Illinois Governor Profile

Well, political news for the past week has been dominated by the Big 3 bailout and the Blagojevich scandal. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that this scandals holds some lessons or at least some points that need to be fleshed out because they are relevant to the political landscape beyond Illinois.

I-Blagojevich is really accused of doing nothing outside of merely JUST plotting to do something. Most of the tapes that have been made public so far only highlight him (and his wife) talking about what they expected for the nomination of somebody to replace Barack Obama as a US Senator. He did not actually DO anything. So on that front, one could perhaps argue that he’s only guilty of airing out his sleazy thoughts before carrying out the sleazy acts.

II- Even if Blagojevich was actually caught DOING something, that is actually accepting favors for Obama’s Senate seat, although that would be illegal, it would not be in its essence outside of the norm of what politicians do routinely. Let me make this clear: I am not advocating the sale of  Senate seats; what I am saying is that generally speaking, politicians do favors for a reason. There is, for the most part, always an expectation of a payback. It is not written anywhere, sometimes it may be discussed in backrooms between aides or simply assumed, but it happens. Tom Daschle guides Obama through the US Senate. Tom Daschle gets the Health Services Secretary job. Bill Richardson jumps the Clinton ship to the Obama one and turns the news cycle away from the Rev Wright scandal. Bill Richardon gets the Commerce Secretary job. Bill & Hillary Clinton let “friends” stay in the Lincoln bedroom. “Friends” contribute to Bill’s campaign and Hillary’s campaign and Bill’s presidential library. “Major Contributor” makes substantial donation to a candidate’s campaign, “Major Contributor” gets an Ambassadorship in Mexico City, Buenos Aires or Panama City. It is how the game is played. As Blagojevich said in one of the tapes: “you pay to play.” So I guess a plausible argument could be made that Rod Blagojevich’s major flaw was that he played the sometimes ugly game of politics on the phone when he knew he was being recorded.  And that alone should disqualify him as a governor of Illinois.   

III- The good thing about this scandal (if there is such a thing) is that it comes at a time when nothing else outside of the corny “heart-warming” Christmas stories fill the airwaves. It gives us something of a first course before the big turkey which will of course be the Obama inauguration. It also allows us to see how Obama handles distractions. We got a glimpse of that a bit during the campaign with the Jeremiah Wright incident. But this is a President-Elect managing a scandal when he wants us to focus on his appointees and his program for the nation.  So far, I can’t say Obama has passed the test with flying colors. But there is time for learning on the job. After all, scandals are as American as Monica Lewinsky and the ability to proclaim one’s innocence by using a simple and easily graspable phrase like: ” I am not a crook!”