Editorial: Joking is over for Blagojevich

Staff Writer
Mount Shasta Herald

It's been only 18 months since that surreal morning when our governor was arrested at daybreak for what U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald described as a “political corruption crime spree” that “would make Lincoln roll over in his grave.”

Yet it seems like we have lived through a few decades’ worth of political upheaval and drama between Dec. 9, 2008, and today.

The arrest. The Fitzgerald press conference. (“Gov. Blagojevich has taken us to a truly new low.”) The Blagojevich response. (“I will fight, I will fight, I will fight until I take my last breath. I have done nothing wrong.”) The profanity-laced wiretaps. The impeachment. The talk-show tour. Reality-TV appearances.

While Illinois lawmakers tried to rehabilitate the state’s image by focusing on ethics reforms, Blagojevich worked steadfastly to make himself a national joke.

Today, the joke ends.

We suspect that U.S. District Judge James Zagel will be a much less accommodating host to Blagojevich’s antics than were Larry King, the hosts on “The View” and a long list of other TV talkers who were more than happy to let a former governor humiliate himself before a national audience. And make no mistake, there will be antics.

Blagojevich’s lead attorney, Sam Adam Jr., makes this statement in the June issue of Chicago magazine: “A jury trial is a show, nothing but a show. He who puts on the best show, he who entertains the most … wins. Hands down.”

We’re confident that the national media will focus on two things in this trial: flamboyance from the Blagojevich defense team and testimony regarding the alleged bargaining over filling Barack Obama’s Senate seat. We suspect that when the focus turns to matters of Illinois state government — like the alleged shakedown of a children’s hospital or horse track owner — the cable networks will grow bored and turn to more titillating events elsewhere.

From our perspective, the attempted selling of the Senate seat should not be the focus of this case. It’s merely a very visible symptom of a philosophy that ran rampant through the Blagojevich administration for the nearly six years he was governor. This is a philosophy that appeared to lead Blagojevich to believe that he could disregard the legislative branch when it suited him. That he could scoff at rulings from the Illinois attorney general that he obey the state’s Freedom of Information Act regarding his hiring practices. That he could propose what would have been the greatest tax in Illinois history and claim it was not a tax at all (and claim victory when the House voted down that tax, unanimously). That he didn’t even have to show up for work.

Beginning today, the national media will be looking for entertainment from our former governor, a man who has spent the last year-and-a-half creating a persona as the audacious everyman wronged by The Man. What they will find, we believe, is what we experienced with Blagojevich as governor: a self-centered opportunist whose ego is matched only by his capacity for self-delusion. He left Illinois government in a mess and contributed mightily to the state’s current fiscal wreck.

From our perspective, the sooner they see through Blagojevich’s veneer and into his true character, the better. Rod Blagojevich doesn’t deserve any further stardom.

State Journal-Register of Springfield, Ill.