Blago a Go-Go

Da Gov

First some facts you need to know. I am very good friends with Blago’s second cousin. In the tight knit Serbian community that is a very close family tie. Yesterday I was also pretty sick. These two facts collided and I was dragged to watch Blago issue his farewell address. I didn’t want to go but it was a rare chance to see history being made, so I bundled up and went. We got there about five minutes before his eminence emerged and caught the whole thing. As sick as I was the whole thing took on a kind of fever dream appeal. He talked about humility and then avoided showing any. He talked about prayer and then pointed out how he only prays for stuff that relates to him. He came one baby step away from saying the jury was comprised of idiots and that he would be exonerated. He talked about the law and mentioned a couple of times that he still didn’t think he broke it. He talked about his family and patently ignored how he, and only he, is responsible for their dilemma. He talked about all the wonderful things he did as governor and managed to reinforce the belief that his stint as an elected official was predicated on the “cool mom” principle.

Here’s how that works.

The cool mom allows her 13 year old son or daughter to hold beer parties in the basement. They can smoke too if they wish. The cool mom has all sorts of logic behind this decision – they’ll just do it somewhere else is the most common excuse – but rarely considers the implications. Blago was like that. He gave lots of cool stuff to the people of Illinois. Some, such as health care for women, were sorely needed. Others, such as free bus rides for seniors, had never been asked for. But the one thing they all had in common was that he made no provisions to pay for any of them. The RTA, CTA and Metra fare hikes are all due to him. The closing of many needed facilities are all due to him.

And, yes, I’m a Democrat. That does not make me clueless.

Let me tell you a story about the day Blago got arrested. My friend, and several other of his family members, held a bail party that night. They met at a local watering hole and set up an empty beer pitcher to collect donations. They drank, they laughed, they shared stories and, at the end of the night, they managed to collect under $10.00. They thought about it for a minute and then gave that money to the bartender, whom they’d been tipping anyway. They just figured it was the better cause.

CNN has a pretty solid look at the whole proceeding yesterday.

Crowded by sign-wielding supporters, former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich made what’s expected to be his final speech before he heads to Colorado to start a 14-year prison sentence on a corruption conviction.

“This is the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do,” he told the crowd. “But this is the law and we follow the law.”

Blagojevich was convicted of corruption in June 2011 after a jury returned 17 guilty verdicts against him. Among other allegations, he was accused of trying to profit as he considered whom to appoint to take Barack Obama’s open Senate seat.

Blagojevich called his impending prison stint a “dark and hard journey,” and said he should have been more humble.

“We are so grateful and will never ever forget your kindness to us,” he told the crowd, which occasionally chanted slogans such as “Free our Governor.”

His wife, Patti, remained cinched under his arm, squeezing back tears as the former governor spoke outside his Chicago home.

“This, as bad as it is, is part of a long and hard journey that will only get worse before it gets better,” Blagojevich said, telling his wife that he loved her.

His prison stint begins Thursday.

“Governor Blagojevich has always stood up and stood tall. He hasn’t hid. And he has truly enjoyed being out in public. He never considered ‘sneaking’ out of Chicago and miss an opportunity to say goodbye,” his spokesman Glenn Selig said earlier.

“It’s difficult to put into words the challenges he and his family now face. But he draws strength from the incredible support he continues to receive from the people of Illinois and beyond.”

Blagojevich’s past statements have been noteworthy for their bluster, such as a defiant news conference in April 2010 when he called his accusers “liars” and “cowards” and directly challenged a prosecutor.

Blagojevich also accused U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald of hiding taped evidence that would prove his innocence during that news conference.

“I challenge Mr. Fitzgerald… Why don’t you show up in court tomorrow and explain to everybody, explain to the whole world why you don’t want the tapes that you made played in court?” Blagojevich said to reporters at the time.

“I’ll be in court tomorrow. I hope you’re man enough to show up,” he added, referring to Fitzgerald.

Ah yes, the tapes. Here’s why they didn’t play them all; most of them were about nothing. The fact that he ordered Chinese or wished his wife happy birthday were not in contention. Had he limited himself to calls like that none of this would have happened.

But he didn’t.

The “f***ing golden” remark alone showed what he was all about. And that was relevant to the case. In fact it was the reason the FBI arrested him before he could commit an act. Had he actually sold the senate seat they would have been in the unenviable position of trying to unseat a U.S. Senator at the same time as they were trying to convict Blago. It would have been a logistical nightmare.

So they busted and, eventually, convicted our governor.

And that conviction helped Illinois secure the status of the third most corrupt state in the nation. It is not the type of competition where you want to shoot for #1.

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