by Patrick Baker December 12, 2008
We in the provinces are gleefully following the story of Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich. How can one take delight in such an abuse of power? Well, how can one not? Especially if you’re from Detroit, which with thirty years of corrupt mayors from Coleman “Krugerrand” Young to Kwame “Party-at-My-Mansion” Kilpatrick (interrupted by the respectable but powerless Dennis Archer) has long left its residents the lone consolation that only Chicago is more corrupt. Now it appears that the whole state of Illinois is corrupt. There isn’t much to cheer about in Detroit these days, but we – even those of us in voluntary exile – will take what we can get.
On the other hand, it is a bit disconcerting that Mr. Boogynightsavich (come on, the hair) can incite such shock, disapproval, and outrage, without bringing one person to the streets in protest. Sure, Obama has said he should resign; the Illinois Attorney General is asking the State Supreme Court to strip him of his power; and every self-respecting (read: self-important) pundit has called for him to step down. And yet B-Rod is back at the office, doing business as usual, which means he is probably still trying to find someone to buy a seat in that private club in Washington.
Yes, the Congress Club, America’s official home of corruption. Where laws are sold to the least scrupulous “lobbyist” in return for campaign “contributions” and hidden perquisites. Where hundreds of billions of dollars are allocated to the great sucking sound on Wall Street, while tens of millions of Americans put up with poisonous food and air, substandard education, crumbling infrastructure, mountains of debt, and nowhere to run, nowhere to go (baby – yes, it does sound like a Bruce Springsteen song). Oh yeah, and club rules allow a convicted felon like Ted Stevens, although ineligible to vote for himself in a Federal election, to vote in its hollow chambers. In light of these observations, perhaps Rowdy Roddy B should appoint himself to the seat. He already seems to know and abide by the club code.
Meanwhile on Main Street, wherever the [expletive] that was supposed to be, We the People are sitting at home, glued to the tube, unaware that all our self-righteous anger could be dealt with more constructively than with another helping of bagged chips. We might do well to take a lesson from Greece, where in the past week bands of “outraged” youth have decided to start kicking a little in the same place they’ve been taking it for the last five years (from a government so corrupt that even Cheney and Rove could learn something). I’m not saying that Americans need to set fire to banks and cars, but they could at least stop bending over so courteously.
Of course, there is more at stake than Illinois politics here. And frankly, it doesn’t matter who gets appointed to Obama’s Senate seat. What can that one seat possibly be worth (besides several hundred K) in comparison to eight years of misrule by a sociopath? If Hot Rod should lose his job because “incapable of legitimately exercising his ability as governor” (in the words of the Illinois Attorney General), why wasn’t Bush impeached long ago? Similarly, how could Ted Stevens almost have been re-elected? And why are bamboozling bigots like Jerry Falwell considered holy?
We Americans have a strange idea of corruption and of inappropriate behavior. We will ruin dedicated public servants like Bill Clinton and Eliot Spitzer for sexual indiscretions, but we will obsessively romanticize Camelot, for which a more appropriate name might have been the Playboy Mansion. I wonder what Kennedy’s chances would have been if a disgruntled Nixon had sicked a repulsive Ken Starr on him, or if the likes of the indomitable Patrick Fitzgerald considered consensual sexual activity grounds for prosecution. Mr. Blagojevich seems in this sense a most astute criminal. By keeping it in his pants, he has managed to keep the American people less outraged than it should be. And who knows, that might just be his ticket to the Senate of our empire, rather than to exile in its provinces.