With a 114-1 vote on what would have been Richard Nixon’s 95th birthday, Governor Rod Blagojevich was impeached by the Illinois House. Among other charges, the ousted governor faced what the house described as an, “abuse of power by engaging in a plot to obtain a personal benefit.” The impeachment came as no great to surprise to Illinoisans, and the former governor claimed no surprise in his own press conference, to which he inexplicably showed up twenty-four minutes late.
Several generations of corrupt governors have plagued Illinois’ history with scandal; nearly, “20% of the state's chief executives [have been] indicted or convicted of felonies in the past century.” With a century of foul politics, Blagojevich couldn’t avoid joining in on the fun. Nonetheless, the former governor touts his innocence, and he’s repeatedly refused to accept any guilt or wrong-doing.
Blagojevich—a man no taller than 5’8”—is easily recognizable by his boyish face and mop of floppy 1970’s news anchor hair. He always carries a black hairbrush. He likes long morning jogs. He’s the son of a Serbian immigrant. He’s led the state of Illinois since 2003 after taking office on the promise to clean out the state’s corrupt bowels.
Blagojevich wanted to help the people of his state; the people received help; therefore, the people were helped by him. Unfortunately for the former governor, evidence suggests he only wanted to help himself. Mentioning things like, “We should have been more selfish, not selfless,” does not seem to bolster his case. The former governor was referencing the trips Lt. Governor Pat Quinn has taken in the past for trade meetings—Blagojevich felt he should have gone further to abuse his position’s power. Beyond disinterest in helping the state, he instead harmed the citizens he claimed he’d try to support. In a practical sense, he wasted taxpayer funds like a child throwing pennies into a pond—except the pond was a tollway along the lakefront and the pennies were thousands of dollars.
Nearly a half-million dollars were spent on signs over the Illinois tolls; the governor had his name on the 32 large blue signs across the state as a testament to himself and his power. Illinois owes Blagojevich something, or so he felt. In the wiretap recordings discussing the sale of the senate seat, he displays his boldness stating, “I’ve got this thing and it’s [sic] golden, and, uh, uh, I’m just not giving it up for [sic] nothing.” It’s a miracle the man could even fit through a doorway with the ego he carries and an even greater miracle that anyone could stand to live with him.
His displaced entitlement devoured his relationships and as with all thoroughly corrupt politicians, he managed to anger the relatives of his wife in the process. It would seem that the family would be a last-bastion of support and defense but naturally, Blagojevich managed to lose his final supporters. Chicago Alderman Dick Mell is the father of Blagojevich’s wife, Patti. Several years back, he went public, “claiming Blagojevich was trading positions for money—a charge that surely caught the attention of prosecutors.” While the Alderman recanted his statement, the relationship between the governor and the ‘governor-in-law’ had been forever changed.
To consider Blagojevich’s case, there are a few potential explanations for his claims of innocence. The first is the simplest: he’s so sure he did everything with the best of intentions that he’s convinced himself he’s innocent. He ought to consider applying this option on the senate jury—could prove useful. The second alternative is less likely, but perhaps more believable: he meant there to be money in the state budget that didn’t exist when he used fiat for every program imaginable, and therefore, wouldn’t have wrecked the state’s finances. While that still has nothing to do with the sale of President Obama’s previous senate seat, it couldn’t hurt in the courtroom.
The final possibility is a stretch, but not altogether impossible: “Potty Mouth Patti” has been the one in control the whole time and is letting Rod take the fall for her plan after hearing rumors of his sexual indiscretions. Ultimately, none of these scenarios would be able to change the fact that he was voted America’s ‘least favorite governor’—even before the recent investigation began. That’s the kind of title you engrave on your headstone with pride, The Best at Being the Worst.
With the many rumors of corruption, Illinois residents were quickly convinced the former governor would soon be caught, and yet 6 years passed with his name on the tolls. Then, residents were certain that United States Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald’s investigation would quickly cause Blagojevich to resign. Once again, the investigation went on for months while Blagojevich continued to govern. Residents were assured that the senate would never accept an appointment by Blagojevich to the vacant seat, and then Roland Burris happened.
In the final gasps of power, Blagojevich managed to wield his remaining power to appoint his man to the seat. Fatefully, the Secretary of State Jesse White rejected Burris, despite court rulings that the appointment was legal. If there’s any pattern that can be interpolated from this mess, it becomes clear that Illinois is one screwy place for politics.
The argument could be taken further that maybe Blagojevich is actually a really great politician. He’s recognized that the usual rules of politics do not apply in Illinois and went full steam ahead with the hope that his innocence plea could actually work. All possibilities considered, he incredulously sticks to his claims of innocence. Maybe he really is.
Perhaps the Illinois house is on the wrong side of the issue; 65% of Illinoisans are on the wrong side; everyone in the media and blogosphere are on the wrong side. When the impeached governor can finally get past the facts, his name will surely be restored to its previous dull luster—befit of recent Illinois governors. Realizing the impeachment stripping his right to government vehicles, he muttered, “I wonder if we’ll have to hitchhike home. Maybe we could take the bus.”