Glengarry Rod Blagojevich

If David Mamet didn't write the profane, wiretapped dialogue for the Illinois governor's attempt to sell Obama's Senate seat, he should have. A play in one act.

Topics: Barack Obama, Chicago, Rod Blagojevich

Glengarry Rod Blagojevich

ROD BLAGOJEVICH, AKA BLAGO, the governor of Illinois, is at his tacky Ravenswood home, on the phone. His wife is sprawled on the couch behind him, petting a fur coat made entirely of hundreds of white kittens. Blago waves a copy of the Chicago Tribune as he speaks.

BLAGO (into phone)

So we gotta do something about the fucking Trib and its fucking editorials.

BLAGO’S WIFE

Hold up that fucking Cubs shit! Fuck them!

BLAGO

Honey, shut the fuck up. (Then, into phone) You hear what she said? Block them from selling Wrigley Field.

DEPUTY GOVERNOR (on phone)

Well you know, the Trib’s owner don’t control the editorials, now. But I would tell him, look, if you want to get your Cubs thing done get rid of this Tribune.

BLAGO’S WIFE

Gimme that there phone. (Grabs phone) Listen, fucker. That there guy who owns the Trib? He can just fire his writers anytime he wants. If the papers are hurting his business, he’ll do what it takes, ya see?

BLAGO

Gimme that back. (into phone) Okay so. You go get all these stupid editorials and then we’ll have John Harris or someone go down to that guy who owns the Trib and say, you know, “We’ve got some decisions to make now.” Someone should say, just fucking get rid of these people. They wanna be moving this stuff forward, it’s a political fuckin’ operation in there.

DEPUTY GOVERNOR

Sure, yeah, you know. You might wanna be sensitive about how you do that?

BLAGO

There’s nothing fucking sensitive about it. It’s straight forward. You say, we’re doing this stuff for you, we believe this is right for Illi-fucking-nois. So fire those fuckers, you fuck. So I have a professional assessment: Our recommendation is fire all those fucking people, get ‘em the fuck out of there and get us some editorial support. Johnny will call them up and tell them Wrigley’s gonna get derailed by their own editorial page.



November 3, 2008. BLAGO’s office. He is on the phone with chief-of-staff JOHN HARRIS.

BLAGO

What does this mean to them? Like 500 million?

HARRIS

To them? About a hundred mil. Maybe 150.

BLAGO

I thought it was worth like 500 million to ‘em.

HARRIS

Yeah but the whole thing is, they make out on the taxes. They give up the title to Wrigley Field, they don’t pay capital gains. Still, it’s only a hundred mil.

BLAGO

A hundred million is nothing to sneeze at. That’s still worth something, isn’t it? So what’d he say?

HARRIS

The Trib guy gets the message. He’s very sensitive to the issue.

BLAGO

Sensitive? My asshole is sensitive. I want these fuckers fucked.

HARRIS

You know how they are. He said there’ll be “certain corporate reorganizations and budget cuts coming” — between the lines, he’s going after that section.

BLAGO

Oh, that’s fantastic. Wow. Okay, keep our fingers crossed. You da man. I gotta call my fucking wife. I found a way to get her out of the house — get her on some charity boards from some fucker who might want Obama’s seat.

(BLAGO dials the phone.)

BLAGO

So that fucker in D.C. wants Obama’s seat if he wins tomorrow? (pauses) And I get what? (pauses) No. Okay, so here. Unless I get something real good for him, shit, I’ll just send myself, you know what I’m saying? (pauses) Playing? No. I’m going to keep this Senate option for me a real possibility, you know, and therefore I can drive a hard bargain. You hear what I’m saying. And if I don’t get what I want and I’m not satisfied with it, then I’ll just take the Senate seat myself. (pauses) I don’t give a shit about the Congress getting to 60! A Senate seat is a fucking valuable thing, you just don’t give it away for nothing. (pauses) What, you think I can get an ambassadorship for it? To fucking where — fucking Cambodia? Fuck Cambodia. It’s Europe or nothing.

