The Governor of Illinois, Rod Blagojevich, is discussing how he will choose former Illinois Senator Barack Obama's replacement in the U.S. Senate. The Democratic governor might want to consider naming himself to fill the now-vacant seat, and that's because the mob-sponsored little incompetent has an approval rating of just 13 percent in Illinois. That's about half of President George W. Bush's rating, and Bush is about as popular as a chastity belt at a house of ill repute.
If Blagojevich appoints himself to complete Obama's term in the Senate, he could then leave Illinois and rightly declare that he did so of his own free will and not because of a mob chasing him out with pitchforks and torches. The only downside to this deal is that Washington would then be saddled with the likes of a useless, incompetent legislator. Then again, in Washington, who would notice?
On December 9, 2008, federal authorities arrested Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich on charges related to his alleged efforts to trade cash and favors for his appointment of the person to complete President-elect Barack Obama's current term in the U.S. Senate.
The federal prosecutor overseeing the investigation is none other than Patrick Fitzgerald, the U.S. Attorney for Northern Illinois, perhaps best known as the special prosecutor appointed under Attorney General John Ashcroft (who recused himself in the matter) to investigate the circumstances surrounding the leak of the name of the CIA non-cover operative Valerie Plame because of her husband's outspoken criticism of some of the Bush Administration's lies to justify the U.S. invasion of Iraq. That work by Fitzgerald led to one individual, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, being indicted and convicted on five counts. None of Fitzgerald's charges against Libby were related to the leak: the indictment was not the result of what Scooter did, but instead about him lying to Fitzgerald about what he did. Libby, an aide to Vice President Dick Cheney, did not serve his prison sentence; it was commuted by President George W. Bush.
U.S. Attorney Fitzgerald spent approximately one million dollars on the investigation. The concluding paragraphs of this article will revisit in a most unflattering way the matter of Patrick Fitzgerald; but the topic of the hour is Rod Blagojevich and the amazing crater he has just made of his career, and so it is to that grim but altogether fascinating spectacle that attention must first be turned.
Rumors abound about how Blagojevich's pay-to-play gambit was discovered by the feds. Although some of the Governor's more vociferous detractors simply declared in conversations (at least with me) that he was going to extract some benefit for the appointment of Obama's successor in the Senate, a relatively new theme centers around the role of President-elect Obama's chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, in ratting on the Governor. While this angle might be nothing more than spin from Obama operatives ensuring that no one hangs the corpse of Blagojevich around their guy's neck, it is certainly not outside the realm of possibility that Emanuel did, indeed, tip off the feds. Rahm is a hard-ball player in the old Chicago tradition. Blagojevich is swirly bait in the old high school tradition. The eventual conclusion of their relationship has an almost Kant-like categorical imperative of final suffering for the twerp end of the incipient Hegelian dialectic.
To go anywhere in Illinois politics, a certain greater or lesser degree of association with shady characters (the word "mobsters" is harsh and archaic) is absolutely necessary, and both Rahm Emanuel and his new boss must exercise the time-honored skill of keeping a perfectly straight face when talking about ethics and other such matters dear to gooey New Age airheads who pontificate about business and public life. That having been noted, political corruption is an art: get it wrong and go to jail; do it right and rise to your level of incompetence. Getting it wrong involves one or more of the following: sloppiness, stupidity, and/or playing a hand without permission of major components of the rest of the machine. Blagojevich made all three mistakes.
Men like Rahm Emanuel and Barack Obama stick pretty well to the rules. The gang to which they belong is seasoned, refined, and long on the genius of combining group wisdom with gut reactions. Those traits were and remain important qualifications Obama and Emanuel share, and their king makers knew that about both of them from the young men's early days in public life. They are smart, savvy, and generally careful.
