If I must ....
But really: Does Rod Blagojevich require explaining? Is it not abundantly clear? Do we have to belabor the obvious?
When news broke last Tuesday that our nation’s No. 1 corrupt egomaniac, Donald Trump, had granted clemency to Illinois’ imprisoned corrupt egomaniac, Rod Blagojevich, I was talking to a group of college students who stopped by the paper — I have a column worked up about that discomfort, but it’ll have to wait, since the public is clamoring for more Rod.
”Nada on ... the sprung grey-haired guv?” challenged a regular reader, one of a number to inquire. “What gives?”
What gives is the latest act of a sad and tawdry long-running tragi-farce, a dismal freak show starring the animate political corpse of our former governor who, in fine chicken-with-its-head-cut-off style, emerged from distant confinement to run in circles around the media spotlight, emitting horrid wet, sputtering semi-clucks out of its stump of a neck.
We should turn away in revulsion. But reporters are jostling at the brimming trough for their interchangeable exclusives. Not to blame them. It’s in the blood. As I stood at the city desk, blinking at the news, my editor asked if I wanted to opine. I didn’t. Analyzing Blago is like doing color commentary for a coin toss. But the fire bell rings, the old engine horse stirs from its straw.
Two minutes later I was back in my office, consulting Kipling to remind myself which self-serving bromides Blagojevich was sure to spout, when my boss ambled over and observed that my colleague Mark Brown was already on the job.
Big smile and sigh of relief. Let Mark bus that table; let him hump that tub of greasy plates. And he did a fine job encapsulating the weary disgust that any lucid Illinoisan feels contemplating Blagojevich, saying it clearer than I would. No need for an echo.
But silence is seen as timidity in a world of constant gabber. My wife’s friends are asking her where my Blago column is. So ... let us opine. Two points:
First, none of this is funny. Blagojevich was a lousy governor before he betrayed his duty to the people of Illinois in a ham-handed grab at money. He shook down a children’s hospital. He attempted to sell a U.S. Senate seat.
He was tried by a jury, convicted fairly and given a stern sentence of 14 years because he never acknowledged his guilt. We live in a legal and moral system where comprehending you did wrong is the first step toward forgiveness. Blagojevich never did and never will — that would be big news. He is obviously incapable of shame.
That was the old redemption model. The new, Donald Trump version is to lie about all wrongdoing, deny it ever occurred, project your own moral failings upon those who confront you, and skate on pure bravado and BS.
Second, Blagojevich isn’t going to do anything he suggests he might do. He won’t try to reform the legal system, not any more than O.J. Simpson really looked for his wife’s killer (though I imagine O.J. glancing in a mirror, smirking and whispering, “Found him!”).
Achieving actual reform is hard work, even as an ex-governor who isn’t a convicted felon. Pat Quinn can tell you that. It takes years of unheralded effort. You can’t fix the criminal justice system by marrying Dick Mell’s daughter.
What Blago will become, for a while, is the new Chris Christie, another disgraced governor Trump allowed to squat in a corner of his royal chamber of courtiers, clowns and assorted henchmen straight out of a Dick Tracy rogue’s gallery. Blagojevich will preen and prance, shaking the bells on his fool’s motley, until Trump kicks him to the curb. The public will grow bored — I sure am — inspiring Blago to ever increasingly extreme claims: he is Jesus; he will cure cancer.
Until then, the media will trumpet every syllable because it feels obligated. I certainly do, today anyway. Blago fills airtime and column inches. But I don’t see the difference between our former governor and any other deranged person who strips off his clothing and twirls naked in the street. Rather than interview him, someone should throw a blanket over the poor man and hustle him away somewhere he can get the help he so obviously needs.