Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Blagojevich wants to shame others

And you were naïve enough to think that he was just going to wither away and disappear, never to be heard from again.

Hah!!!

THE PERSONA OF Rod Blagojevich has become like the pimple that develops on the armpit of Illinois government. It’s there. It’s annoying. It won’t be ignored, no matter how much one tries. But this is a pimple that likes to point out that his government colleagues in the Legislature can be compared to corns or foot fungus.

Face it, Rod is now worthy of David Letterman, who confronted our state’s former governor on his late night talk show by saying that he personally became more convinced of Blagojevich’s guilt every time he saw him do another ding-dong national interview such as his appearance on “The View.”

Actually, I think most people just come away with the impression that “he’s nuts!” (or, as Letterman put it, “for the life of me, I have no idea why this guy is here.”)

But then again, maybe that’s Blagojevich’s intent. He’s too crazy to be found guilty of anything when he eventually goes on trial in U.S. District Court.

DOES THAT MAKE Blagojevich the equivalent of Corp. Klinger, the character from the old television sitcom M*A*S*H, who wore dresses to try to convince the army brass that he was too insane to serve in the army?

Perhaps being on Letterman is Blagojevich’s answer to wearing a dress, which is good, because I don’t think Rod would look at all flattering in an evening gown – no matter how stylish a cut it is or how high priced a designer created it.

Seriously, I see Blagojevich’s future actions as intended to create the impression that it is the rest of the world that has somehow gone out of whack by giving him the boot from office.

As he tried to tell Letterman seriously, he thinks this is a dream where somebody will wake up and say to themselves, “this is just one big misunderstanding” (although the thought of Blagojevich curled up in the fetal position creeps me out).

NOW I KNOW there are people who seriously believe that the only reason former Illinois Gov. George Ryan bothered to get so heavily involved with death penalty reform was to try to create a class of people who would think highly of him – as though there was nothing legitimate to the problem of Illinois’ capital crimes statute as it existed in the 1990s.

But if one really wants to see a political person whose behavior is motivated by self-interest, it is Blagojevich. By comparison, Ryan really does deserve that Nobel Peace Prize that the good people at U of I Law School keep nominating him for.

When it comes to Blagojevich’s stint as governor, I will never forget what turned out to be his last official action in the hours before the Illinois Senate formally voted to remove him from office.

That act was to show up at the Executive Mansion in Springfield, thank the staff that does the grunt work of maintaining the 154-year-old gubernatorial residence. He even signed paperwork that gave those staffers a raise.

WHAT MAKES IT such a joke is that Blagojevich made such a point of avoiding the mansion during his time as governor, refusing to live there full-time and often not even staying there during his brief trips to Springfield. Why would his final act be a sudden concern for the mansion?

Perhaps he thinks that a staff he had little interaction with (and who consist of many downstate Illinois residents who always perceived Blagojevich’s residential situation as a snub against their rural part of the state) will suddenly love him because he got them a little more money at a time when many people are facing the prospect of losing their jobs through layoffs or their employers going out of business altogether.

So we’re likely to get many more fluff appearances by Blagojevich on national television. After all, his time as a genuine celebrity won’t last forever. He has to take advantage of his bloc of time when these national broadcast media geeks are willing to pay attention to the man with the bad hairdo (or, as Letterman put it, “I hope that thing on his head doesn’t bite me.”)

But when it comes to Blagojevich, there is one “controversy” that will arise in coming months whose outcome I am interested in seeing.

IT IS WHETHER Blagojevich will be enshrined in the Capitol’s “Hall of Governors,” which is a long hallway in which formal portraits of every Illinois governor are hung.

What typically happens is that a governor sits for the portrait in the weeks just after leaving office. Then, sometime about a year after leaving, he returns to the Statehouse in Springpatch for a ceremony where portrait is unveiled to grand ceremony.

But in the case of Blagojevich, it is not clear if he’s going to bother going along with this routine, although I could see him finally doing it just because he will realize how much his painting’s presence in the “hall” will offend the legislative geeks who just got worked up into a frenzy impeaching and removing him from office.

It is true that we have legislators who are adoping a “Soviet Union mentality” by saying they don’t want his portrait there. In fact, state Rep. Lou Lang, D-Skokie, literally talks of wiping out his memory.

SORRY, BUT IT doesn’t work that way.

The passage of time is what ultimately erases the memory of government officials from public life. Face it, if Rod gets a portrait, it will sit there for decades until the day comes when people look at it and wonder “Who’s that?,” and “What’s that on his head?”

Think I’m kidding?

Consider this. What do you know about Sam Shapiro, without having to first look it up? Such future anonymity is what Blagojevich is trying to combat with all his goofy stunts. The fact that he will someday be nothing is possibly the biggest punishment he can receive.

-30-

EDITOR’S NOTES: My guess is that Rod Blagojevich is on about minute 9 of his 15 (http://www.nwi.com/articles/2009/02/03/updates/breaking_news/doc4988f6441795e931539582.txt) minutes of celebrity fame. And he’s determined to enjoy every single (http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/28970601/) second.

Pat Quinn wants people to think (http://www.upi.com/Top_News/2009/02/03/Quinn_Blagojevich_yesterdays_tomatoes/UPI-24191233708714/) he has a sense of humor.

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