Thursday, January 29, 2009

Blago's last stand

I listened to Rod Blagojevich's closing argument today in his impeachment trial. Again, I heard the same spiel about how he wasn't allowed to call witnesses. I expected as much. He tried to explain away his activities as just politics as usual. Just a governor trying to get things done for the people of Illinois. I think he hoped the senators would shake their heads in agreement and say, "Sure, this is politics as usual." But whether it is or not, it shouldn't be. This is not how government in any city or state, or in our nation, should be. Many of us are cynical already about politics. Politicians are liars and crooks. Government doesn't work for the people. Why vote? Why care? Rod Blagojevich is an example of why people feel that way. And it is a shame. It is not a defense.

Blago said he did nothing wrong. He said he wasn't guilty of the criminal charges and would prove it in his criminal trial. Then he went charge by charge over the rest of the Articles of Impeachment (those charges that were not in the criminal complaint) to explain why he wasn't wrong in those instances either. But in each case, all he seemed to do was explain why he was wrong. Blago argued he did nothing wrong by going around the legislature to expand healthcare, to buy flu vaccines with taxpayer money, and to buy prescription drugs from outside the U.S., which was against federal law. But he did, and his explanation proved he did. He said he didn't need to go through the legislature for these things, or through the Joint Committee on Adminstrative Rules, even though state law required he do so. Blago argued that these actions had been done before he was elected for a second term, and he should have been impeached before then. He's right. I know impeachment was talked about even before Blago's arrest. Blago himself mentioned it in his national interviews. I can only guess that some Democratic representatives and senators were not on board with impeachment, even if it was deserved. Maybe even some Republicans were reluctant to get on board, because it would have been an embarrassment to Illinois. Maybe they didn't think it would get this bad. But after Blago's arrest, impeachment could no longer be just a whisper in the halls in Springfield. Blago was already embarrassing Illinois. What more could an impeachment do?

For the most part, Blago said nothing new in his closing argument. Nothing that I can see would change any senators' mind on impeachment, if they were for it. So far, it seems I'm right. I've been listening to the deliberations the past half hour and each senator who has spoken has said he or she is for impeachment. They are embarrassed. They are appalled. They want a new chapter to start for Illinois, one that doesn't include Rod R. Blagojevich. I can only hope tomorrow begins that chapter.

SIDE NOTE: Blago left right after his closing argument in his state plane to fly back to Chicago because he was afraid to stick around to listen to deliberations and the final decision. He was afraid because if he stuck around and was indeed impeached, he would no longer have access to the plane and would have to find another way home. Yep, the Governor, always thinking about himself.

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