Usually at 11 a.m., the TV set at Dave's Bar blares "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire." But this was no ordinary weekday. It was time for the governor to say his piece at his impeachment hearing. If Blago - a national joke of late - wanted to spark public debate, he got some. Well, at least a little, at Dave's.
Usually at 11 a.m., the TV set at Dave's Bar blares "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire."
But this was no ordinary weekday. It was time for the governor to say his piece at his impeachment hearing. If Blago - a national joke of late - wanted to spark public debate, he got some. Well, at least a little, at Dave's.
The Peoria saloon is a worn, shot-and-a-beer joint that boasts an allegiance to the St. Louis Cardinals. Yellow Christmas lights frame the back bar, whose offerings included a massive see-through jug of dill pickles.
Shortly before 11 a.m. Thursday, the faithful were sipping Buds and taking in the typical TV fare of "The Price Is Right." At the top of the hour, though, longtime bartender Spoon clicked the channel uncharacteristically to CNN. Minutes later, Blago appeared.
As Spoon soon would warn the crowd, "He's trying to blow smoke up people's (butts)."
But LeRoy Smith, 49, a disabled Army vet, countered, "Half the country has found him guilty. I just want the judicial system to work."
The gaggle listened as Blagojevich touched on several topics, some of which somehow hinted at a set-up. Most of the small throng - all of whom had voted for Blago in the last election - hooted as he "begged" (his word) the Senate to let him present testimony and evidence at his impeachment.
"Let me make my case," the governor implored.
That prompted a a guffaw from Jim Ellis, 57.
"It's all on tape," Ellis said. He looked square at Blago's image and barked, "You need to be with George Ryan. That's where you need to be."
Bartender Spoon added, "Keep him company."
Still, Spoon thought Blago presented himself better than on prior network TV chat-fests.
"He's sounding smarter than I thought he would," Spoon said.
Still, patrons got bored as the speech droned on for 46 minutes.
"It seems a lot longer than that," grumbled a 51-year-old pipefitter.
As more beer cans cracked open, most onlookers wondered aloud about Blago's lack of commentary about allegations that he tried to sell a U.S. Senate seat. Still, Blago found an ally in Smith, who objected to the impeachment process.
"This is a railroad job," he yipped. "It's more than a lynch mob. Our constitution says you're innocent until you're proven guilty ... I don't know what this is."
Ellis decried the governor's lack of input until Thursday. He yelled at Smith, "Where's he been the last five days, LeRoy?"
Smith smiled and said, "He had to go to New York, to get away from it all."
Smith turned the argument around on Ellis, saying: "You got him convicted as guilty."
Ellis didn't miss a beat: "Yeah, he's guilty. Everyone in the state of Illinois (government) is guilty."
As others chuckled, Smith gamely tried to distract them - kind of like Blagojevich - by launching into a discussion on economics. Perhaps for the first time in the history of South End taverns, Smith started a discourse about the politics of Grover Cleveland.
As he talked, Ellis cocked back his head and blurted in wonder, "Grover Cleveland? Where'd that come from."
Smith paused and smiled. Then he said, "I got to researchin'. He was a trivia question on 'Who Wants to Be A Millionaire.' "
Phil Luciano can be reached at email@example.com or (309) 686-3155.