December 30, 2008

Blago lances a boil

I'm surprised. I find myself sort of rooting for our dysfunctional Governor.

Not because he's a virtuous politician, though he has pushed some pioneering and laudable measures for the needy and working families in the state. But perhaps as a rebel willing to cause massive aggravation to the gang of power brokers who have long plotted his demise.

I've always had a strong inclination to root for the underdog, particularly when they refuses to be steam-rolled and intimidated and instead turn and fight their asses off and at the very least make it as hard as possible for the more powerful to take them down. Maybe that's it.

And Blago has shown that he's more than capable of conducting politics as if it's the Jerry Springer Show (Which after all, originated in Chicago.)

Blago is so isolated, so desperate, and so pissed off, that it's hard not to root for him on some level, just as you'd cheer on some nut who runs out onto a football field in his tighty-whiteys. Crazy? No doubt. But gutsy, and it sure livens things up.

Just as the long knives are out in force for Blago's political throat, with the national press hyperventilating on the basis of a few bare facts and rushing to paint him as the most corrupt politician in world history, just as his many enemies and rivals in the Illinois statehouse were beginning their efforts to impeach him, Blago throws a wrench the size of the Sears tower into the works and appoints former Illinois Comptroller and Attorney General Roland Burris to fill Obama's senate seat.

It's a beautiful thing. And so unexpected and bold that it's guaranteed to cause major aggita for politicians in both Springfield and D.C., and spark a legal battle above and beyond Blago's charges that can't help but be fascinating political theatre.

Blago has lanced the big old boil that is Illinois politics. What was already difficult has now been made into a world class can of worms. It's justice of a sort for this gang in my opinion, and now everyone is going to be exposed and watched as they struggle to come up with some solution to this. What they've tried so far hasn't been too satisfactory and any course won't be clean, won't be easy, and promises to involve protracted fights and legal messiness, and provide a great glimpse into the sausage making machinery in Springfield.

No one is going to emerge from this looking good, and maybe that was Blago's goal all along. If he was going down, he was going to drag a few others down with him. He's long been loathed for his petulance and willingness to recklessly make moves with the sole purpose of tweaking those who opposed him. Bearing his history in mind, this move comes as no surprise.

I seem to recall either Blago or his attorney saying that he would not do this, and no pundits or reporters or politicians ever dreamed he would dare actually make an appointment. After all, it's assumed that the reason Fed prosecutor Fitzgerald rushed to publicize the criminal complaint against Blago was in order to PREVENT him from making a corrupt appointment. Of course, despite the fact that it's emerged that Burris has forked over $20,000 to Blago's campaigns, there's no clear indication that the Burris appointment is corrupt in any way.

But it definitely is a big "F*** YOU!" to his enemies in Springfield. No one dared think Blago would dare make an appointment after his arrest. But he sure the hell just did.

The Gov effectively stuck his thumb in the eye of all those in Springfield with visions of grabbing Blago power, those with fantasies of taking his place as Governor, and those who sought Obama's seat in the U.S. Senate.

Lt. Gov. Quinn was particularly blind-sided in all this. He'd favored holding a special election to select Obama's successor, but was over-ruled by Dems who didn't want to open up the chance of a Republican being elected in the wake of Blago's bust. (of course there are legit reasons to oppose a special election, in particular the cost.)

To some, those who favored a special election stand vindicated after Blago's big move. After all, they argue, if the Dems had gone for one, then Blago would have been held in check. But would that have stopped him from appointing Burris? On that I'm not sure.

I find a certain justice in all of it. Throughout this saga, there's been the rather unpleasant reality that nearly all those who sought to unseat Blago were probably as guilty of playing political hardball as Blago was. They were eager to bring Blago down for some legitimate reasons, but a lot of it was simply due to the fact that Blago wouldn't play nice with the powers that be and refused to kiss their rings and play the game the way it had always been played.

Underlying it further was the fact that Blago, despite his faults, which certainly are numerous, had really made strong efforts at reform and proved a solid progressive who pursued many policies which reflected traditional core Democratic principles and were designed to help the working people, poor, and disenfranchised citizens of Illinois.

The fact that many Dems in their desire for power and corporate and industry campaign dollars nearly always stood in the way of such measures and thwarted efforts at reform lend all Blago's antics a certain air of crude justice.

The leadership of the Illinois legislature have long treated Blago like a rented mule, acting incredibly childish and selfishly in their increasingly petty and personal battles with the Governor, and Blago, to his credit in my opinion, is refusing to lay down and let them use his troubles to pile on and bury him.

He's not going down without a fight. And with his enemies often every bit as seedy and unscrupulous as he, only even less concerned with the interests of the average citizen of Illinois, I'm glad that Blago is giving them plenty of heartburn on the way down.

Was Blago inept, childish, erratic, and utterly unpredictable? Hell yes. The end of his tenure as Governor would be welcomed by nearly all, if only because it might finally end the truly insane spectacle of three figures essentially holding the state hostage to their personal and petty grudges and animosities and childish fits of pique.

The blame for all this seemed to always be placed on Blago, and lord knows he did enough to contribute to the situation which has essentially brought Illinois government to a stand-still and deserves a mountain of condemnation, though the other political "leaders" played every bit as large a role in the insanity but rarely come in for the same scrutiny.

