President-elect Obama thinks Illinois Governor Blagojevich should quit

Jake Turcotte

To distance himself further from Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich, President-elect Oabama used his press secretary to send the governor a public message: quit.

When news broke on Tuesday that the governor allegedly had tried to sell the US Senate seat Obama vacated, the president-elect was very terse in his comments. “Like the rest of the people of Illinois, I am saddened and sobered by the news that came out of the U.S. attorney’s office today,” Obama said. But he did not comment on Blagojevich’s situation.

Inserting greater distance

On Wednesday, Robert Gibbs, who has been named Obama’s White House press secretary, moved to insert even greater distance between the new president and the man who, in normal circumstances, would appoint his replacement in the Senate.

“The president-elect agrees with Lt. Gov. (Pat) Quinn and many others that under the current circumstances it is difficult for the governor to effectively do his job and serve the people of Illinois,” Gibbs said in response to questions from the Associated Press.

Gibbs was asked if the president-elect supports a move by Illinois lawmakers to convene a special session that would call a special election to fill Obama’s senate seat. Gibbs told the AP that Obama believes the Legislature should consider a special election and “put in place a process to select a new senator that will have the trust and confidence of the people of Illinois.”

Comments grow bolder

That went beyond what Obama told reporters from the Chicago Tribune and Los Angeles Times in an interview on Monday. When asked about the appointment of a successor by Blagojevich, Obama said, “I think what the people of Illinois deserve is somebody they can trust, somebody that's going to fight for them and, you know, I think we've got to make sure that whatever process emerges gives them that assurance. I haven't examined all the options that are out there at this point.”

In Monday’s interview with the Tribune Company owned newspapers, Obama refused to discuss whether Blagojevich had talked with any of his top aides including White House Chief of Staff-designate Rahm Emanuel.

“Let me stop you there because . . . it's an ongoing investigation. I think it would be inappropriate for me to, you know, remark on the situation beyond the facts that I know. And that's the fact that I didn't discuss this issue with the governor at all,” Obama said.

Nothing but thanks

Excerpts from the wiretaps that federal authorities placed on the governor’s phones showed him angry with the president-elect. At one point Blagojevich complained that in return for appointing a Senate candidate Obama wanted “they’re not willing to give me anything except appreciation.”

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