Governor Rod Blagojevich is a polished speaker who can win over elderly women at luncheons in southern Illinois with his earnest attention, and eloquently recite from memory historical passages from the lives of the leaders he says he most admires — Theodore Roosevelt, Abraham Lincoln, Robert F. Kennedy, Alexander Hamilton, Ronald Reagan.
And yet, Blagojevich, 52, rarely turns up for work at his official state office in Chicago, former employees say, is unapologetically late to almost everything, and can treat employees with disdain, cursing and erupting in fury for failings as mundane as neglecting to have at hand at all times his preferred black Paul Mitchell hairbrush. He calls the brush “the football,” an allusion to the “nuclear football,” or the bomb codes never to be out of reach of a president.
By Monica Davey
The International Herald Tribune
Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich and his wife Patti leave a downtown office building Sunday, Dec. 14, 2008, in Chicago. Blagojevich was arrested this week on federal charges that he tried to sell President-elect Barack Obama’s vacant Senate seat.(AP Photo/Morry Gash)
In 1996, a Democrat who shared a campaign office with Blagojevich, John Fritchey was told that his stepfather had suffered a serious stroke. He walked over to Blagojevich, who was making fund-raising calls, and shared the news.
“He proceeded to tell me that he was sorry, and then, in the next breath, he asked me if I could talk to my family about contributing money to his campaign,” recalled Fritchey, now a state representative and a critic of the governor. “To do that, and in such a nonchalant manner, didn’t strike me as something a normal person would do.”
Yet even political figures like Fritchey say they were stunned by his arrest last week on charges of conspiracy and soliciting bribes.