Their styles differ vastly, however. Emanuel actually cultivates his bad-boy image: lest anyone forget his more famous forays into the outrageous, like bellowing "DEAD!" while stabbing a steak knife into a table as he named fellow Democrats he didn't like, Rahm will not be shy in offering a reminder. Obama, on the other hand, does his dirty work through proxies, as when he kept personal distance from the "scandal" involving his opponent Jack Ryan, who was politically destroyed during the 2006 senatorial campaign by stories that his ex-wife had accused him in divorce papers of soliciting her to go into swingers' nightclubs where women were known to publicly give their male partners oral sex. (For those not up on celebrity vitae, Ryan's ex-wife is Jeri Ryan, most famous for her role as "7 of 9" in the science fiction TV series, Star Trek: The Next Generation, wherein she played the role of an alien who wore a uniform that can be described as little more than a latex spray paint job on her generously endowed, exceptionally undulating body.) In Chicago gangland terms, Rahm Emanuel is a fist in the face (with his own ring's mark leaving the permanent scar), while Barack Obama is a knife in the back (with someone else's fingerprints on the handle still protruding from the kidney region). As a cautionary note, run like Hell from the successful bad boys living on the East Side; run even faster from the successful good boys living in the better part of town.
Concerning bad behavior by public officials, rumors, accusations, and even the occasional brush with law enforcement personnel will always be necessary annoyances on the up-hill climb. For political survivors, nothing will stick, friends will outnumber enemies, and the majority of people who matter in one way or another will be clueless, understanding, or less than willing to engage in a pissing contest with a water-swilling rhino.
Although once part of a strong, understated Chicago gang that featured his wife's father, Richard Mell, Rod Blagojevich cast his lot with the wrong side of the dirt track, aligning himself ever deeper with now-convicted money man Tony Rezko. That relationship, along with other things, alienated Mell. Blagojevich's wife, Patricia, got heavily involved with Rezko, too, earning considerable percentages of her annual income through business relationships with Tony and his operations. Had the Blagojeviches stayed in the good graces Patricia's dad, Rod would have had a better chance of a solid, long career that would have been more than adequately rewarding financially. He chose otherwise, though, and by the end he had no one to do his dirty work for him; that's why he, himself, was on the horn hustling that Senate seat instead of keeping personal distance from the sleazy work of hawking his merchandise. In one conversation the feds taped, Patricia can be heard harping obscenity-laced encouragement to egg Rod on as he did his hustle. From up-and-coming insider backed by heavy-hitters of the Chicago Democratic Machine, Rod Blagojevich had, in his final days of glory, been reduced to a phone salesman with a foul-mouthed harpy serving as his quality control manager.
Blagojevich became the Governor of Illinois like most have in the past: "downstate" voters (those not in Chicago, its suburbs, and its exurbs), do not have much of a say in what happens, even though the state capitol is in Springfield, more than halfway from Chicago to St. Louis. Downstate, conservative and Right-wing values are far stronger as a rule, and Blagojevich was, to some extent, nothing more than the most recent pick of people the downstaters knew little about, although he did come into office on a wave of annoyance with his immediate predecessor, George Ryan, Sr. (no relation to Jack Ryan), who was convicted in 2006 of corruption in office. Interestingly, U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald spearheaded that investigation, too, but that is no indication whatsoever that Fitzgerald is politically ambiguous. George Ryan was so incompetent that even Right-wingers and conservatives at the Chicago Tribune were glad to see him taken out like the trash. That's the way it is in Chicago: politics is politics, but trash removal is an essential public service.
On a more personal, professional level as a college teacher, I became aware of Rod Blagojevich when he used his new office as Governor of a Midwestern state to score political points with a public speech about education, making a spectacle of himself by waving around an enormous stack of what he described as rules and regulations created by the Illinois Department of Education, declaring, "This is a nightmare of biblical proportions," as he made his case for some kind of take-over of the state regulatory agency that oversees elementary and secondary education. His speech immediately generated controversy because, for one thing, the huge stack of papers he had in his hand apparently included many that were either blank or had only a few lines of print. A little more substantively, while serving as a legislator, he supported the abomination of No Child Left Behind and similar "reforms" that were the well spring that had forced states to build the detailed, complex, and voluminous operational regulations that consumed so many pages of bureaucratic paperwork. Moreover, conservative observers made a valid point in claiming that Blagojevich's demand for a take-over of the state's education agency was nothing other than a means by which he could have control of an agency into which he could insert incompetents, academic theoreticians, and other useless sorts from the teachers' union that had helped him become Governor.
