Rod Blagojevich wanted to sell an Illinois Senate seat. Who's in the market for such a thing? Apparently, Blagojevich figured either Obama would pay up (with a cabinet post or something) for the right to pick his own successor, or he would go ahead sell it to "Candidate 5"—someone who was publicly reported to want it. Logic dictates that Candidate 5 is probably Jesse Jackson, Jr [UPDATE: Or is it? Alternate theory added below]. Which puts this corrupt, white governor in the interesting position of trying to play the old vanguard of Black American leadership against its new version. And failing miserably.
Jesse Jackson, Jr. is a quintessential American type in his own way: the son of man who was once a famous radical, who adopts some of his father's politics but channels it into mainstream elected office. Obama is nothing like Jesse Jackson, Jr., except for the fact that they're both black liberal Chicago politicians.
The early indications seem to be that Obama wasn't about to give Blagojevich anything, so the governor decided to try to extract something "tangible" from Jackson in order to make him the leading candidate for the seat. In that sense, it was a clumsy attempt to play the old black power structure against the new (if you consider Obama to be a part of that dynamic, which you really shouldn't). And it didn't work.
But would it have worked, if the Feds hadn't been listening (and assuming we're ID'ing these anonymous candidates correctly)? Maybe. Jesse Jackson himself was famously pissed enough at Obama during the campaign to talk about cutting his nuts off. Would his kid have played ball to score himself a Senate seat, and to thwart Obama? Nobody can say! Let's all wait for the facts, okay? (Too late).
But seriously, if you're the corrupt white governor of a state trying to play various politically powerful factions of a black-dominated city against each other without getting arrested, think twice, chump. [Marc Ambinder; pic via NYO]
[UPDATE: The Smoking Gun believes that Candidate 5 is actually Emil Jones, an Illinois state legislator. We'll tell you when we know for sure.]