan to the seat. He believed she would be a popular figure in Illinois and stood perhaps the best chance of holding the seat against a Republican.  Durbin volunteered to call the attorney general or the speaker to get the ball rolling and possibly broker an agreement, the aides said.

Durbin’s office massages the story a bit for today’s Chicago Tribune, adding that the senator’s offer of help was a way of testing Blagojevich’s sincerity — and that Durbin felt he failed the test. Quoting out of order:

Durbin, seeking to test the governor’s interest, asked Blagojevich if he wanted the senator “to do anything” regarding the idea but Blagojevich responded that he did not, Shoemaker said…

…[T]he senator concluded that the governor, a political enemy of the Madigans, was not serious, so Durbin did not pass on the idea to them or any intermediary, said Joe Shoemaker, a Durbin spokesman. “There was no deal being cooked,” Shoemaker said. “He didn’t think the governor was offering it in a serious way.”

The Blagojevich-Madigan rivalry is a thing of story and song in Illinois, so Durbin’s account makes a lot of sense. (Durbin’s version from today does not quite match yesterday’s, but the two aren’t quite contradictory, either.) Madigan and Blagojevich butted heads annually over the state budget when the latter was still governor, and don’t forget that Madigan floated the idea of impeaching Blagojevich as early as last June, calling him “a tumor” in need of removal.

In other news, Illinois’s other senator — Roland “Oh, you mean THAT conversation” Burris (D) — is being treated badly by his fellow Senate Democrats, poor guy.

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