SCOTT SIMON, host:
The political fallout from the controversy over the impeachment of Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich continued to shake up national politics this week. NPR News analyst Juan Williams joins us. Juan, thanks so much for being with us.
JUAN WILLIAMS: Good morning, Scott.
SIMON: And the vote to impeach the governor, which is not a conviction, to impeach him, was all but unanimous. There was someone who voted present. But of course, they have to get a two-thirds vote of the Senate now to convict him. If you were a betting man, what would you say his prospects for survival are?
WILLIAMS: Not good. You know, actually the person - there were people who voted present, but there was one who voted against it. And I would suspect that you're going to see a similar outcome in the Senate. Now, the trial's set to start in about two weeks, the 26th of the month. Then you go forward into February or so, and I would imagine this will take 10 days, maybe a little longer, in the Senate. But it seems to me the outcome is set. He will be convicted and ousted. Now what you saw yesterday was Governor Blagojevich already talking to jurors in the Northern District of Illinois.
SIMON: Yeah, in his press conference.
WILLIAMS: Exactly, and putting on quite a show. It was an incredible piece of theater and highlighted, of course, by the idea of quoting the poet Tennyson and making himself out to be...
SIMON: Who speaks powerfully to people in northern Illinois.
WILLIAMS: Is that right?
SIMON: Yes, absolutely.
WILLIAMS: I'm glad that you can tell me that.
SIMON: He's a real...
WILLIAMS: But he spoke to these...
SIMON: A lot of people think Sandburg is the great Chicago poet.
WILLIAMS: But apparently Blagojevich is in touch with the people, you know.
SIMON: Yeah. He's - let me just read briefly. He says, "One equal temper of heroic hearts, Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will. To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield." Now that arguably does appeal to the fighting spirit of people who are watching him.
WILLIAMS: It must have appealed to the governor who was out running in the snow, just jogging along, while the state Legislature was impeaching him.
SIMON: Now, we should of course remember that this is not a criminal trial.
SIMON: It's impeachment. What are the possible complications for a national administration that's coming in that's from Chicago? And certainly, there's no implication in the governor's affairs. But this incoming administration, the Obama administration, has people who worked with, or for, or endorsed the governor, and they've certainly been nourished from the same political stream(ph).
WILLIAMS: Well, we've seen this week in Washington that Governor Blagojevich knows no bounds in terms of his strategies and political tactics. In fact, he had quite a successful week in being able to tie up the U.S. Senate and bring the whole Roland Burris drama here to Washington and put the Senate on the defensive for the most part. And where it extends, I think, to a more problematic front is with President-elect Obama.
Clearly, it's a distraction for that administration, but potentially a dangerous one. Remember, Governor Blagojevich and President-elect Obama are both tied to Tony Resco, the financier now in jail. And they had many of the same funders. And you can imagine that Governor Blagojevich is going to be anxious to talk at some point. Maybe Tony Resco is anxious to talk. Lots of folks in Chicago are going to start talking about where bodies are buried, Scott. I hope I'm not offending your hometown.
SIMON: No, no.
WILLIAMS: And that's not, you know - again, that's all pointing towards Chicago corruption. And President-elect Obama's team already is worried about exactly who will be caught on tape having talked to Governor Blagojevich about the vacant Senate seat.
SIMON: Let me switch to the Republican side. Quite a contest going on now for chairmanship of the Republican National Committee. What do you hear there?
WILLIAMS: This is quite an interesting race because literally they're trying to find voice for the Republican Party, for the opposition. And it's come down to people talking about how many guns they own, who was the greatest Republican president ever. And by the way, the correct answer is Ronald Reagan, not Abraham Lincoln. And the problem is how do you find voice? Who - what is it? Is it small government? Is it less taxes? What is the theme that Republicans will employ to challenge Barack Obama?
SIMON: Is there some split between what I'll refer to as the gubernatorial wing, Republican governors and the congressional wing?
WILLIAMS: Big split because the governors clearly are more about pragmatic politics at this point and the congressional wing is much more about larger social issues, everything from the gay marriage - stopping gay marriage - to abortion.
SIMON: OK. Thanks very much. NPR's news analyst Juan Williams, thanks so much.
WILLIAMS: You're welcome, Scott.
SIMON: By the way, Juan and I go undercover to talk about President-elect Obama's choice for CIA chief in this week's "Open Mic" vlog. You can see the video on our blog, npr.org/soapbox, or you can go to our YouTube channel, YouTube.com/weekendedition.