Thursday, June 3, 2010

It’s finally here

We won’t get the president, but we may wind up getting two of his top aides.

For on the day before the scheduled beginning Thursday of the criminal trial of former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, his attorneys showed that they are continuing to think of this political corruption trial as an excuse to put the government itself on trial.

WHY ELSE WOULD the news related to Blagojevich focus on the fact that he had subpoenas issued to White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel and presidential senior advisor Valerie Jarrett?

That adds to the names of prominent political people who may wind up being called upon to testify during the criminal trial – including Sen. Richard Durbin and Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr., both D-Ill., along with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.

If Blagojevich could have had his way, we’d also be getting the sight of President Barack Obama raising his hand in the air and promising to tell the “truth, whole truth and nothing but the truth” during the trial.

Of course, U.S. District Judge James Zagel had previously rejected the idea of Obama having to testify at some point during the next few months. But we’re most likely going to get subjected to either Emanuel or Jarrett having to take the stand.

SOME PEOPLE, PARTICULARLY those of an ideological bent that is determined to view the Democratic Party in the worst possible light, want to view this as a “hit list” that will take down the GOP opposition. I think that is wishful thinking.

But we’re also not going to get the effect desired by Blagojevich – who wants a whole lot of people to claim, unmder oath, that they never did anything proper. By association, Blagojevich’s attorneys will argue, that means their client could not possibly have done anything that ought to be considered criminal or illegal.

If Rod Blagojevich could have his way, these would be the two key figures in his defense. We might still get the sight of Rahm Emanuel on the witness stand this summer.

Blagojevich’s attorney literally told the Chicago Sun-Times that Emanuel is a “critical” witness. “He’s the supposed victim of an extortion.”

But if Emanuel says under oath that he was not extorted, then where (Blagojevich’s attorneys will ask) is the crime?

THE PROBLEM WITH this theory is that it reeks of wishful thinking. It rarely works.

Most people just come off learning that their government officials are bumbling and human, which may be a good thing if we stop thinking of them as being either inately corrupt or saintly.

I still remember the government corruption trial held just over a decade ago in Springfield, Ill., of executives with a company, MSI, that was found guilty of criminal behavior in the way they negotiated contracts with state government.

Federal prosecutors in that case claimed that the company was overpaid so much for its work that it was criminal. Some state Public Aid officials who helped negotiate that contract also faced criminal charges for approving such a deal.

THE DEFENSE THOSE Management Services of Illinois executives put up relied heavily on the same approach Blagojevich is thinking of trying – claiming that government officials were not truly victimized, so therefore no crime took place.

That was the trial that put high-ranking aides to the state Senate and Illinois House of Representatives leadership on the stand, along with then-Gov. Jim Edgar himself.

They all claimed to have done nothing illegal. But jurors ultimately thought their testimony was irrelevant to the behavior of the men on trial.

I suspect that will be the same reaction to the sight of Emanuel or Jackson taking the stand. Blagojevich has the potential to show to an international audience how much his overbloated ego made him a complete pain in the butt toward the political people who allegedly were his colleagues – even though Blagojevich in his most pompous moments has made statements implying he thinks he’s going to “take down” those colleagues by “exposing” their own corrupt acts.

ONLY THE POLITICAL geeks will care about the little insider-ish details that come out of their time on the witness stand. I suspect real people, to the degree that they pay any attention, will merely get the view reinforced that Blagojevich is smarmy and pompous, and that the other politicos reek of self-importance.

If anything, that is the reason why I am dreading this upcoming trial. It has all the potential to be filled with minutia and irrelevance about the workings of our government. Perfect material for those people who want to put together nasty campaign advertisements in the future, yet little that would be of use toward actually trying to find solutions to the problems that confront our society – and which is the reason why we supposedly elect these officials to represent us in the first place.

Which is why I personally think the trial of Rod Blagojevich ultimately is overbloated, and something I will be pleased to see come to an end about October.

Just one final thought. Is Milorod miffed this morning, upon learning the news that former Bolingbrook cop Drew Peterson got a nearly-month-long delay in the beginning of his criminal trial in Will County Circuit Court, while the former governor's trial will begin as scheduled?


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