Now that Gov. Dead Meat has been arrested at his home and charged with selling Illinois by the pound—and Barack Obama's U.S. Senate seat by the slice—let's just savor the aroma.
I love the smell of meat over coals in the morning.
It smells like . . . victory.
The people of Illinois needed some good news and they got it. Former Republican Gov. George Ryan is in prison, and the arrest of his successor, Democratic Gov. Rod Blagojevich, surely means that the Illinois Combine that runs this state can stop with the rumors that U.S. Atty. Patrick Fitzgerald will be leaving town. And, as Blagojevich most likely prepares to be Ryan's bunkmate, let's not forget the scores of other politicos, of all parties, who've gone down on corruption charges—including some of Mayor Richard Daley's guys who helped rebuild that Democratic machine the mayor says doesn't exist.
At a news conference in the federal building in Chicago, authorities were asked about Illinois corruption.
"If it isn't the most corrupt state in the United States, it's certainly one hell of a competitor," said Robert Grant, special agent in charge of the FBI's Chicago office.
Grant had the privilege of standing outside Blagojevich's home about 6 a.m. Tuesday and calling the sleepy governor to say federal agents were outside, waiting to arrest him quietly.
"I could tell I woke him up," Grant said. "And the first thing he said was, 'Is this a joke?' "
No, but standing before a federal judge wearing jogging pants, sneakers and a powder blue fleece sort of made the governor of Illinois look like a jester. Or a joker.
Political corruption in the state that has made corruption an art form isn't funny, like a clown. The joke is on all of us, everyone who lives in Illinois. Because Blagojevich was elected governor on the reform ticket, promising to clean up the state and end business as usual.
Chicagoans aren't really surprised. This is the state run by the Combine, with the Democratic machine on one side and the Republican insiders on the other, and the Chicago Outfit forming the base. That is the real iron triangle.
Blagojevich was supported by the machine and by the now-indicted Republican power broker Big Bill Cellini. If that's not reform, what is?
The governor is alleged to have tried to sell Obama's Senate seat to the highest bidder, used his leverage in attempts to oust Tribune editorial writers who didn't play ball, and schemed to shake down the chief executive officer of Children's Memorial Hospital for campaign cash in exchange for a state grant.
So though Illinois isn't surprised—this is after all the home of the Chicago Way—the national media must be shocked.
They've been clinging to the ridiculous notion that Chicago is Camelot for months now, cleaving to the idea with the willfulness of stubborn children. It must help them see Obama as some pristine creature, perhaps a gentle faun of a magic forest, unstained by our grubby politics, a bedtime story for grown-ups who insist upon fairy tales. But now the national media may finally be forced to confront reality.
Even national pundits with tingles running up their legs can't ignore the tape recordings in which Blagojevich speculated how he'd get the gold for picking Obama's successor.
"I'm going to keep this Senate option for me a real possibility, you know, and therefore I can drive a hard bargain," Blagojevich allegedly said on tape. "You hear what I'm saying? And if I don't get what I want, and I'm not satisfied with it, then I'll just take the Senate seat myself."
Obama's Senate seat, Blagojevich allegedly said, "is a [expletive] valuable thing. You don't just give it away for nothing."
Then, on Nov. 5, he allegedly said, "I've got this thing, and it's [expletive] golden and, uh, I'm just not going to give it up for [expletive] nothing. I'm not gonna do it. And I can always use it, I can parachute me there."
If a jury hears that tape, it's [expletive] over.
I figure Blagojevich most likely will start talking to the feds, blabbing about everyone he knows, in order to cut down his time, because what's on the federal tapes is devastating.
Once he starts, the feds will have to slap him to shut him up.
Naturally, Obama didn't have much to say.
Obama said he never talked to Blagojevich about the Senate seat. In this, his hands are clean. But he also didn't want to get involved, much like last week, when he didn't want to get involved in the Democratic push led by Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Big Jim) to get Ryan out of prison.
"I had no contact with the governor or his office and so I was not aware of what was happening," Obama told reporters at his transition office in Chicago. "It's a sad day for Illinois; beyond that, I don't think it's appropriate to comment."
I don't think Obama would ever countenance paying Blagojevich for a Senate seat or allow others close to him to even consider it. I'm not saying Obama is corrupt here. He's busy with all the great issues of the day, but at some point the president-elect must address the stench in his home state.
Because this is no fairy tale. This isn't Camelot.
This is Chicago.
And a governor is on the grill.
Thanks to John Kass
Monday, December 15, 2008
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