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Blagojevich Sun Jan 25 2009

Ah, But the Strawberries!

Though this be madness, yet there is method in't.
-- Hamlet, Act II, Scene II

Our embattled Gov. Blagojevich's recent jawdropping media blitz is worth a listen, for anyone who hasn't had the pleasure. Among the many interesting tidbits was the Guv, on his own, bringing up the parallel of impeached President Nixon, but comparing himself, instead, to Teddy Roosevelt. Did anyone else find it bizarre to hear an elected Democratic governor saying, "I like to see myself more like a Teddy Roosevelt Republican?" Note to Guv: the last politician to claim that mantle was John McCain. How did that work out?

It may be true that Blagojevich has not yet reached the "pray with me, Henry" stage. But the bunker mentality of the last days of the 37th president seems a far more apt match than the populist progressivism of our 25th. Teddy Roosevelt, instead of opposing tax increases across the board, argued for a more progressive tax structure; instead of raking in millions from favor-seekers, Roosevelt railed against the role of special interests, corporations, and money in politics. Consider these words from TR's famous "New Nationalism" speech in Kansas nearly a century ago:

If our political institutions were perfect, they would absolutely prevent the political domination of money in any part of our affairs. We need to make our political representatives more quickly and sensitively responsive to the people whose servants they are. [A] step in this direction . . . [is] a corrupt-services act effective to prevent the advantage of the man willing recklessly and unscrupulously to spend money over his more honest competitor. It is particularly important that all moneys received or expended for campaign purposes should be publicly accounted for, not only after election, but before election as well. Political action must be made simpler, easier, and freer from confusion for every citizen. I believe that the prompt removal of unfaithful or incompetent public servants should be made easy and sure in whatever way experience shall show to be most expedient in any given class of cases.

Guv, I don't think Teddy helps you here.

The WLS interview, especially when Blagojevich goes on an impassioned roll near the end, reminded me not so much of Nixon, as of Humphrey Bogart's meltdown on the stand as Capt. Queeg in The Caine Mutiny, claiming, "I tried to run the ship properly, by the book, but they fought me at every turn." Enemies, enemies everywhere, all out to prevent him from doing his job.

However, I've been betting any taker a beer that, unlike the Caine trial, next week's Senate proceedings will not conclude, but that, like Nixon, the governor will resign rather than let it proceed to what is -- and here we must concede he is probably right -- a foregone conclusion. I can't see any way in which a man facing possible conviction on federal charges can possibly benefit his defense by being publicly removed from office in a televised impeachment trial, or even letting that drama go forward. I've expected that the governor would do all in his power to attempt to act as governor, to wage a public relations battle branding it all as political lynching -- and then at the last minute to resign, saying he possibly can't get a fair hearing.

Some also point out that by resigning, Blagojevich could avoid a Senate finding that bars him from ever holding office again in Illinois.

There are a couple of wrinkles. One is that, as the Detroit Free Press is reporting today, a vote could come as early as tomorrow. This is made more likely by the governor's apparent decision to boycott the trial itself. The second is the resignation of Ed Genson as Blagojevich's attorney. Until now, it appeared that the two were playing a pretty good chess game, given both an unenviable position and being down more than a few pieces.

But the split in the legal team, if genuine, indicates that the "smart play" may be off the table and I may end up buying beers. If so, madness, rather than method, is indeed the currency of the realm.

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