Allen Drury, the former newspaper man turned author of the famed “Advise and Consent” series has often come to mind when writing my blog posts. I loved his series of books, all which sit on a special bookshelf, and look down on me at I type my posts. I believe he would find great interest in former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich.
Blago, as he came to be called, is in the news again because Donald Trump has some half-baked idea of commuting the prison sentence handed down for one of the most outlandish corrupt pay-to-play scandals seen in a very long time.
Drury had constructed a whole list of multi-dimensional characters for his books, and some were based on real life politicians. I am certain Drury would see Blagojevich as the perfect outline for a long-running character that would be weaved throughout a series of books. After all, there is no way to tell the Blagojevich story in only one volume.
When Blagojevich was first running for governor in Illinois I was struck by his ability to speak on the stump to voters. He had an ample supply of stories and witty replies that made him look comfortable in front of a crowd, and the voters felt he was ‘one of them’, then voted him into office. There was talk about how he looked like a national candidate, and retained the confidence and style that made him a natural for higher office. I recall at the time (2003) I told my office mates at a non-profit in Madison that this was a politician to watch, as he had real potential. There also were the facts of his being on the right side of the issues, be it health care or the environment. There was so much hope for this new governor, and the future that he might have in Democratic politics.
Whatever character flaws Rod Blagojevich had hid from the public during that first campaign for governor came bursting out for all to see once he took office. The smoothness of the campaign soon turned into slickness, and the concern that he exhibited for voters soon was discovered to be a sideshow for the real reason he wanted office. Self-aggrandizement and personal gain. How we have seen that story play out over the past four years on the national stage!
Blagojevich is not the first politician to be so crass and brazen, and Trump will not be the last. But it is sad to know that there was real opportunity for Blago to have made a legacy–a good one mind you–in Illinois and then perhaps stepped out onto the national stage in a positive way. Needless to say it did not turn out the way many had hoped, or thought possible.
Allen Drury’s character in a book would not receive a commuted sentence, and this real-life character is not deserving of a commutation from Trump.
The 62-year-old is not supposed to be released from a minimum-security prison in Colorado until May 2024. The U.S. Supreme Court has declined on multiple occasions to hear Blagojevich’s appeals. In fact, Trump’s own solicitor general said in a court filing last year that the ex-governor’s challenges to his convictions were “unwarranted.”
What I found most telling was a news report on WBBM radio from Chicago that Republican minority leader of the Illinois state House, Jim Durkin, said what Trump is considering is nothing more than an appeal to “certain groups in the United States who don’t believe in the federal government.” We all are aware of Trump claiming an interest in ‘draining the swamp’ but if Blago is allowed to have a commutation it would send a most clear signal that corruption has a place to land safely.