As Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich weighs his legal options, the state’s top legal officer said on “Meet the Press” that the disgraced lawmaker could announce his departure from the post on Monday. “We have heard that there is a possibility that tomorrow he will make an announcement where he will step aside,” Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan told NBC’s David Gregory.
"I don't know if that means he will resign or take another option that is provided under the Illinois Constitution, where he can voluntarily recognize that there is a serious impediment to carry out his duties," Madigan said, adding, “I have heard that that is one of his main concerns is his financial circumstances right now."
On Friday, Madigan filed a motion with the state’s Supreme Court to temporarily strip Gov. Blagojevich of his powers in the wake of his arrest on federal charges of attempting to swap political favors for cash.
Marking his debut as moderator, Gregory — the former NBC White House correspondent — also pressed Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn on whether he'd tried to call, or see the governor in person. Quinn replied, "He's a bit isolated. I tried to talk to the governor. The last time I spoke to him was August of 2007. I think one of the problems is that the governor sealed himself off from all the state-wide officials. That's no way to govern. You just try to do your own job as best you can."
Madigan and Quinn agreed that the best course of action to get the state back on track would be to legislate a temporary appointment to Obama's seat, and then schedule a special election. Madigan insisted that her leadership role in the effort to nullify Gov. Blagojevich's legal authority was solely her obligation as "the lawyer for the people of the state of Illinois," not political self-promotion.
Following the Blagojevich discussion, Gregory — joined by a roundtable of Gov. Jennifer Granholm (D-MI); former Gov. and 2008 Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney (R-MA); Carly Fiorina, former CEO of Hewlett-Packard; Lee Scott, President and CEO of Wal-Mart; and Eric Schmidt, CEO of Google — turned his attention to the struggling U.S. economy.
Within minutes, Granholm and Romney were sparring over the auto industry bailout, with the Michigan governor asserting that the failed Congressional bailout proposal was the result of Congress and business leaders not doing "a good enough job explaining to citizens of the country what a failure of the automobile industry would mean for America."
Gregory reminded her that she had used much harsher language in an interview a few days prior, one in which she had accused Senate Republicans of failing to protect its citizens. Granholm went on to say that the survival of the auto industry was crucial to American independence from foreign oil, and that there was a "national need" to preserve it at any cost.
Romney – who in a recent article published in the New York Times, urged Americans to reject the bailout – countered that he was "glad to see" the demise of the proposal that’d been brought forth.
The former Republican presidential candidate insisted he was not advocating the demise of the auto industry. "Americans...want a domestic auto manufacturing sector," he explained, "but the question is, what is the best way to do that? Right now those companies suffer a about a $2,000 per automobile cost disadvantage," referring to the overhead cost of labor, benefits, and pensions. "So let's get rid of that."
It was former Hewlett Packard CEO Carly Fiorina who spoke up with regard to the frustration plaguing big business, small business and average consumer alike: the ongoing credit crunch. "The root of the problem is that credit is still unavailable ... credit conditions improving is vital.
Fiorina continued, "It's inconceivable to me that the automakers who actually need a bridge loan to get them to a place where they can restructure are coming to the government because the banks refuse to give them a loan. Those banks ought to be required to loan money. The taxpayer has bet on them and they are unwilling to bet on three American companies."
All the panelists seemed to agree that the problem was in perception and consumer confidence, and that when consumers believed their money was safe, they would spend again. Asked by Gregory how he would be able to see a shift in economic confidence, Wal-Mart CEO Scott said, "every morning at 6 a.m. I get sales [reports] from around the world, and really that tells you as much as anything...we'll see it in stores immediately."