Wednesday, December 10, 2008

blagojevich - venal, and not unique

I'm feeling contrary. Let's have a slightly different look at the sins of Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich. He hasn't killed anybody, after all, or sold weapons to Iran, or tortured somebody. He hasn't sent anybody off to war on trumped up intelligence. He hasn't driven drunk or boffed a high-priced prostitute, or gone into a bathroom stall with a wide stance.

Yes, he is venal and definitely out for the main chance, seeking to enrich himself by using his power to give people something they want - in this one particular case, by appointing somebody to succeed Barack Obama in the Senate.

Yes, it appears Blagovjevich wanted something in return, and wasn't satisfied with "appreciation" alone. Governor Rod was talking about getting a good job for him and/or for his wife. He was talking about using the Senate seat as a springboard to his own laughably far-reaching ambition of maybe running for President in 2016.

He said he wanted to make money.

Wow. He sounds like a politician. How many members of Congress have gotten cushy jobs for THEIR wives and children and brothers and sisters? How many governors have made appointments to positions knowing they would get some sort of benefit, whether in the form of a campaign contributions, political support, or promises of future considerations? How many politicians have had foundations or PACs generously funded by well-wishers, some of which may have had business with the state or Congress?

Scandal-ridden Ohio Republican Congressman Bob Ney was even convinced finally to quit Congress rather than to run for re-election when his fellow Republicans convinced him that to stay in and lose a race would hurt his chances of lining up a big fat cushy well-paid influence peddling job on K Street.

Hell, George W. Bush was raising cash for his lavish de facto presidential library ages ago, while still de facto President. Sorry, not all of those donations were merely gestures of appreciation for his peerless leadership. There may have been self-interest at play. If he were still alove, Ken Lay would give him a ton of money I'm sure. Shocking!

I'm not defending Blagojevich (nor am I crying for him - he's a jerk and probably not the brightest bulb in the marquee). Selling appointments to state boards, explicitly awarding contracts in return for campaing contributions, etc - that's all generally illegal. Selling a US Senate seat for cash (if that's precisely what he meant...) is wrong, too. But really, his biggest misfortune is to be in the jurisdiction of US Attorney General Patrick Fitzgerald. I'm not accusing Fitzgerald of doing this out of political spite - he jailed the Republican governor of Illinois too. Just that Fitzgerald seems more willing to see what some politicians consider normal wheeling and dealing (or maybe "normal but stretching the envelope a little") as indictable crimes than do other US attorneys.

If you cloned Fitzgerald and spread him around the country, half of Congress would be in jail.

In any case, whoever the next governor is that gets to fill a Senate seat had better be careful.

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