Blago just following his instincts, Illinois tradition
By Jeff Ward For The Courier-News July 3, 2011 5:48PM
Updated: July 4, 2011 3:56PM
When I heard the news, I almost started shouting, “We’re No. 1!”
But then I realized that cheering for the state with the most convicted former governors might be a bit much. Still, when you’ve been a lifelong Cubs fan, it’s nice to be able to cheer for something.
But alas. As our shameless former Gov. Rod Blagojevich edges closer to what may well be a 12-year prison sentence, I can’t help but feel sorry for him and his wife, Patty. After all, aren’t they just the natural and inevitable extension of the Illinois voters who put them in office in the first place?
This saga started when Blago joined Richie Daley’s legal team as a Cook County assistant state’s attorney. Then the die was cast when Blago, who’s always held presidential ambitions, married one Patricia Mell — the daughter of longtime Chicago machine alderman Dick Mell.
With Mell’s support, Blago managed to sneak in to the state rep chambers and eventually made it all the way to the governor’s mansion. Ironically, he actually bucked the Chicago regulars to do it, turning to downstate voters to defeat machine candidate Roland Burris in the gubernatorial primary. He would eventually turn on Mell himself.
There’s no loyalty in Illinois politics.
So we end up with two kids steeped in the traditional Chicago art of “scratching backs.” To them, the kind of political horse trading that ultimately led to Blago’s conviction came as naturally and essentially as breathing.
Please don’t give me that hackneyed “that’s Chicago politics for you,” because Cook County ain’t got nothin’ on Kane. This kind of wheeling and dealing goes on out here on a daily basis. (Former governor and current jailbird George Ryan was certainly no Chicago Democrat either.)
For example, what do you do when you can’t get your hand-picked judges elected anymore? If you’re fading Kendall County power brokers Denny Hastert and Dallas Ingemunson, you get House Minority Leader Tom Cross of Oswego to introduce a midnight bill that splits a new Kendall County judicial circuit off from Kane. So much for less government.
Then, with the help of Cross and state Sen. Kirk Dillard, R-Hinsdale, the dynamic duo helped create the brutally gerrymandered 33rd State Senate District running from Batavia to Algonquin — but not through Democratic Elgin — just for protégé Kane County Board Chairman Karen McConnaughay.
Denny and Dallas have been busy boys lately.
Meanwhile, state Sen. Mike Noland, D-Elgin, has been preoccupied with creating new judgeships just so he and his friends can run for those jobs.
And “We the people” are no better. What happened when GOP presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty proposed Medicare cuts at a town hall meeting? That’s right. He got booed. Those tea partyers are for cutting absolutely everything except anything that might benefit them.
We elect politicians like Blago because they deliver the pork. Then we have the self-righteous audacity to resort to shrieking and howling when yet another Illinois governor is sent to the pokey.
“But Jeff, Rod Blagojevich actually had the nerve to shake down a children’s hospital. That’s despicable!” Please. It happens all the time. You can always count on an Illinois politician to look no further than the end of their nose.
In 2007, Noland sponsored Senate Bill 1253 making minor alterations to the Illinois Community Mental Health Act. Shortly after it passed, his wife got a $20,000-a-year gig with the Hanover Township Mental Health Board, and Noland was named Legislator of the Year by the Illinois Association of Community Mental Health.
It’s all quid pro quo.
No politician on the face of this planet would’ve “given away” Barack Obama’s U.S. Senate seat without expecting something in return. It was “fricken golden!” Blago’s problem was that he was absent the day the Chicago machine gave the lesson on keeping your mouth shut. What was that first rule in the movie “Fight Club”?
Rod and Patty Blagojevich are being punished for speaking the truth. This couple, the inevitable culmination of Illinois politics as usual, had the nerve to openly say the kind of things we all know are whispered whenever two politicians sit together in the same room. But as long as we get our cut … .
Are we really surprised by any of this?
Back in 1967, the late great Sun-Times columnist, Mike Royko, proposed the city of Chicago change its motto from “Urbs in Horto” (City in a Garden) to “Ubi Est Mea,” or “Where’s mine?” Forget Chicago — that should be our nation’s motto.
It’s a heck of a lot more honest than “In God We Trust.”
Jeff Ward can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org