"You have sat too long here for any good you have been doing. Depart, I say, and let us have done with you. In the name of God, go."- It was with this quote by Oliver Cromwell that Britain's Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain was implored to resign his office. He was vilified in the press as an incompetent and stupid boob, outwitted at every turn by Adolf Hitler.
The truth is much more complicated; Chamberlain was a sacrificial lamb brought to the slaughter. Britain had awoken to find herself in a dangerous position. Chamberlain had been doing the work of the people and his constituency, and just weeks before the outbreak of war Chamberlain was proclaimed as a great statesman by those same voices which now called for his head. It was the situation that had changed, and it was the situation that the nation could not tolerate.
There was no international voice calling for Chamberlain to face down Hitler. Europe had already passed through one cataclysmic world war a generation before and the public held no popular sentiment for another. The failure of diplomacy against a duplicitous foe and the military fiascoes of the British military in Norway made the public demand a new government and someone must be forced to pay for the failings of others. Someone must become the sin eater, publicly castigated while devouring the sins of a whole nation.
Such is politics, periodically some politician must be culled from the herd and declared the winner of the lottery and then publicly stoned to death. Our current winner is one Rod R. Blagojevich, the disgraced former Governor of Illinois.
Those unfamiliar with Illinois politics should understand an old Illinois saying: Just outside Chicago there's a place called Illinois. It is a state with two political poles, Chicago in the north and Springfield in the south. Chicago is a rich Democratic metropolis, and downstate Illinois, agricultural and Republican. The two most powerful people in the state are the Governor, and the mayor of Chicago, but not necessarily in that order. These two poles of political power account for Illinois' bi-polar political process. Neither can make the other behave the way they want so it becomes a wrestling match to force or to make a bargain for an agreement.
Blagojevich's guilt or innocence is really unimportant; it doesn't matter because this is a political assassination. Whether it is done with a gun or a knife is unimportant; all that matters is that it was done and done publicly. The Governor was arrested in his home at six thirty in the morning, less than three weeks after Barack Obama, a Senator from Illinois and from Chicago, won the election as President of the United States.
Conservative pundits complained that the arrest should have come sooner; that it was delayed only to assist Obama's presidential campaign. In fact the opposite was true. John McCain was not even popular among Republicans so his chances of winning the election were slim at best and slim was nowhere near best. So why waste your good cards on a hand you can't win? Why not wait until the Senator from Illinois becomes the President-elect and then try to tar him with a scandal before he even has a chance to put his staff in place?
Blagojevich was arrested on Tuesday, December 9, but why Tuesday? Why at six fifteen in the morning? Monday is never a good news day; too many people are focused on getting over the weekend or on the week ahead. And Wednesday was the Governor's 52nd birthday. Arresting the governor on his birthday would add a caveat, a distraction and a sympathy angle to the story. Thursday is too close to the weekend. Tuesday would allow for the arrest to enjoy almost a full week in an otherwise quiet news cycle. It would allow him to be arraigned at one thirty in the afternoon, just in time for the evening news cycle. Plenty of time for the networks to get their anchors in place and satellite trucks set up. It was an opportunity to wrest from the President-elect the warm glow of the honeymoon, and instead he'd be putting together an administration under the taint of scandal.
What was gained by taking the suspect out of his home in handcuffs, other than glaring images and sound bites just in time for the morning news cycle? Patrick Fitzgerald, the US Attorney hired by the Bush administration in 2001, has prosecuted 36 city officials involved with Chicago's hired-truck program since 2004. Little more than half have been convicted of the charges, but it fosters the notion of crooked Chicago politics, and take a wild guess which political party is in charge in Chicago. One needn't scratch the veneer to see the Karl Rove style at work in Fitzgerald's actions.
At the press conference held the morning of Blagojevich's arrest, Fitzgerald described the charges as "staggering"- and Fitzgerald went on to describe that the governor, "has taken us to a truly new low" by going on "a political corruption crime spree. We acted to stop that crime spree." This is typical good guy/bad guy technique and his statements would be perfectly acceptable as closing arguments in a trial, but to use them in the opening of indictments is way over the top. He is trying the Governor in the court of public opinion. As a US Attorney in the Bush Justice Department he wouldn't politicize a prosecution, would he?
So, what heinous and reprehensible actions were the Governor accused of? Pay-to-play politics and attempting to sell or trade the former Senate seat of Barack Obama for the financial gain of the governor and his wife. Those financial gains were to be made to the governor's reelection campaign. Come on now, let's get real here, what did President Bush say publicly after the invasion of Iraq in 2003? He said that the construction contracts for the rebuilding would be given only to the nations that assisted in the invasion, isn't that the worst kind of pay-to-play? Bleed and die to play? Yet Bush continued on, unindicted.
