The [Tuesday] Papers
Like our state song says, by thy rivers gently flowing, Illinois, Illinois, comes an echo on the breeze, rustling through the leafy trees, and its mellow tones are these, Illinois, Illinois.
But what are these tones, exactly?
Of prison bars closing on one governor, then another.
- The Tribune's John Kass, previewing this week's sentencing of Rod Blagojevich
"It astounds me that some in the media still don't get the message either," Kass writes. "When it comes time to sentence the politicians, and have them pay for their corruption, there are those in my business who start blubbering and crying mercy. It happened with Ryan. It happened with the sentencing of the patronage bosses from City Hall. And now it's happening again with Blagojevich.
"Prosecutors want Gov. Dead Meat to serve from 15 to 20 years. But I read an editorial in the other paper that was astounding. It argued that Blagojevich's vanity led him astray, and his stupidity, and he failed at much of what he attempted, and therefore, 15 to 20 years was just too much.
"Actually, I agree. A 15- or 20-year sentence for Blagojevich is just plain wrong.
"He should get at least 60."
You have to wonder what else Blagojevich would have had to do to make the Sun-Times think he should get 15 to 20 years, especially after Tony Rezko got 10 1/2.
"Rod Blagojevich was always more village idiot than Mr. Potter in his 'Where's mine?' approach to state politics," says the Sun-Times, which endorsed Blago in 2002 only after felon David Radler overturned the editorial board's original choice of Paul Vallas.
"That's a bit much.
"If, in fact, Blagojevich were to do just one smart thing - fess up to his crimes and express a little remorse - we might get all soft."
Really? That's all it would take? Because (almost) two terms of utterly corrupt government ending in impeachment and then conviction isn't all that bad? Perhaps it even gigged our tourism dollar?
"We might even understand if U.S. District Judge James Zagel next week were to sentence our favorite Elvis impersonator to less than 10 years, the magic number favored by quite a few commentators."
You might understand that? Because your company, too, has been riven with fraud?
"Blagojevich foolishly ignored the object lesson before his eyes - George Ryan - and held fast to an outdated and largely mythical set of acceptable ethics for elected officials.
"Maybe that old caricature of the self-dealing but amusingly tolerated politician - the colorful cad with the wink and the nod and the pinky ring - once was truth, but we'd say it's been dead for a while."
"The throw-the-book-at-em types among you aren't going to like my saying this, but Rod Blagojevich doesn't deserve to go to prison for 20 years," Mark Brown writes for the Sun-Times
"Even 15 years, the low end of the range recommended Wednesday by U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald, is overkill.
"I'm all for giving our former crooked governor a good stiff punishment in recognition of the seriousness of his crimes, but there's no need to get carried away.
"Blagojevich is not the embodiment of evil in Illinois politics, just the current face of it."
No need to get carried away here; Blago deserves a break because he's just "the current face" of evil, not evil itself.
Have we gone mad? Have we forgotten the Blago World Tour designed to spoil the jury? The cavalcade of lies? Play all the tapes! That's how much I love the people of Illinois!
That Blago cried from every studio and street corner that he was the victim of a conspiracy? My God. Let's not go too hard on the guy!
"[L]et's face it," Brown writes, "there wasn't a lot of integrity in Illinois government to damage."
Um, Rod was elected as a reformer. Hard to believe know, and some of us always knew better, but your brethren in the media bought it, Mark.
"Did Blagojevich undermine the public's confidence in Illinois government?
"While it's hard to turn back the clock to our collective mindset before that dramatic day Blagojevich was arrested, I'm pretty sure our confidence in government after the George Ryan years was already quite low."
Therefore, let's take it easy on him instead of going even harder on him than the last guy.
This whole state needs to go into therapy; it's teeming with enabling co-dependency that neither Dr. Drew nor Dr. Phil could even imagine.
The biggest crime committed by Blagojevich and those who have come before and since him is a deepening of cynicism in our public affairs so profound as to normalize the notion that corruption is not only natural but needed to make the wheels of government turn. Real people get hurt badly as a result; kids go up in flames in vans destroyed by trucks driven by illegal drivers; riches are delivered to the connected instead of the merited; budgets are looted and taxpayer dollars are squandered; and most important of all, people lose faith. And in the absence of faith in government, democracy is further eroded because apathy enables more corruption.
I don't know how many years Blagojevich should get but I do know he should be shown no mercy. Our prisons are filled with innocents wrongly convicted; those who have sat on America's death rows only to be exonerated is logically just the tip of the iceberg. Let's put our mercy there, not with the sleazeballs in shiny suits who steal the very essence of our country's ideals.
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Posted on December 6, 2011
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