creators.com opinion web
Liberal Opinion Conservative Opinion
Steve Chapman
Steve Chapman
18 Dec 2014
Targeting "Assault Weapons" Again

The 1994 federal law banning "assault weapons" was a high point of the gun control movement and Bill Clinton'… Read More.

14 Dec 2014
Mortgage Binges and Painful Hangovers

Plenty of people who go on wild drinking binges end up with sound reasons to avoid repeating the experience: … Read More.

11 Dec 2014
Government Ineptitude, CIA-Style

Anyone skeptical about entrusting ambitious tasks to the government was not stunned by the dismal rollout of … Read More.

Obama and the Curse of Illinois

Comment

"Politics in Louisiana is as clean as an angel's ghost."

— Louisiana Sen. Huey Long, in 1934.

 

"I don't believe there's any cloud that hangs over me, I think there's nothing but sunshine hanging over me."

— Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, the day before he and his chief of staff were arrested on federal charges of bribery and wire fraud.

 

Politics in Illinois, as in Louisiana, has always been more evocative of devils than angels. During the presidential campaign, Barack Obama's critics said he was a typical product of a seamy political culture. The arrest of Blagojevich, a fellow Democrat, validates the claims about Illinois. It also gives Obama a chance to prove he has managed to tiptoe through the sewer without getting dirty.

Except for something that took place in 2001, this expose might not have happened. The event was President Bush's appointment, on the recommendation of Illinois Republican Sen. Peter Fitzgerald, of Patrick Fitzgerald as U.S. attorney for the northern district of Illinois.

The veteran prosecutor was an unlikely choice for the job, since he grew up in New York and spent his entire career there. But Sen. Fitzgerald didn't trust anyone homegrown to attack the corruption that has long infected Illinois government and politics. Patrick Fitzgerald was the best outsider he could find.

Oddly enough, Blagojevich owes his rise to the U.S. attorney's pursuit of graft. It was Fitzgerald who convicted several associates of Gov. George Ryan. Ryan opened the door for Blagojevich by deciding, with his own indictment looming, not to run again. After winning the 2002 Democratic primary, Blagojevich then had the good fortune to face a Republican challenger cursed to be named … Ryan.

Three of the last eight Illinois governors have served time in prison. So the stunning part is not that Blagojevich may be flamboyantly dishonest, but that he is such a dunce. When Obama vacated his Senate seat, the governor clumsily maneuvered to trade it for something he wanted — a Cabinet post, a job for his wife, campaign contributions or a sinecure in the private sector — even though he knew he was under federal investigation.

More bizarre still was his alleged plan for better press coverage — demanding that Tribune Co.

fire the Chicago Tribune editorial board in exchange for state help in the sale of Wrigley Field. As a member of said board, I'm glad that someone thinks newspapers are not obsolete.

He's not the first elected official to try to squeeze the Tribune. My former editor Jack Fuller recalls that when Jane Byrne was mayor in the 1980s, she came in to talk to the editorial board, which had been critical of her, and announced that the Tribune had certain things it wanted (some permits related to a new printing plant) and she had certain things she wanted (presumably, more favorable treatment). The publisher replied that she was out of line and suggested that she start over with her presentation.

When the Tribune-owned Chicago Cubs wanted permission to install lights at Wrigley Field, Ald. Ed Vrdolyak let it be known it would require an end to editorial criticism of him. An editorial responded that the Cubs would "be playing morning games on a sandlot in Gary first." Vrdolyak — this will surprise you — is now headed for prison, another victim of Fitzgerald.

But even the most hardened locals could not have imagined the latest tale. Fitzgerald said Blagojevich's alleged conduct "would make Lincoln roll over in his grave." Forget Lincoln. It would make Bonnie and Clyde flip their coffins.

What does all this have to do with Obama? As president, he can exercise the customary prerogative of replacing all U.S. attorneys with his own appointees. During the campaign, he indicated he was willing to leave Fitzgerald in place. But he is bound to come under pressure from politicians back home to name someone less obsessive about official vice.

Until this week, that option might have been appealing, since the resulting controversy would have been of interest only in Chicagoland. But now it has become a matter for national attention. For Obama to cashier Fitzgerald would make him look complicit in corruption.

In truth, the Blagojevich affair gives Obama the perfect excuse to do the right thing, no matter what the cost to his political friends. Then, for a change, the sun will keep shining on Illinois.

Steve Chapman blogs daily at newsblogs.chicagotribune.com/steve_chapman. To find out more about Steve Chapman, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.

COPYRIGHT 2008 CREATORS SYNDICATE, INC.



Comments

1 Comments | Post Comment
Sir;... I love the Huey Long quotation... I think it is a matter of perspective... To dirt; the whole world seems clean...Thanks...Sweeney
Comment: #1
Posted by: James A, Sweeney
Thu Dec 11, 2008 6:23 AM
Already have an account? Log in.
New Account  
Your Name:
Your E-mail:
Your Password:
Confirm Your Password:

Please allow a few minutes for your comment to be posted.

Enter the numbers to the right:  
Creators.com comments policy
More
Steve Chapman
Dec. `14
Su Mo Tu We Th Fr Sa
30 1 2 3 4 5 6
7 8 9 10 11 12 13
14 15 16 17 18 19 20
21 22 23 24 25 26 27
28 29 30 31 1 2 3
About the author About the author
Write the author Write the author
Printer friendly format Printer friendly format
Email to friend Email to friend
View by Month
Authorís Podcast
Ray Hanania
Ray HananiaUpdated 18 Dec 2014
Froma Harrop
Froma HarropUpdated 18 Dec 2014
Deb Saunders
Debra J. SaundersUpdated 18 Dec 2014

8 May 2014 On Town Prayer, the Majority Has Its Way

27 Nov 2014 What Racially Biased Policing Looks Like

21 Nov 2013 Kennedy and the Heyday of Overambitious Government