Sweetheart deals to Halliburton, Blackwater, and hosts of others; are we so naive to believe that these negotiations don't go on in every state house or federal office in country? Politics is the art of horse trading; I support yours, you support mine. Who wouldn't ask the boss to go fishing in our new bass boat if we thought it might help our chances for promotion? Conversely, how many of us would still be employed if hundreds of hours of our private conversations from the break room were taped and suddenly supplied to the boss, complete with transcripts of our most damning statements? Would he listen to the hundreds of hours to hear if we said any nice things about him? Or would he just fire us as ungrateful sons of bitches?
Alaska Senator Ted Stevens was accused of pay-to-play and he held onto his Senate seat until convicted. He was the accused at that point; he had a right to a fair trial before being stripped of his office. No one questioned that point; there were calls for him to step down after he was convicted when he threatened to retain his seat during his appeal. Senator Harry Reid said, "It's a sad day for him, us, but you know I believe in the American system of justice and he's presumed innocent."
Was Stevens frog-marched out of his home in handcuffs? Justice Department officials said, "Stevens will not be arrested and will be allowed to turn himself in."- How did the Justice Department describe Stevens' indictment? As a new low? Were the Steven's crimes, "staggering"-? From May 1999 to August 2007, prosecutors said, the 84-year-old senator concealed "his continuing receipt of hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of things of value from a private corporation."
The unsealed indictment says the items included: home improvements to his vacation home in Alaska, including a new first floor, garage, wraparound deck, plumbing, electrical wiring, as well as a Viking gas grill, furniture and tools. He also was accused of failing to report swapping an old Ford for a new Land Rover to be driven by one of his children. Where are the adjectives? Where is the outrage?
Much was made of Blagojevich's use of street language with reporters repeating the "F*** 'em"- line and "this is f***ing gold."- The quotes from Senator Stevens, himself long known in Congress for his salty tongue, are unknown because they weren't released to the public, only to his jury. The Watergate transcripts of President Nixon's foul language were edited to read "expletive deleted." If Blagojevich spoke only one line of truth, it was that "The fix is in."-
Illinois Lt. Governor Pat Quinn called on the Governor to step down within an hour of the announcement of the indictment. Chicago Tribune editor Gerould W. Kern said that his newspaper delayed publishing some stories at the request of the U.S. Attorney's office during the course of reporting on the accelerating investigation of Blagojevich. "On occasion, prosecutors asked us to delay publication of stories, asserting that disclosure would jeopardize the criminal investigation," Kern said. "In isolated instances, we granted the requests, but other requests were refused."
The right wing Chicago Tribune was only too happy to cooperate with the Republican justice department if it would aid in a far bigger story down the road. Especially a story that might bring down an Illinois Democratic Governor who had been at odds with the Tribune and the vested interests of the Tribune Corporation. There are no two ways about it; this was a political hit, both a parting shot by the Bush administration and a shot across the bow of the Obama administration. If every public official guilty of pay-to-play were to be arrested, the state houses and halls of Congress would become vacant and quiet as a tomb. This is why it was necessary for the Illinois Senate to all plunge their daggers in, one and all. To do otherwise would be to announce a rejection of the coup d'etat and to make themselves vulnerable as the next target.
The Cromwell quote used during Chamberlain's denunciations was a bastardization of the original, the whole quote is as follows,
"It is high time for me to put an end to your sitting in this place, which you have dishonoured by your contempt of all virtue, and defiled by your practice of every vice; ye are a factious crew, and enemies to all good government; ye are a pack of mercenary wretches, and would like Esau sell your country for a mess of pottage, and like Judas betray your God for a few pieces of money; is there a single virtue now remaining amongst you? is there one vice you do not possess? ye have no more religion than my horse; gold is your God; which of you have not barter'd your conscience for bribes? is there a man amongst you that has the least care for the good of the Commonwealth? ye sordid prostitutes have you not defil'd this sacred place, and turn'd the Lord's temple into a den of thieves, by your immoral principles and wicked practices? Ye are grown intolerably odious to the whole nation; you were deputed here by the people to get grievances redress'd, are yourselves become the greatest grievance. Your country therefore calls upon me to cleanse this Augean stable, by putting a final period to your iniquitous proceedings in this House; and which by God's help, and the strength he has given me, I am now come to do; I command ye therefore, upon the peril of your lives, to depart immediately out of this place; go, get you out! Make haste! Ye venal slaves be gone! So! Take away that shining bauble there, and lock up the doors. In the name of God, go!"-
I come to bury Rod R. Blagojevich not to praise him
The evil that men do lives after them;
The good is oft interred with their bones;
So let it be with Caesar. The noble Bush Justice Department and the media
Hath told you Caesar was ambitious:
If it were so, it was a grievous fault,
But the Bush Justice Department and the media say he was ambitious;
And the Bush Justice Department and the media are honourable men.
He hath brought many captives home to Rome
Whose ransoms did the general coffers fill:
Did this in Caesar seem ambitious?
When that the poor have cried, Caesar hath wept:
Ambition should be made of sterner stuff: