Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Now that the Inauguration is over, it’s time to put focus back on Blagojevich

Forget about Capitol Hill and the White House. The focus of our political concerns shifts back to the Statehouse in Springpatch.

Those of us who find a certain intellectual pleasure in observing the ways of Chicago and Illinois political people have to turn our heads from the District of Columbia and the glory of watching one of our own become president back to the ways of Rod Blagojevich.

We go overnight from the glory of Barack Obama's inauguration to the depths of Milorod's impeachment.

FOR IT IS on Monday that the Illinois Senate will begin its formal proceedings that are meant to create the impression of conducting a dignified legal hearing to determine the fate of Illinois’ governor.

In reality, they’re a legal sham meant to boot Blagojevich from office, the sooner the better. It’s literally a case of making sure the door hits Rod in the rump on his way out.

As of now, Blagojevich is the lone member of the club of Illinois governors who can say he was impeached (twice, by the Illinois House of Representatives, with his only apparent friend being his sister-in-law, Deborah, a legislator from Chicago’s Northwest Side).

There’s a book considered a classic among state government geeks (but practically unknown to the general public) that refers to Illinois’ governors as “Mostly Good and Competent,” even though some of them have gone on trial for their actions and have done time in prison.

YET TO LISTEN to the political people who comprise the modern-day version of the Illinois General Assembly, Blagojevich takes us to a new low when it comes to the concept of political corruption.

I’m sorry, but I don’t buy it.

Anyone who has been reading these commentaries for the past month or so will note a steady overtone of skepticism about the appropriateness of impeachment and conviction/removal from office.

Now I have heard the criminal charges being sought by the U.S. Attorney’s office in Chicago, and am aware that more charges could come from a grand jury now expected to complete its work sometime about the April 7 municipal elections.

IF A FEDERAL prosecutor is able to convince a jury that Blagojevich has committed even some of these improper acts (although I still must say I never realized it was a crime to try to intimidate a reporter-type in the way Milorod is accused of doing to the Chicago Tribune), then he will be punished.

Prison time will be handed down, even if it comes in a work camp or minimum-security facility such as the federal correctional center in Oxford, Wis.

I have the patience to wait for that day to come in federal court, because that will be the real sense of justice and punishment being handed down.

What is taking place in Springfield these days is absurd.

IT IS NOT that I think Blagojevich is not guilty of the “injustices” for which the Illinois House impeached him.

It’s just that I think many of the practices and conflicts that Blagojevich supposedly committed against the people of Illinois were either for things that had the support of the Legislature or were for things that the legislators themselves could be found equally guilty.

Whenever I hear some blowhard in the state Legislature start to rant and rage against Blagojevich, I can’t help but think that this buffoon probably did the same things themselves, or stood by and did nothing while Blagojevich behaved the way he did during his six years (thus far) as governor.

The ridiculous delays that the Legislature and governor endured before being able to approve a state budget in the past couple of years are events for which both sides deserve their share of blame. But one of the results of impeachment is that some will try to write history in a way that places full blame on Blagojevich – as though the Legislature is the victim.

THE IDEA THAT the 177 members of the Illinois General Assembly provide a high-minded government body that ought to sit in judgment of Blagojevich is laughable. It’s too bad we couldn’t hold hearings to discuss the morality and suitability of each and every legislator.

I can’t help but think we’d have at least half (maybe three-quarters) of the Legislators doing dumb things for which the word “impeachment” could be bandied about the way the lawmakers are doing to Blagojevich.

The proceedings taking place at the “Statehouse in Springpatch” these days are truly absurd. Too many people are trashing the professional reputation of attorney Ed Genson for his repeated criticisms of the legal process for impeachment.

This is actually a case where an attorney is calling it like he sees it, and he’s seeing it completely accurately.

THE REASON THE General Assembly is able to get away with such proceedings (and for that matter, the reason U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald can trash Blagojevich publicly as he did at his early press conferences) is that we have a governor with such a low approval rating that nobody cares if his rights get violated, or if the process of removing a duly elected official from a government post gets ridiculous.

I will always remain convinced that Blagojevich’s low approval ratings are a combination of Republicans still bitter that they lost the 2002 election for Illinois governor after having held the post for 26 years, combined with disgust by supporters of various government officials who can’t believe they are being asked to share power and influence with “that guy!”

Put that many people together, and you suddenly will have the bulk of government ganging up on you for political reasons. Combine it with a personality that tends not to want to work with people, and it is a natural that Blagojevich would have a Legislature filled with people out for his hide.

So if it sounds like I’m saying this “impeachment/removal from office” process is less about punishing someone for his so-called offenses and more about knocking a government official out of the way so that everybody else can have a larger share of the political pie, the truth is that there are NO good guys in this fight.


EDITOR’S NOTES: The Illinois Senate has a 78-page report alleging various “crimes” (,CST-NWS-watchdog19.article) committed by Rod Blagojevich that would warrant his removal from office two years prematurely.

Former Gov. Jim Edgar’s press secretary wants to believe that Blagojevich will be a significant part (,0,5000133.story) of the resurrection of the Illinois Republican Party.

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