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FRONT PAGE CONTRIBUTOR

Why President-elect Obama should pick a Republican to replace him in the Senate.

Short answer: it'd be a dandy distraction from the politics that are going on now.

Yes, I know that formally he has no say in the decision; and yes, I know that the title’s self-evidently ridiculous. Still, it’d solve his problem nearly.

Obviously, after January 20, 2009 Illinois is going to need a new junior Senator, and the politicking for that seat has been intense, and increasingly louder. It’d probably be easier to give the names of Illinois politicians who don’t want the seat – certainly, it’d be a shorter list – and while Governor Blagojevich hasn’t made a decision yet

Yeah, he’s going to be making the call after all. Hasn’t ruled out appointing himself, either. I did say “problem,” didn’t I?…anyway, Blagojevich is going to make the call on this one; and if that alternately amuses and alarms you you’re not the only one. Pretty much everybody in the universe is counting the days until the next Fitzmas, which is widely anticipated as being the day when Patrick Fitzgerald puts his second sitting Illinois governor under indictment. It’s a measure of the man’s unpopularity (besides the 13% approval rating) that not even reliably Lefty apologists can muster up any sort of defense for Blagojevich. He’s also currently embroiled in a rather nasty internal war with the rest of the Illinois Combine, most of whom want him gone before Fitzgerald works his way down the list – so this pick is pretty much the Governor’s only leverage right now, and he shows no sign of letting it go any time soon.

Which leads to the question: is Blagojevich trying to run out the clock? Patrick Fitzgerald serves pretty much at the discretion of the President, after all – and starting 01/20/2009 that President will be Barack Obama. As the Chicago Tribune notes, Obama promised during the campaign to leave Fitgerald where he was: they take him at his word, while the Daily Observer doesn’t believe that for a second and the Sun-Times is merely worried about the possibility that Fitzgerald goes away. It’s going to be necessary for our next President to make a statement confirming that Fitzgerald is going to remain where he is, and unmolested while he cleans out the Illinois political scene (which, by the way, will mean lots and lots of Illinois Republicans going to jail, too – and good riddance).

Actually, in point of fact: yes, he does. A pretty solid rumor is that Obama wants Valerie Jarrett to replace him in the Senate. She’s never been elected to anything, but as our own Baseball Crank notes she’s pretty well connected to a lot of folks in the Illinois Combine, including people that Fitzgerald has put away, is trying to put away now, or is very likely to try to put away in the near future. For that matter, Rahm Emanuel’s pick as Chief of Staff would be enough to justify this question: it’s no secret that Fitzgerald would like to have some chats with Mayor Daley, which drags in Emanuel right then and there. Comes right down to it, this is a profoundly touchy subject for President-elect Obama, and he would be wise to avoid it as much as he can, after ostentatiously making it clear that Fitzgerald is bulletproof right now.

And that includes no “promotion for a job well done” out of the combat zone. Fitzgerald hasn’t actually finished the job he’s doing now yet.

Moe Lane

PS: If you can ignore the gratuitous Palin sneer, this sarcastic suggestion for a replacement for Obama tells you everything that you need to know about politics in Illinois.

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