Thursday, January 29, 2009

Yo, Blago. Go!

Ex-Governor Rod Blagojevich of Illinois has the opportunity to spend more time with his family. Thanks to a fifty-nine to aught vote by the Senate today in his trial on the House's impeachment, he'll be free to do whatever it is that he can do and get away with.
Pic note: One of those fellows to the left is Blagojevich and the other is 1950s actor Fess Parker. One is wearing a coonskin cap.
In no small part because corruption is long-running news here in Boston and Massachusetts, the vortex of the Senate trial in Springfield sucked me into live legislative TV. That took quite a bit. The production value and the largely self-serving posturing of the Senators are similar out there.

Today included:
  • House Prosecutor David Ellis gave his closing remarks
  • Blagojevich swept in for a non-defense defense set of remarks
  • The two party caucuses met for an hour
  • Ellis made a brief rebuttal
  • The two party caucuses met again for an hour
  • Senators had up to five minutes each to fill pages in their verbal scrapbooks for the folks at home
  • They voted
It was plain by the second speech that the then-governor's pathetic attempt at persuading anyone of his innocence failed. He unfortunately neither presented any credible denials to the 60 investigators' tapes nor made any sort of argument to avoid removal. In fact, the closest he'd get to a legal argument was claiming as he did on a dozen or so talk shows that he was being denied his rights to a full judicial proceeding. Even he knows that a Senate trial after a House impeachment does not follow a court's rules of evidence and process. It is a political, not a judicial, event.

Also unfortunately for him, the Senate trial was based on his own words and actions, not those of others. There could be no accused others to bolster his tissue-thin claims of innocence. He was, in effect, faced with refuting himself and his own recorded words.

What kept me listening today — at least while doing other low-demand tasks — was thinking of our local pols. We have resigned Sen. Dianne Wilkerson and I'm-not-going-no-place Boston Councilor Chuck Turner, plus the fleeing House Speaker Sal DiMasi. Wilkerson will either go to trial or cut yet another of her famous plea bargains. Turner doesn't have the sense his 68 years should have provided and will almost certainly end up in an extortion and conspiracy trial. DiMasi may be able to pull an ex-Boston-Mayor Kevin White and get away with not enough evidence to prove anything personally on him. All three will end their careers with asterisks to footnotes of shame.

Those stinking systemic problems were similarly lamented in Springfield, Illinois, over the past four days and particular this day. To remedy and prevent them here, we are about to pass some version of ethics reform. In as much as the proposed improvements largely only double money and jail penalties, none of us expects it to have a dramatic prophylactic effect.

In Illinois, they wail and rail about the same conditions. Today's five-minute blusters included regular intervals of that. It is not surprising that the Senators called for reform. The Chicago Sun-Times gives us some perspective on this with its gallery of recent corrupt Illinois governors. Either they are just clumsy or even by Massachusetts standards, the Land of Lincoln has a big problem.

Before the trial vote today, about four of five speeches were bluenose types. Perhaps they were more like the Claude Raines' Capt. Renault character in Casablanca, being shocked, shocked at corruption. Those lawmakers were talking for their reelections and to their constituents. They came to serve the public and would definitely vote out this bad, bad man.

However, there were a surprising number who might well be able to speak for our General Court's tainted culture here. Several judged that Blagojevich could not have swapped favors for campaign contributions, offered the U.S. Senate seat for bids or done any of the other corrupt acts exposed on the tapes without the knowledge and cooperation of officials and legislators. There were several calls of increasing volume and palpable sincerity urging major reforms.

It may really be that this scandal will shift attitudes in Chicago and Springfield. Even more than Boston for our city and state, corruption had been a way of doing business for a long time in Illinois. It had become part of folklore as well, almost a source of pride.

The consistency and vigor with which 59 Senators pushed away Blagojevich was a bit startling. No one would be the contrarian vote. Yet, if some of those speakers were right, not all of those self-righteous Senators are so clean themselves.

We can be damned sure that if Blagojevich goes on trial for corruption, he won't play the hero and stay quiet.

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The Intellectual Redneck said...

Illinois senate tells Rod Blagojevich to not let the door hit him in the butt on the way out

Personally, I am going to miss this guy. He epitomizes the worst of Democratic politics.

Ryan said...

Somehow, I don't think this is an article he should be pushing on the site's "newsroom."

Shorter Flaherty: Um, yeah, I screwed up on the meetings for the City Council, but don't worry, if you elect me Mayor I'll fix it!


massmarrier said...

Ryan,I agree, but I'm pretty sure that you want this on the Chastened Flaherty Flies post.