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I can’t deny it: I’ve missed  ‘The Rod Show’

Updated: September 24, 2012 6:25AM

Rootin Tootin Rod Blagojevich returns full time to our lives today as jury selection begins for his retrial.

I’d like to tell you I haven’t missed him, but as I’ve only recently come to realize, that wouldn’t be entirely true.

Just a week ago, I went home early with a headache, but instead of doing the sensible thing and lying down to take a nap, I switched on the television to wait for Blagojevich to make his promised announcement from his front yard. Like the moth to the flame, I couldn’t help myself.

Nobody really expected Blagojevich to make real news that day, or for that matter even say anything he hadn’t said a hundred times previously, and his three-minute oration would prove prognosticators correct on both counts.

Yet I stared transfixed at the TV screen anyway, a half-smile forcing its way to my face through the headache, in admiration of the Rootin Tootin Show.

There was Blagojevich, a self-made cartoon caricature channeling Ronald Reagan, John Wayne and perhaps Jimmy Stewart, swaggering to the microphones and blasting away at federal prosecutors for “blocking the truth” and for preventing him from proving “my innocence.” He left no doubt he finds himself up against as dastardly a bunch as any law-abiding, God-fearing fellow such as himself ever encountered — in the movies.

Prosecutors have not only falsely accused him, said Blagojevich, but “maliciously slandered” him as well. And that’s without even mentioning all the besmirching he has endured.

The whole presentation just reminded me that I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a criminal defendant who was such a spectacular performer as Blagojevich. He’s the Great Communicator, the Duke and Mr. Smith all rolled up under a mesmerizing mop-top hairdo.

And that’s why we can only pray that at this trial he takes the witness stand in his own defense as his brother, Robert, his former co-defendant, has urged him to do.

The Sun-Times’ Natasha Korecki broke that piece of news about brotherly advice last weekend, and on Tuesday, the former governor told her in an interview you can read elsewhere in today’s paper that he truly wants to testify this time, but doesn’t want to make any promises like he did for the first trial, when he ended up backing down.

As Robert Blagojevich told Korecki, testifying would allow his brother to put into evidence many of the wiretap tapes that the former governor believes would help prove his innocence, some of the same tapes he’s accusing prosecutors of not allowing him to use in his defense.

Of course, that would also open up Blagojevich to cross-examination, which might not go nearly as well for him as it did for his brother, who was able to convince enough jurors of his lack of culpability that prosecutors decided to drop their case against him after the first trial ended with a hung jury.

Robert Blagojevich, a no-nonsense military type, made for an entirely different kind of witness than his theatrical brother would. Still, Robert told Korecki that he thought Rod would “knock it out of the park” if he testified, and I don’t discount the possibility he could convince some jurors of his innocence after they see how convinced of it he is himself. At the very least, he might sow some reasonable doubt.

Until then, I’m completely in favor of Blagojevich asserting his innocence in whatever forum he chooses, now that he doesn’t have show-stopping defense lawyer Sam Adam Jr. running interference for him as he did for his first trial.

Judge James Zagel does not agree, sending a message through Blagojevich’s lawyers on Monday that their candidate should “restrain himself” from further such public comments. Even our own Sun-Times’s editorial page has advised Blagojevich to stop the antics.

My opinion is quite the opposite.

I’m entirely pro-antics. I say let Rod be Rod, in all his Rootin Tootin splendor. Speak your mind, Rod. Don’t restrain yourself.

The jurors will either see through his baloney or they won’t, such being the nature of our current body politic.

Of course, my opinion is colored by the fact that I have a column to fill, while Zagel is bound by other needs, such as complying with the rules of evidence.

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