You might think that the spectacle of Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s impeachment and media self-justification tour could not get more surreal. But that would underestimate The View, which began its sitdown with Blago, hands clasped, being interrogated by Barbara Walters’s giant head on a flat-screen monitor. (Walters was beamed in from L.A., where she traveled for a taping.)
It was like the Wizard of Oz lecturing a deferential but unrepentent munchkin. And, unsurprisingly, it just got weirder from there.
Whereas Blago’s press conferences these past several weeks have been surprising, unpredictable performance art pieces—with wide-ranging references to history and the poetry of Rudyard Kipling—his TV tour has already begun to follow a rather regular script. (Blago also appeared, with less hilarity, on Good Morning America this morning.) The interviewer brings the governor out, asks him pointed questions about his taped remarks—referring to the alleged effort to peddle President Obama’s vacated Senate seat—all of which she knows he will evade. Then she pretends umbrage that he would come on her show and evade questions.
So this morning, after the umpteenth “that was taken out of context” from Blagojevich—that would have made a nice drinking game for 11:00 a.m. E.T.—Walters admonished him to at least admit that he uttered the incriminating words captured on tape: “Please answer that part of it. Otherwise, why are you wasting time on the programs?”
Oh, please, Barbara. We all know exactly why he’s wasting time there, and Nielsen will deliver you the proof quick enough. Indeed, tapes are tapes: getting Blago to say flat-out that he uttered words that are recorded on tape would add nothing to anyone’s understanding. His evading, though, keeps the entertainment going continuously.
And Blago’s excuses and denials were no less breathtaking than they always are. For instance, on whether and why he would have compared his travails with Gandhi’s, Mandela’s and MLK’s: “That was taken out of context.” After he was arrested, “I thought of my two daughters. I thought of my wife. Then I thought of historical figures who had experienced similar experience.”
But that’s not comparing. Though the legislature is out to get him “because I did things for people.” Context, people, context.
After a break, Blagojevich returned with Walters’ co-hosts (minus Elisabeth Hasselbeck) in person. Here, he at least had something closer to the kind of performance he may have hoped for from The View. Whoopi Goldberg seemed sympathetic to his argument that not being able to present witnesses at his impeachment case was unjust, an argument he was able to make again and again.
There was even a laugh or two, if not always of the kind that worked in his favor. Winding down the interview, Joy Behar volunteered that she heard Blago does a great Nixon impression. (If only someone at The View did a David Frost impression!) The governor demurred, but Behar would not be denied. “Do it!” she kept insisting. “Just say, ‘I am not a crook!’”
Surprisingly, there are certain things even Rod Blagojevich is wise enough not to utter in public. But, he did say—not in a Nixon voice—”Let me just make this perfectly clear. I didn’t do anything wrong.” A funny joke! If it was a joke. (By the time-honored Rich Little rules of the impression, the phrasing should have been “Let me make one thing perfectly clear…”)
And then it was done, without, sadly, the participation of Mrs. Blago, who Walters said had been steered away at the last minute on her family’s advice, including that of her father, who has had unflattering things to say about his son-in-law. (“Out of context,” Blago said.)
As Whoopi said, after all, “This is turning into a bit of a media circus.” Ya think?