By the time "Blago" (as newspapers came to label him in width-restricted headlines) was pounding the phones like a caffeine-gulping boiler room telemarketer, he had few supporters and no prospects for a long political career, even if he were to have appointed himself to complete Obama's term in the Senate. He was disliked with an unusual intensity in the downstate (which, as mentioned above, does not really matter all that much most of the time), and he had outlived any usefulness to Illinois power brokers, considering they now have an enormously more worthy and worthwhile friend about to move into a big white house in Washington, D.C.
In his own way, though, with no prospect for a notable life in public service, Rod Blagojevich did the one and only one thing he could: he played a high, risky card for his own, personal welfare; and, in the process, he pole-vaulted over just about every other corrupt politician cranked out of the Chicago Democratic Machine to claim the title of The Most-Stupidly-Corrupt Politician in Illinois History. The prison term he will eventually serve is a modest price for such a distinction. In an era when just about anyone with any sense at all knows that law enforcement agencies are watching everyone with the passion of old church ladies peeking out their windows at 10 o'clock, a Democrat in Chicago thinking he could use regular phone lines over and over again to hawk an illegal deal on the scale of selling a United States Senate appointment is simply mind-boggling. The feds do thousands of sneak-and-peek hits with virtually no probable cause other than phony "tips" they make up, themselves; those feds, as well as adventuresome local police, set up all kinds of phony al-Qa'ida-type recruitment Websites to catch idiots just wandering around the Internet surfing for something weird, and they pose as under-aged tarts to bring out the latent pervert in not-so-latent losers; the feds have legal license to use creepy technology to look at the naked body of anyone who wants to ride in an airplane; the feds even have technology to look through solid walls of buildings so they can see what's going on without having to go through the inconvenience of obtaining a warrant from a court. Furthermore, Blagojevich was working in the jurisdiction of a U.S. Attorney appointed by the most ideologically driven presidency in modern American history. What could possibly have possessed the Governor of Illinois to think he was somehow not subject to this nation's brutal dismissal of rights to privacy that used to be afforded the innocent and the mendacious alike?
That question's easy to answer: Rod was dumb. If evolution really were an unassailable theory, he would have been removed from the human gene pool before he bred. As it is, his two little daughters, 10 and 4 years of age, will have to live not just with the humiliation of a convicted felon for a dad, but also with the legacy of what could very well be hereditary stupidity. Thankfully, President-elect Obama supports stem cell research that may one day give them hope of gene rectification therapy.
And now, this story would not be complete were Patrick Fitzgerald not brought forth as the object of unmitigated castigation, scorn, ridicule, and disrespect. Among other articles I have written, some of which I cite below, is "One Thousand Fifteen," published in late April of 2006, in which I take the opportunity to provide a link between the fortunes and follies of Blagojevich and Fitzgerald; as such, the current article is something of a fulfillment of my version of fair and balanced disdain for and disgust with just about everything about the public norms of our times and the political figures who exemplify the various faces of those disgraceful norms.
The U.S. Attorney for Northern Illinois, like every U.S. Attorney who has served under the Bush Administration, is nothing other than a partisan hack, notwithstanding the perennial drum of PR casting Mr. Fitzgerald as some kind of square-jawed Man O' Law. The ranks of the U.S. Attorneys under the Bush Administration were filled under the strict watch of ideologically obsessed people like Monica Goodling, who virtually single-handedly vetted every federal prosecutor, judicial nominee, and significant Justice Department job applicant on grounds that even the Justice Department, itself, later concluded were beyond the pale. Only "loyal Bushies" (as Goodling was alleged to have called them) were drawn to the cause of "justice." The toxic results in federal law enforcement efforts across the nation have been staggering: from 2001 to 2006, the Bush Administration's Justice Department prosecuted seven times as many Democrats as Republicans at the local level; anti-terrorism legislation like the Patriot Act, especially Section 213 (the "sneak and peak" provision), and its successors have been pressed into contorted service in matters ranging from drug trafficking to pornography; so-called National Security Letters administrative subpoenas prosecutors can use to gather evidence with no judicial oversight have become so abusively over-used that the Office of Inspector General of the Justice Department, itself, finally criticized the Bureau for its actions.
