In a triumph of justice and, dare I say, the American way of life, former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich emerged from a Chicago courtroom on Monday, June 27, 2011, having been found innocent on the charge of soliciting bribes in the case of an Illinois road building executive. And I believe that in this vignette of American vindication, we may all take comfort in knowing that each of us, in our darkest hour, shall retain the hope that we too will enjoy the right to make our case before a jury of our peers.
Yes, it’s true that Governor Blagojevich was found guilty of seventeen other charges, most involving the attempt to sell then Senator Barack Obama’s seat in the Senate, as well as seeing the jury hung on two others. But in the larger scheme of things, these are small potatoes. The real story here is that a stalwart servant of the public interest had been falsely accused of accepting dirty money in exchange for political favor, but in the healing light of Lady Justice’s torch, he was found to have maintained both his dignity and his responsibility to the public trust.
But before we are too quick to celebrate the successful vindication of our judicial system, we should remember that Mr. Blagojevich was also taken down on nearly two dozen other scurrilous charges. This is a sad symptom of an unhinged media collecting another scalp and an unbalanced, partisan political system converted into little more than a modern day arena where any Caesar may be thrown to the gladiators in the name of party expediency.
True, some may be flogging this as a victory for the little people, but a look through the wider lens will show that we are all somewhat poorer for this week’s events. Think for a moment of Rod’s situation when Senator Obama rose from the shackles of his Illinois Senate seat to tread across the waters of the National Mall reflecting pool and take his rightful place in the halls of power. The governor found himself in a position much akin to Jack finding a willing patron offering magic beans for his humble family cow.
How many of us have dreamed of that lucky lottery ticket which comes through in a time of need? Or dreamed of the perfect day at the track when the trifecta finally pays off? Blago suddenly woke up to see himself in possession of a thing which was — altered to preserve the delicate sensibilities of some readers — “golden.” What was he to do?
More to the point, who were the real losers here? Some readers might feel that this is the moment when the Blagojevich family was laid low, victims of their patriarch’s greed and human foibles. But the real losers today are the rest of us toiling away in the salt mines of society.
Had Rod been vindicated on all charges and gone free he might have joined the ranks of Eliot Spitzer or Mike Tyson. Indeed, those two examples come from vastly different professional fields, but they share one trait in common. They fell from grace but arose again like a phoenix to entertain and inform us in the refurbishing eye of network television.
Think about it for a moment. Rod Blagojevich in jail is a sad figure, pacing a small cell in between meals and brief trips to the exercise yard. He sees no one but his family, his attorneys, and the occasional jailhouse cigarette vendor — and even then, only through a reinforced plastic plate with a speaker phone. But what if Rod’s glorified presence could continue elucidating the masses?
Just as other fallen political figures before him have gone on to comment on current topics, Blago could have been the next paid analyst on MSNBC. Let’s face it… they hired Michael Steele. And who would be more entertaining? Every incident of political malfeasance to hit the news would have fallen directly into his wheelhouse. Each politician with the slightest hint of corruption could have felt the sting of his tongue.
For bonus points, the “Place for Politics” would have had to remove a current host to make room for Rod. Who would be the logical choice? None other than Ed Schultz.
Who among you would not like to see Ed Schultz replaced? I believe my point has been driven home.
Yes, America is much the poorer for this decision. Rod Blagojevich was, in some ways, an American icon, representing the best that a Chicago boy could aspire to. He was the culmination of a way of life which has existed for well over a century. And now, thanks to a heartless system of so-called justice, he will likely wind up spending the best years of his life at the Crowbar Motel when he could have been providing a scintillating lead-in to Rachel Maddow.
I hope you’re proud, Illinois. You’ve robbed us of our future.