(BLAGO hangs up, yells out the door.)

BLAGO

Johnnnnyyy!

(JOHN HARRIS comes simpering in.)

HARRIS

Yeah boss!

BLAGO

We’re having us an auction. The trick is, how do you conduct, indirectly, a negotiation for that seat? I’m like Jerry fucking Maguire here. “How much are you offering for your pal, Barack?” “How much do you want, Mr. X?” Don’t get me wrong — I’ll make the decision in good faith. But it’s not coming for free. It’s gotta be good stuff for the people of Illinois and good for me.

HARRIS

Yeah, boss!

BLAGO

It’s gotta be good or I could always take it.

HARRIS

Or, you know. What about the Secretary of the Energy? That pays good.

BLAGO

Awww yeah. Cabinet-level, baby. So why don’t we have you talk to Barack. Hey, what about the Red Cross? Does the President appoint that?

HARRIS

Uh, I dunno.

BLAGO

Well put it on the list, you fuck. And don’t forget my wife. There’s a play here, with these guys, with her. In Washington, or New York. Like, another 150 thou a year. Something. Go! Get fucking moving.

(JOHN HARRIS leaves. BLAGO, alone, stares at a portrait of himself on the wall.)

BLAGO

I’ve got this thing and it’s fucking golden. And I’m just not giving it up for fuckin’ nothing. I’m not gonna do it. And–and I can always use it. I can parachute me there. (pauses) Maybe Health and Human fucking Services!

 (The phone rings.)

BLAGO

What? (Pauses) Yeah honey. (Pauses) Yeah, I know you’ve got a real estate license. (Pauses) Yes honey. (Pauses) No, no, I do not fucking wanna be Governor for the next two years. These fuckers are telling me I have to suck it up and give motherfucking Obama his Senator pick. Fuck him. For nothing? Fuck him. I’ll put some douchebag in the Senate before I just fucking give that guy a fucking Senate seat and I don’t get anything. (Pauses) Yes dear. Sorry dear.

The next evening — election night. From the conference room outside BLAGO’s office, you can see the lights and hear the crowds in Grant Park seven blocks away. BLAGO is pacing. JOHN HARRIS is seated. OTHER MEN are smoking.

BLAGO

My decision in the days to come will be based on three criteria, gentlemen, in the following order of importance. Legal. Personal. Political.

HARRIS

Legal is the hardest one to satisfy.

BLAGO

My legal problems are easy to fix. All I have to do is move part-time to D.C. Hey-o, I’m a fucking Senator! Just like Hillary fucking Clinton. But here’s a better plan — if he wins. (He gestures out the window.) You call David Plouffe. You tell him, say, this has nothing to do with anything else we’re working on but the Governor wants to put together a 501(c)(4) and can you guys can help him, say, raise 10, 15 million. Easy. Everyone goes home happy. I want you to get the word in today.

SMOKING MAN

While it’s not said this is a play to put in play other things.

BLAGO

That’s fucking right. You gotta play to play. So meanwhile you — you go to our backup guy for the Senate seat. You tell him some of this stuff has gotta start happening now. We’ve had some problems getting the money in on time from him before. So, right now — and we gotta see it. You understand? Something tangible up front.

SMOKING MAN

Yeah, sure boss.

(The noise from outside becomes exponentially louder. Out the window, in a far-off projection screen in Grant Park, we can see a close-up of OPRAH WINFREY weeping.)

BLAGO

Fucking Oprah.

(We follow SMOKING MAN into the bathroom. He pauses, wipes sweat from his forehead. He ducks into a stall and sits on the closed toilet, unbuttons his shirt to check the microphone taped to his chest. As if from a million miles away, we can hear the echoes of BARACK OBAMA’s acceptance speech.)

 

Choire Sicha is the co-proprietor of TheAwl.com, and at work on a nonfiction book for HarperStudio.

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