Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Blagojevich sees himself as the next Rostenkowski. I doubt anybody else does

It’s pretty obvious to me what delusion is running through the mind of Rod Blagojevich these days.

He’s one month away from having to endure a second criminal trial in U.S. District Court, and I think our state’s former governor has accepted the fact that prosecutors have it in for him enough that they’re going to get “guilty” verdicts on most (if not all) of those 20 counts that are pending against him.

I THINK MILOROD knows on some level, although he’ll never admit it, that he’s going to have to do some time in a federal correctional center (although the people who seriously rant and rage about 20-year prison terms are out-of-touch with reality to the point where perhaps they belong in a different type of institution).

What makes me think this is the way Blagojevich has been behaving in the months since he was found guilty on one lone count that, by itself, doesn’t amount to much.

Next month, he’s set to be a keynote speaker to the Junior State of America group, which is having its convention to encourage young people to get involved in civics and public policy on April 2 in suburban Oak Brook.

More than 500 teenagers will have the chance to feel motivated by Blagojevich’s words, or perhaps repulsed. I wonder how the experience will compare to that July 24, 1963 Boys Nation gathering at the White House, where photographers unknowingly (for nearly three decades) got a shot of a current  president greeting a future president.

MY POINT IN bringing this up is to say that Blagojevich thinks he’s going to be a political mentor. He thinks he has something significant to say, and that he can spin the fact that he did a bit of time in prison is just a part of what makes him a colorful character.

Just like Dan Rostenkowski, the long-time chairman of House Ways and Means who managed to accomplish many significant things during his time representing the Northwest Side of Chicago in Congress.

When Rostenkowski got out of prison for his own early 1990’s act of political corruption (for which now-former President Bill Clinton gave him a pardon), he became the wisened sage of Chicago politics – the man who understood both the ward organizations (locally, the only reason people paid attention to him was that he was also the Democratic committeeman) and the hallowed halls of Congress and the White House.

He lectured (at Northwestern University). He even managed to get a “senior fellow” title from Loyola University – which now has his papers as part of its Congressional Archives.

PERSONALLY, I ALWAYS got a kick out of watching Rostenkowski on Election Night, as he inevitably would be hired by one of the local television stations to be their “expert commentator” who puts the voter tallies into their proper perspective. I’ll confess that back when Rostenkowski was still alive, I would often pick which television station to watch for election results based on which one would have the one-time Daniel Rosten in their studio for the evening.

I can’t help but think that Blagojevich envisions himself as following in this same pattern, just like he followed Rostenkowski into the same seat in Congress – representing the same Northwest Side of Chicago (with only a two-year interruption by Michael P. Flanagan, the last Chicago Republican to date to serve in Congress) in Washington.

Not that I think anybody else sees the two as having anything in common. I can’t help but think of the film “Bull Durham,” where Kevin Costner’s “Crash Davis” character lectures teammate Tim Robbins’ “Nuke LaLoosh” about how once he wins 20 games in a season in the major leagues, then he can let the fungus grow on his shower shoes and people will think he’s colorful.

ROSTENKOWSKI: Where's the Blagojevich portrait?
“Until you win 20 in the show, it means you’re a slob,” Davis snaps at LaLoosh.

IF ONE SEES the Tax Reform Act of 1986 (which Rostenkowski himself always boasted significantly reduced the number of lower-income people who even had to pay federal taxes) as his “20 wins” in the show, he is colorful. While Blagojevich’s nondescript record as governor just makes him the slob.

Even though Blagojevich may be more ambitious than Rostenkowski. I don’t recall the congressman ever wanting to travel to England the way that Blagojevich wanted to travel out of the country to speak to the Oxford Union, a centuries-old speakers and debate society.

I can see where Blagojevich wants to erase the image of a guy who’s reduced to having his wife eat bugs on national television – which was the last time he asked for permission to leave the United States.

It’s almost too bad that he didn’t get the chance to travel (Blagojevich withdrew his travel request on Tuesday, although one suspects he only did so because he knew U.S. District Judge James Zagel would reject it).

BUT FRET NOT. For there is a real good chance that Blagojevich will get to see an “Oxford.”

The only thing is it will be the one in Wisconsin, the site of the minimum-security federal correctional center where many a Chicago politico has wound up serving his time, and adding the term “Oxford education” to the terminology in use at City Hall and its environs,.


1 comment:

Patrick Boylan said...

There are hints coming from the Mell family that they'd believe he has been unfairly framed. He won't be able to run for a state government office again, but perhaps he has his eyes on that Fifth Congressional seat?

Or perhaps it would be better for Patti to run?

In any case, nice piece Greg.