At best, Blago is an incompetent fool who married the boss's daughter, pissed off the boss and then managed to make a mess of things all by himself for himself and those around him. For all his protestations that the feds couldn't prove anything, it certainly wasn't for lack of Blago's best efforts to commit crimes. What Blago should be more thankful for is the fact that he is abysmal at playing the political fund raising game. Perhaps had he allowed himself to be mentored by someone like, oh say, Michael Madigan, he would now be facing a lifetime behind bars. I say this because people like Blago, dumb criminals, always get caught because they are criminals, but not good enough criminals, like, oh say, Michael Madigan, who apparently the feds feel is reincarnation of Everett Dirksen. Ever wonder why they never indict the big fish like Madigan and Daley?
I suspect that part of the reason why the jury got hung up is because we in Illinois and Chicago, in particular, have gotten numb to political corruption. It's just become something that is accepted because it has gone on for so long, like the Cubs losing. Through all the prosecutions, no matter how many politicians get put behind bars, the beat goes on and we just keep buying our season tickets. Chicago and Illinois are not unique when it comes to corruption, but, I must say, we have to be in the top five.
In reading and listening about the Blago case, I have been one of many who foresaw that the feds didn't have dry powder in their cartridges. They brought a case that was weak; there was no smoking gun, no quid pro quo. Once again, not for lack of Rod's best efforts to extort folks. Maybe if they would have waited a bit there would have been more to go on, but one senses that the word came down to close the curtain on the Blago show before bigger fish would need to be fried. So the feds indict, arrest, prosecute and lose. They lose, in large part, because some the witnesses they had against Blago, who they didn't call to the stand, probably had more to say than they wanted to hear under cross-examination. They probably won't lose a second time. Even a blind squirrel can find a nut, especially if the squirrel has unlimited resources. The feds are the casino, the house. They seldom lose and if they do they just keep you coming back for the next game, ala John Gotti.
There are no winners in all this. It seems no matter how many indictments there are, corruption never ends. When cops get into movies for free by showing their badge, we are all doomed. At some point the question needs to be asked, "do we really want corruption to end?" When so many people in this state have gotten jobs by "knowing somebody" or when businesses can get some advantage by writing a check to the right guy, maybe nothing is ever going to change. There is a school of thought that says sometimes corrupt governments work more efficiently than non-corrupt governments. Why go through all those messy zoning hearings when you can hire Madigan's law firm and get the skids greased? Just good business; efficient business. Some thirty years ago, lawyers were allowed to "tip" the clerks that worked for the county and city. I'll tell you, you never saw such good service. Try to get something done down there now without waiting in line while the glacier moves.
Are we all willing to go the zero tolerance route? Is that even possible? Anyone out there have the first stone in hand to throw? The reality is that when people decry corruption what they are really saying is that they are a nobody. There's a saying in Washington that you are either at the table or on the menu. The vast majority of the people of the state of Illinois are on the menu with no hope of even being the special of the day. We are appetizers at best. As ever, the rich, the powerful, the elite get the best seats, at the best tables, at the best restaurants in town and the appetizers sit back and wonder, what if? As long as voters are willing to be eaten raw by the big shots, nothing will ever change in Illinois or in Washington or in politics.
A friend of mine was pulled over for speeding last week. She asked me if it is normal for the police officer to accept cash for the fine. I told her she inadvertently had jumped off the menu and sat at the table for a brief shining moment.