What is it about Illinois politics that seems to breed corruption on such a rampant scale?
After all, this is both the land of Lincoln and Obama. Can’t the state have a governor serve a complete term without being thrown in the slammer as the most recent one, George Ryan, was? And what was it that made Blagojevich think that he was so much smarter than Ryan and wouldn’t get caught? Not to mention that he was ALREADY under investigation by the feds for corruption. Did he think that Pat Fitzgerald, the fella who nailed both Ryan and Scooter Libby, was going to be asleep at the switch and wouldn’t catch him?
The guy reminds me of the Henry Hill character played so paranoically by Ray Liotta in Goodfellas. Despite the net closing in around him, Hill believes he somehow magically will escape notice. It’s as if they both believe they’re immune from the laws of physics or the state. How else to describe this statement from the governor:
On Monday, Mr. Blagojevich…said he was unconcerned about reports of the corruption investigations that have swirled around his administration since at least 2005 and have swept up 14 other people.
“I don’t believe there’s any cloud that hangs over me. I think there’s nothing but sunshine hanging over me.”
Mr. Blagojevich seemed not to mind earlier news reports that his conversations had been recorded. “I should say if anybody wants to tape my conversations, go right ahead, feel free to do it…”
Nothing but sunshine? More like a sack of s(&t hanging over his head about to fall right into his lap.
But there’s more. Can you imagine talking about the president of the United States in this way? Even Aaron Sorkin couldn’t have devised this plot for The West Wing:
During a wiretapped November 10 call, a frustrated and financially strapped Blagojevich referred to Obama as a “motherfucker” and said that he would not appoint an ally of the President-elect to the Senate vacancy if “I don’t get anything.”
Referring to Obama, Blagojevich exclaimed, “Fuck him. For nothing? Fuck him.” In a November 11 conversation, Blagojevich remarked that he knew Obama wanted Valerie Jarrett, a longtime confidante, to succeed him, “but they’re not willing to give me anything except appreciation. Fuck them.”
So much for that quaint American notion of meritocracy. This is politics by mobocracy. And speaking of the laws of physics, Pat Fitzgerald proves once again that what goes up must come down. And down the governor will come. All the way down to state prison for a good number of years.
The brazenness of his corruption is simply staggering. Most corrupt politicians attempt to devise a slick scheme to conceal their venality. But Blagojevich was hardly hiding anything. The senate seat was for sale to the highest bidder, plain and simple:
“I’ve got this thing,” Mr. Blagojevich said on one recording, according to the affidavit, “and it’s fucking golden. And I’m just not giving it up for fucking nothing. I’m not going to do it. And I can always use it. I can parachute me there.”
I always said here during the worst of the Abramoff-related Republican corruption scandals that the Democrats had no monopoly on virtue. I just didn’t realize how quickly and loudly this shyster would prove my point.
And good luck to the Republicans in Congress who seem to think that the American people have forgotten the last eight years of rampant Republican corruption:
House Minority Leader John Boehner released a campaign memo earlier this week in which he makes clear that his party will push the idea of a culture of corruption within the Democratic party over the next few years.
People are wondering how the next senator will be appointed now that Blagojevich has disqualified himself (not formally, but no one in their right mind will let him near this process). But I’m worrying whether the Democrats will hurt their chances to retain the governorship too once the current one quits. With venality and chutzpah like this, voters are liable to frown on the party responsible (though they have the Republican example of George Ryan before their eyes as well). Luckily, the current Democratic lieutenant governor has been on the outs with Blagojevich for years. That will help him, as anyone with any substantial relationship with the governor will become politically radioactive.
To change the subject: Is Pat Fitzgerald the best U.S. attorney in the United States or what? Not that Illinois politics doesn’t give him a rich palette to work with!
And to think that if Gonzales and Rove had had their way, he would’ve been sacked as part of the U.S. attorney firings. If I were Obama, I’d consider appointing Fitzgerald to a senior Justice Department position. You couldn’t ask for a cleaner or more impeccable career prosecutor than Pat.
Silverstein has published Tikun Olam since 2003, It exposes the secrets of the Israeli national security state. He lives in Seattle, but his heart is in the east. He publishes regularly at Middle East Eye, the New Arab, and Jacobin Magazine. His work has also appeared in Al Jazeera English, The Nation, Truthout and other outlets.