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The tawdry saga of Gov. Rod Blagojevich concluded on schedule this week, when the Illinois State Senate unanimously ousted the helmet-haired governor after a brief trial in which Blagojevich was the most damning witness against himself, courtesy of wiretaps provided by a federal prosecutor.
U.S. attorney Patrick Fitzgerald’s impulsive decision two months ago to publicly reveal Hot Rod’s efforts to peddle Barack Obama’s vacant U.S. Senate seat to the highest bidder provided a much-needed distraction — and yes, comic relief — to a shell-shocked nation battered by the worst economic calamity since the Great Depression.
The country was so hungry for an opportunity to express its righteous indignation that it turned a blind eye to the rather odd legal logic employed by Fitzgerald, who didn’t bother to wait for the crime to be consummated before he dragged Blago into the public square for tarring and feathering.
The stampede for justice was spontaneous, trampling any annoying doubts that might have arisen if we had stopped to consider the fact that the type of horse-trading at the center of this scandal too often is, behind closed doors and hidden from the public view, a sordid staple of American politics. Blago was stupid enough to do it with a federal prosecutor listening in.
Let’s face it: we needed this. It was the perfect scandal for the perfect storm, perfectly tailored for our media-driven celebrity culture and exceedingly short attention span in an age of instant communications.
Everyone played their roles perfectly in this national ritual of condemnation and redemption. Straight out of central casting came Fitzgerald as an over-caffeinated, 21st-century version of Eliot Ness, and Sen. Harry Reid as a stuffy blunderbuss of high moral dudgeon. The lead actors were accompanied by a bevy of celebrity cameos worthy of an Irwin Allen disaster movie. The only thing missing was O.J. and a cat.
And let’s not forget the star of this eight-week miniseries, Hot Rod himself, who served up an unforgettable deep-dish pizza of lunacy and ensured himself a place in Chicago infamy right up there with Al Capone.
Although there was never any doubt that Blago would be voted off the island after the transcripts of his profane machinations were read on national television by Fitzgerald, Illinois’ chief executive helpfully kept the story line moving by refusing to resign, provoking an impeachment and trial, which he then refused to attend until the final scene.
The Blagojevich scandal is a gift that will keep on giving. The merits of the perfectly teased wisp of hair that kept falling across Rod’s forehead will be debated by hair stylists for generations to come. The electrons of Rod’s goofy TV appearance with the gals of The View will drift out across the cosmos for eons, no doubt scaring off any would-be invaders from another galaxy.
So Illinois has a new governor, our national honor has been vindicated, and Patrick Fitzgerald has struck a timely blow for truth, justice and the American Way. Soon to be available on DVD at a Walmart near you.
Unfortunately for us, while we were busy burning Blago at the stake a much larger crime was being committed in broad daylight in front of the entire country:
The investment bankers who perpetrated the catastrophic collapse of the global economy have rewarded themselves with more than $18 billion in bonuses, culled from more than $400 billion in federal bailouts paid for by U.S. taxpayers. Most of these bankers haven’t even left the scene of the crime. They still sit in their plush offices, waiting for another $700 billion helping of federal largesse.
Paging Eliot Ness. We’ve got a job for you when you’re finished cleaning up the mess in Chicago. Please hurry.