Blago: impeachment because he "[fought] for families"

In one of the stranger press conferences in recent memory, the Illinois governor defends himself, attacks his enemies and quotes Tennyson.

Published January 9, 2009 8:32PM (EST)

The circus that is the Rod Blagojevich scandal got a little more bizarre Friday afternoon, when the embattled governor held a press conference to discuss his impeachment.

His breathing loud and labored, his delivery at a constant 100 mph pace, Blagojevich said the Illinois House's vote to impeach him wasn't a surprise, and that it had been long in coming -- not because of any of the criminal allegations against him, but because he'd been working so hard for the children and families of his state.

It was clear before the press conference began that he might make an argument like that -- in fact, the start was delayed as a group of mostly minority residents, including one man in a wheelchair, was brought onstage. (Another member of the group, a baby, could occasionally be heard crying as the governor spoke.) It didn't take long for Blagojevich to start discussing them. "[T]he House's action today and the causes of the impeachment are because I've done things to fight for families who are with me here today," he said, continuing:

We're joined here by several families who've benefited by some of the programs and some of the initiatives, because I wouldn't take no for an answer from a House that was designed to block everything that could help people for whatever their motivations.

Omar Castillo is a young man who was on the All Kids program. He was 17, 18 years old. And then it was discovered that he had a rare liver disease -- kidney disease. And as a result of that, his life was in peril unless he can have a surgery and get a kidney that his brother was going to provide for him -- his loving brother was going to provide for him. But he couldn't get the surgery that would save his life because his parents didn't have health insurance, and he was no longer 18, he was 19, and he wasn't eligible for the All Kids program.

We intervened and acted in a way, with legal advice, around the legislature. Omar Castillo got that surgery. He got his liver. He's now alive and well and he's going to live a long and full and happy life.

Is that an impeachable offense?

Blagojevich also proclaimed his innocence regarding the criminal investigation into him.  "Let me reassert to all of you, once more, that I am not guilty of any criminal wrongdoing," he said. That issue will be dealt with on a separate course, in an appropriate forum, a federal court. And I'm confident that, at the end of the day, I will be properly exonerated."

Finally, after a long digression explaining why he had chosen this particular poem, he closed the press conference by quoting Alfred Lord Tennyson's Ulysses: "Though we are not now the strength which in old days moved Earth and Heaven, that which we are, we are. One equal temper, of heroic hearts, made weak by time and by fate, but strong in will, to strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield."

By Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

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