The reasons why House Speaker Michael Madigan's campaign staff produced a memo for candidates about how best to call for the impeachment of Gov. Rod Blagojevich are pretty sound. The execution, however, left something to be desired.
Emily McAsey is the House Democrats' candidate against state Rep. Brent Hassert (R-Romeoville). Hassert has refused to publicly criticize Gov. Rod Blagojevich in the past several weeks. He spoke against a proposal to recall the governor, and he has slammed Speaker Madigan for allowing his own dislike of Blagojevich to derail the massive $34 billion capital construction plan.
Hassert's exurban district leans slightly Republican, and Blagojevich isn't exactly the most popular politician in those parts. Actually, the governor is probably horribly unpopular in just about every district where Madigan is attempting to unseat Republican incumbents.
Just about every House Republican incumbent has gone on record demanding that Madigan put his personal differences aside and allow the governor to oversee a $34 billion capital spending plan, which, by the way is funding by a lease of the state Lottery and a new casino for Chicago.
So, Madigan has decided to position the Republicans between his own candidates and the embattled Blagojevich. If the Republicans think Blagojevich is OK, then Madigan will tie the governor around their necks. And, several days ago, right on cue, candidate McAsey called for impeachment proceedings to begin against Blagojevich.
One of the biggest reasons why Republicans suffered so much in the wake of George Ryan's humiliation was that they never really abandoned the man. Sticking by him was probably the honorable thing to do, and he was certainly a legislators' governor. But the public loathed him, and the Republicans have paid a high price for their loyalty.
The same fate is befalling the national Republicans over their refusal to abandon President George W. Bush, the most unpopular president in recorded polling history.
So, it makes perfect political sense for the Democratic speaker and state party chairman to dump on the Democratic governor. The more the public believes that Blagojevich is an unfortunate abnormality and not the party's standard-bearer, the less impact his troubles may have on Democratic candidates this fall.
The House Republicans say Madigan is dreaming and point to his co-chairmanship of Blagojevich's campaign committee when Tony Rezko was indicted. But the Republicans have put themselves in a bizarre position of defending yet another embattled, unpopular governor. And the weirdest part is that this time they're defending a Democrat.
The Democrats' impeachment talking points memo itself, however, is a bloody mess.
If the House Democrats had simply focused on a handful of valid reasons for impeachment and the constitutional and political mechanics of how it might take place, it would've been a much stronger document. Instead, much of the memo reads like an excruciatingly long list of "Things that Rod did to make Mikey mad."
An addendum entitled "Blagojevich's Misdeeds and Malfeasance from High to Low (A Far from Complete List)" includes items like "Gross Receipts Tax," and "Having no involvement with the mass transit issue, until springing seniors ride-free at the last second," and on and on. It was all pretty silly.
Five pages are devoted to a "Questions and Answers" section designed to help the candidates with queries from reporters and opponents.
"So, neither Madigan nor his staff has had any involvement with you or preparing you to make this announcement?" was one question.
The suggested answer has already been pounced upon by Republicans and the governor's allies alike as a blatant encouragement to lie: "I've researched the issue on my own and after careful consideration believed that now is the right time to do it."
As a result, it might be just a little more difficult to use the impeachment issue as a bludgeon against Rep. Hassert and other Republicans. The Repubs can just claim that the Democratic candidates are simply parroting the Madigan line.
But the Madigan impeachment memo includes a suggested answer for that charge as well: "This has nothing to do with Mike Madigan. I'm doing this because, after carefully considering the facts and thinking about what is in the best interests of the state, I am convinced that it is the best course and now is an appropriate time. As far as I now, the Speaker has been resistant to the idea of impeachment."
Rich Miller also publishes Capitol Fax, a daily political newsletter, and thecapitolfaxblog.com.