Patrick Fitzgerald is the fruit of a poison tree, and that poison cannot be ignored and most certainly cannot be dismissed as irrelevant to any given federal prosecution effort. Fitzgerald led a worthless, transparently outrageous investigation into the outing of a CIA spy by White House officials. He did not even compel President George W. Bush to testify under oath before a grand jury; instead, he conducted a private "interview" with Mr. Bush and allowed Vice President Dick Cheney, the man at the very center of the outing of the spy, to be right there beside the President during the conversation. Furthermore, Fitzgerald did not seem at all perturbed that his own Department of Justice obstructed efforts by Congress to obtain a transcript of the interview.
Mr. Fitzgerald's investigation totaled somewhere around a million dollars maybe two by the time the trial of I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby is added in. Compare that with the staggering sums of tens of millions of dollars congressional Republicans spent on prosecutorial witch hunts of President Bill Clinton in the 1990s, those wild goose chases ending up with nothing more than a single incidence of backing Clinton into a corner to get him to lie under oath about a chunky bimbo playing "Hail to the Chief on his flute made of beef."
While liberal and Leftist bloggers were virtually squealing with delight as they chanted "Go Fitzy!" during his investigation, I was already tearing the man up one side and down the other for his prosecutorial record, his prosecutorial conduct in the outing of Valerie Plame, and his history of prosecutorial bullying that was so over the top that he once went after a sitting judge who dared to rule against him.
The whole investigation into the outing of Valerie Plame, which I covered in Parts 1, 2, and 3 of my series "The Valerie Plame Scandal," got so bizarre that, at one point, a "journalist" named Jason Leopold, who had been kicked out at The Wall Street Journal, popped up at a Leftist news site called truthout, unabashedly claiming that Fitzgerald had secured a secret indictment against White House Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove. I quickly wrote and published "The Gaming Game" in which I thoroughly dismissed Leopold's gullible delusions. In a subsequent article, "The Woodshed," I sharply criticized those who had believed in con men like Jason Leopold and Patrick Fitzgerald. Finally, in my last two major pieces on the Valerie Plame scandal and the investigation, "The Color of Whitewash" and "A Brief Reminder about the Color of Whitewash," I again made my best effort to point out the utter folly of believing that the rule of law has anything whatsoever to do with the era of the Bush Administration and its law enforcers and administrators of "justice."
Subsequent to the investigation led by Patrick Fitzgerald, he warned that he would have little to offer Congress were he called to testify about what he had found, despite the fact that he eventually disclosed some stunning things he had discovered, like the fact that millions of e-mail messages from the White House had been deleted or destroyed, and that many of those messages, some of which might have been incriminating, had gone through private servers of the Republican Party, in direct violation of federal law. Although members of the Senate Judiciary Committee rumbled mightily about getting Fitzgerald under oath to tell the American people everything he had discovered, in the end the legislators knew very well that the square-jawed Man O' Law was not going to give them what they wanted, and he had told them as much when he indicated that it would be the job of Congress to pursue any charges of criminal wrongdoing by the Bush Administration. Presumably, that meant congressional investigators would have to gather their own evidence since Fitzgerald and his DoJ were not about to show the Senators the fruits of what taxpayer money had been used to find.
In essence, then, without saying it in so many words, Mr. Fitzgerald told the Senate, which had by that time come under nominal control of the Democrats, "Not only are you spineless Democrats too gutless to force my full and complete testimony, but you're too gutless, involved, culpable, and weak to go after Bush and his inner circle, yourselves, you pathetic cowards."
He was right, of course.
Unlike Rod Blagojevich, Patrick Fitzgerald is the real deal: whereas corruption in public office will lead to ruin of the stupid servant, corruption of public purpose will take the mendacious servant to new heights of praise and admiration. Blago served the master of his own intemperate greed. The master Fitzy serves, if no more admirable, is certainly far riskier to condemn and considerably more dangerous to stop in its capricious, politically tainted path of destruction born of ideological extremists and fed by the simpering cowardice of worthless legislators.
President-elect Obama should take heed, just in case Rod Blagojevich was nothing more than U.S. Attorney Fitzgerald's warm-up act on the gangs of Chicago. It's one thing for the Chicago boys to see to it that one of their own failed nerds gets taken out; it's quite another to shut down a racket like the Bush Administration's version of "justice."
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