Friday, December 12, 2008

Rod Blagojevich, "America's Least Popular Governor".

If you were under the mistaken impression (and I honestly don't understand how you possibly could be) that the GOP has a monopoly on graft and corruption, then you ought to tune in to one of the numerous and timely stories about Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich. He's recently come under fire for a few missteps, including an attempt to auction Barack Obama's vacant Senate seat to the highest bidder. Democrats have been having a pretty good time slamming their opponents for their moral turpitude, and while Republicans have demonstrated much of it over the past few decades, it should be noted that party affiliation does not necessarily determine one's integrity (or lack of it).

One need only take a cursory look at Chicago politics to reinforce the belief that Democrats know how to get their hands dirty. In some ways Blagojevich can be looked at as the quintessential Chicago lawmaker. Born in 1956 to Serbian immigrants and raised in the northwestern part of the city, he knows what it is like to be on the lowest rung of society. Growing up he worked odd jobs (shoeshine boy, pizza delivery, meat-packer, etc.) to help support his family. He attained an undergraduate certificate at Northeastern and got a law degree from Pepperdine. He entered politics by winning a seat in the Illinois legislature, and then successfully insinuated himself into the US House of Representatives.

Ironically Blagojevich concentrated on legislation dealing with crime and law enforcement. After a couple of relatively inactive terms in Congress, he went on to make a bid for Governor in 2002. He ran on a platform of "ending business-as-usual" in state government. This was a reference to the former Governor George Ryan, who served time in prison for ethics scandals arising from his stint in office. Although he was able to win re-election in 2006, he quickly found himself under investigation by both the Illinois Attorney General (Lisa Madigan) and the FBI. Through it all, he has been able to oversee a progressive agenda facilitated by Democratic control of the state. As a result he is particularly favored by African-Americans and labor leaders.

Despite a few loyal constituencies, Rasmussen Reports found Blagojevich to be "America's Least Popular Governor" (his ratings have been below those of George W. Bush). He has been rejected by Illinois Democrats due to his purportedly dictatorial leadership style, and a refusal to engage in productive communication. Various officials have called him a "a madman", "a 10-year old child", "insane", "disengaged", and "cuckoo". His own Lieutenant Governor (Pat Quinn) has reportedly not spoken to him in over a year. No doubt there are a lot of public figures that would like to distance themselves from Blagojevich, as well as his infamous campaign fundraiser Tony Rezko. Shady associations, along with multiple accusations of hiring fraud, have plagued the Governor for years.

Even a brief summary of the crimes and misdemeanors that Blagojevich has been suspected of perpetrating is beyond the scope of this post. His alleged desire to sell the US Senate seat to the highest bidder seems to be the tip of a vast Illinois iceberg. If he refuses to resign despite the increasing pressures of the local media, national press, and various politicians within and without his party, he could actually be in the position to appoint someone to fill the Congressional vacancy. Impeachment proceedings are likely, but they could stretch out over months. Meanwhile, rightwing hacks are attempting to tie the President-Elect to this ne'er-do-well despite their historically strained relationship. The FBI has recordings of Blagojevich referring to Obama as a "motherf--ker" because the future Chief Executive refused to offer the Governor anything in trade for the appointment of his choice for the empty Senate seat (other than "appreciation").

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