Wednesday, December 10, 2008

December 10, 2008

     I was reading a detective story the other day in which the cops were saying how lucky they were that most of the crooks they had to deal with were stupid.  Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich wasn't a character in the novel, but he could have been.
     I mean, there you are on the telephone talking about how you shouldn't talk on the telephone.  "You gotta be careful how you express that and assume everybody's listening.  The whole world's listening," the Washington Post quotes the governor as saying.  "I would do it in person," he says another time, "I would not do it on the phone."   But he did, of course, and the FBI was listening.
     Selling Barack Obama's Senate seat (the governor gets to appoint the new senator)?  A "golden" moneymaker, he tells a friend and the Fibbies:  "I'm just not giving it up for ******* nothing."  Well, political corruption is nothing new in Illinois.  Blagojevich is a Democrat;  his Republican predecessor is now in jail.  And there've been others.
    When I was a little kid in Chicago in the 1930s, you could see members of the city machine handing out turkeys in poor neighborhoods at Thanksgiving.  And sometimes they paid for votes.  But that was in an earlier America--one without food stamps and unemployment compensation.  It was crooked, but the bribes mostly went to people who needed the money.
    And sometimes the crooks were charmers.  Reporters, including this one, loved covering Edwin Edwards when he was governor of Louisiana.  I remember him turning up in a hotel lobby one morning with a pretty woman, not his wife, on his arm.  He gave us a big smile and said something like, "Hey guys, I'm just bein' me."  Of course he's in jail now too, but he was fun.
     This governor just seems seems kind of dumb.  Illinois likes to call itself "the land of Lincoln," but Robert Grant, the head of the FBI's Chicago office, may have hit closer to home.  "If it isn't the most corrupt state in the United States," he said, "it's certainly one hell of a competitor."     

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