What hath Rod wrought?
by Norm Winick
The arrest of Governor Rod Blagojevich and the audacity and profanity of his comments taped at the behest of Federal prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald has put Illinois in the limelight again.
While there is no doubt that the alleged attempts by Blagojevich to auction off the United States Senate seat vacated by Barack Obama and to extort funds from a hospital administrator are beyond redemption, the surprise to many observers, myself included, is that all this happened in the last six weeks.
We all knew that the Governor was under investigation and has been almost since he took office. In the interest of full disclosure, I will admit that I have defended Blagojevich on many occasions in terms of the earlier accusations against him. Pay-to-play is not new to Illinois politics. The term was invented to describe the widespread machinations and special deals made under former Governor Jim Thompson. Former Governor Jim Edgar was an ex-Secretary of State and his offices were no different; jobs and contracts were for sale. Those two Governors escaped all prosecution and I'm sure that Blagojevich thought he would, too.
I even justified some of his actions on occasion as "politics as usual." I assumed it would be hard, if not impossible, to prove whether a contribution was a prerequisite (bribe) for a State contract or job when everyone interested also made a contribution and some of those people were never rewarded and some plums were awarded to people who never contributed.
Rod Blagojevich has done some good things. His attempts to expand health care coverage and pre-school for kids is commendable.
Open-road tolling is wonderful.
He can charm a crowd.
He gets blamed for a lot of things that aren't his fault. The multi-billion dollar budget shortfall is not of his doing. He doesn't live in Springfield but most recent former Governors have also forsaken the Executive Mansion. He has been on the right side of many issues and supported workers and the citizenry over corporate interests on many occasions.
What he cannot do is play well with others. Rod Blagojevich has no friends in Chicago and fewer in Springfield. He is the bitter enemy of the Speaker of the House, the Lieutenant Governor, the Comptroller, the Attorney General — and they are all of his party.
The voters knew his flaws, even assumed he was playing politics with jobs and contracts, and re‘lected him easily.
If he would have been indicted over past dealings with Tony Rezko or others, I don't think anyone, including myself, would have been surprised. But I underestimated the Audacity of Rod. Why anyone would say the things he did on a land-line telephone knowing he was under investigation is beyond stupidity.
He must resign or be impeached — and he will.
There is no excuse for the things he said and no justification for his attitude.
Convicting him is another matter. While his statements on tape are atrocious, there is a reason Patrick Fitzgerald asked publicly for more tips and evidence. Rod Blagojevich never acted on any of the things he said. He never appointed a Senator who bribed him; he never cut off funds for the hospital; The Tribune never fired the editorial board member.
That's why the complaint charges him with "conspiring" and "soliciting." Those accusations have been used successfully in some other prosecutions but a good lawyer should have a field day with them.
I expect a deal to be cut with Blagojevich leaving office and the charges to be reduced or dropped.
Pat Quinn will be the new Governor who will appoint a new Senator. Then he'll be forced to make the hard choices that will probably doom any chance for his own election.