For the last several years, the state has been paralysed while a tiny group battled amongst themselves, almost always at the detriment of the state, and essentially paralysing government. The players consisted of Blago, his erstwhile ally former Senate president Emil Jones, his sworn enemy House Leader Mike Madigan, and to a lesser extent, his daughter, Attorney General Lisa, (who's goofy and transparent stunt to try to get Blago declared unfit to serve out his term was recently and appropriately slapped down by the IL Supreme Court, who refused to waste their time even looking at it).

It was the ultimate three-ring circus. And they're all Democrats.

These three figures were running the state as if they were the only people that mattered. Probably because they did hold ALL the power and for the most part, the Reps and Senators chose sides and obediently played along while Madigan seemed determine to prove that HE ran the state, not Blago, and Blago petulantly insisted that the lege go along with him on all his major programs, or risk him pulling every stunt he could to make their lives difficult.

Blago has long been isolated, shunned, and schemed against by the powerful Speaker Madigan and a growing number of Dems. With the recent resignation of his ally Emil Jones from the Senate presidency, he was left more alone and vulnerable still.

Blago was left fighting for his life like a cornered animal with predators closing in all around him, and forced to resort to using what power and prerogatives he had left. He only had a few arrows left in his quiver, one of which was the Senate appointment, and the only backers those who would pay whoever was in charge some cash for state business. That's all he had left.

This goes a long way to explaining his actions and mind-set, though the press rarely touches on it. It could be argued that Blago might not have had to resort to the crazy shake-down schemes he bloviated about if it weren't for the fact that he had almost zero support from his own party and party leadership. He was a man without a country, forced to rely on his own devices and use what little power and influence was left to him as governor to try to survive in office.

His sworn enemies and their lemmings in the General Assembly have been every bit as corrupt and crazy and petty as Blago, though in a less dramatic fashion. Blago insisted on being his own man, and had the audacity to lead as though it was actually HE who was governor and in charge. They didn't like his style of progressive measures and wanted to go back to the old style corruption they were used to, which served gambling and labor and anyone else with enough dough to grease the skids without those pesky progressive and reform measures that their money men didn't like at all.

To witness this bunch suddenly cast as figures trying to rid themselves of a corrupt Governor has been rich indeed. And the national press has for the most part completely ignored the history of the state and the over-long feuding between Blago and nearly everyone else, let alone tried to get at just what it was all about.

As I've noted before, if you stuck a wire on every pol in Springfield, you'd hear stuff that would make Blago sound like Jimmy Stewart in "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington".

And add to the drama the fact that Bobby Rush rushed to the mic to inject race into the Burris appointment by warning people not to "hang or lynch" him just because of Blago's troubles, and we've got the sort of mess that was only inevitable in light of the past several years of Illinois politics.

The national press smugly snorted and said how stunned they were at Blago's amazing stupidity after the wire-taps emerged. But now they're seeing that Blago might be stupid like a fox after all.

He's plaid the aftermath deftly, and stands a real chance of beating a lot of the less than solid charges against him. Of course the impeachment will be stacked against him and should go through. Fairness isn't a real issue there.

But those who thought his political obituary was already written may have to think again.

Now we'll get to witness all sorts of improbable stunts, moves, and actions as the players scramble to get more for position. And there will be drama in D.C. as well as the Dems refuse to acknowledge or seat Burris as a duly and legally appointed U.S. Senator.

To those who worry that this will tie up the state and prevent any meaningful governing from going on, hello! There hasn't been any of that for years.

Let the games begin!


At 12/31/2008 5:47 PM, Blogger nicodemus said...

This is a time when I find myself agreeing with you. And I don't think they will find any solid "smoking gun" evidence to remove Blago from office. He'll be around for awhile and even though I don't support the guy, there is something admirable how he has stood his ground, alone, and has not caved in.

And Blago said to the General Assembly basically "hey, you guys voted down a special election!" To delay is to let this drag on and have a vacant seat for the next 6 months and that's no way to do business. It's time to "move on".

I have met Roland Burris and I've heard him speak over the years and he is a smart man. Burris is a good "solid" level-headed public servant and he's a good pick for Senator. He should be seated.

I resent Senators like Reid and worse yet, Chuckie Schumer dictating what is best for Illinois. If Dick Durbin had any balls he would have stood up and said "this is our guy", and made the case for seating Burris, whom he's known for decades. Now instead we've got all these outsiders- Senators from other states and radio talk show hosts who don't know Burris or Illinois from a hill of beans....trying to second guess it and derail the process.

At 1/01/2009 6:53 PM, Anonymous PrivatePigg said...

There is absolutely nothing admirable about Blago "standing his ground" or any other such nonsense. Was Hitler "admirable" when he knew the entire world would disagree with his master plan, but covertly carried it out anyway? Of course not. Blago is a crooked scumbag and no more. He's no Hitler, of course, but you understand the analogy. There is no automatic "admiration" for being stubborn, especially when combined with stupidity and criminal behavior.

He does have the legal right to pick the next Senator, though, so absent anything criminal in his choosing of Burris, Burris should be seated.

At 1/02/2009 1:21 AM, Blogger The Inside Dope said...

Q. How can you tell when your argument doesn't have much going for it?

A. When you resort to making comparisons to Hitler and the Nazi's to make your point.

Yep, Blago is JUST like Hitler.

You don't have to admire Blago for anything, of course. But you sort of undo your argument by acknowledging that he's not been convicted of anything and has the right to make the appointment.

Then how can you argue that there's nothing admirable with his standing his ground?

Would it be more admirable if he folded up like a $2 suitcase for simply being accused of saying some offensive things and acting like 80% of the politicians out there?


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