Monday, July 5, 2010

Who said they were friends? Or, why does Blagojevich seem to hate everybody?

I remember once having lunch with a former reporter-type person who had taken a job working for then-Illinois Comptroller Loleta Didrickson, who told me the biggest adjustment in going from reporter to government aide was having to learn just how little the so-called allies of our local political scene really liked each other.

This was back in the two-year era when the Republican Party managed to gain control of all the statewide constitutional offices of Illinois government, and also had control of the General Assembly.

SO SOME PEOPLE assumed the fact that the GOP back in 1995-96 pushed a partisan agenda meant they were somehow extremely friendly with each other, and well coordinated in their efforts.

What I got to hear over lunch were a batch of tales of the petty jealousies and backstabbings that were either taking place or about to take place, because these GOP types all had their own agendas and weren’t that anxious to work together.

After all, doing something that makes your competitor stronger could come back and bite you on the fanny. It could wind up making you weaker. In short, there was then an attitude of cooperation when necessary, but ultimately, me first!

Actually, I shouldn’t say there was then an attitude, because that attitude still exists. It is not limited to the Republican Party. If anything, that is the idea that was reinforced in recent days from the testimony that came out of the trial in U.S. District Court of now-impeached Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich.

WE GOT TO hear the testimony that included the remarks that Milorod thought would forevermore remain private, but managed to get caught on tape. Blagojevich did not like the fellow Democrats who on paper were supposed to be his political allies.

Of course, they didn’t like him much either. The feeling was mutual, and part of it tied into the sentiment that there was some injustice about Blagojevich’s 2002 gubernatorial victory, while many more highly qualified Democratic candidates ran for governor, and lost, in 1976, 1978, 1982, 1986, 1990, 1994 and 1998.

We have learned that Blagojevich felt “humiliated” when then-Senate President Emil Jones supported an ethics reform bill with restrictions on campaign fundraising. Of course, Blagojevich’s sense of shame was not such that he wouldn’t continue to let Jones raise money for Rod. “He can raise money for me,” we hear Rod say on tape.

We learn of Blagojevich’s petty jealousies against Barack Obama, who with his own rise from Illinois politics to the presidency showed us just how delusional it was to ever think that Blagojevich would have a chance at a serious presidential campaign.

ILLINOIS TREASURER ALEXI Giannoulias is someone who can “under no circumstances” be trusted (he was an Obama basketball buddy), and we also learned that the people who once thought that Veterans Affairs official Tammy Duckworth would be a serious Senate replacement for Obama were delusional.

As Blagojevich saw it, Duckworth was the preference of Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill., and there was no way that the governor was going to take any action that would wind up making Illinois’ senior senator feel good.

Some of his most blunt rhetoric was saved for Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr., D-Ill., whom he called the “uber-African-American” (I’m still trying to figure out exactly what that is supposed to mean) and said the thought of a Sen. Jackson was “a repugnant thought to me.”

Not that this was only a one-way hate. We have heard before of how Blagojevich was willing to consider Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan for the U.S. Senate vacancy, even though he couldn’t stand her father – Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago.

THAT GOES BACK to those early 1990s days when Blagojevich was a rookie state legislator from the Northwest Side who was often the butt of jokes and other humiliations from Madigan, the speaker. Not that Madigan cared about Blagojevich, himself.

It was more the House speaker’s way of letting Blagojevich’s father-in-law, Alderman Dick Mell, know that he shouldn’t think of himself as having any increased Statehouse influence just because he had a relative who is now a member.

What it did was created a grudge that Blagojevich never forgot. Even though he left the Statehouse Scene for six years while serving in Congress, he brought those feelings back when he was elected goverrnor and suddenly found Madigan as a needed ally.

There really is the sense that many of the power struggles that resulted in Illinois government during the past decade (including all those times when it took months of overtime for the General Assembly to approve needed legislation for various budgets and issues) were nothing more than an extension of personal power grabs.

BLAGOJEVICH DOING NOTHING more than trying to demean Madigan as payback for the pettiness of a decade earlier. Based on what we heard in court last week, it seems that Madigan wasn’t Blagojevich’s only political enemy. So what should we learn from this situation?

The kind of people who want to believe that all politicians are somehow corrupt and in cahoots with each other often are missing the point. Those people who like to follow the rhetorical lead of a certain Chicago newspaper columnist and rant about the bipartisan “combine” with Democratic and Republican politicos working together to enrich themselves at our expense don’t quite have it right.

All too often, our government manages to bungle things up beyond recognition because our elected officials don’t like each other, and never learned that one lesson that many people learn in pre-school.

“Play Nice!”


No comments: