Stop the Lynch Mob

Okay, now I’m mad.

I live in Illinois, so Rod Blagojevich is my governor.  I’ve never been much of a fan of his, and I have considered him an embarrassment to the state for a long time.  He’s done a few good things for Illinois, has pissed off a lot of people, and has generally been (as my mother would say) “a pill”.

And I agree with practically everyone and his brother that he should resign, but ultimately he’s the one who has to make that decision.

Today, when Attorney General Lisa Madigan called for the state Supreme Court to take away his powers as governor, that was the last straw for me.  I like Lisa Madigan and have harbored hopes that she would be appointed to Barack Obama’s vacated Senate seat because I think she would be a great Senator, but she crossed the line.

Rod Blagojevich is, indeed, innocent until proven guilty.  It’s hard to imagine an innocent explanation for some of the allegations in the complaint, but he’s entitled to his day in court.  He has not resigned his position as governor and, regardless of his motivation for refusing to resign, he is still the governor.  It seems that everyone is so busy piling on that they forget that.

This is the same dynamic that supports the denial of due process to people imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay.  If, in our righteous ACLU-type indignation, we believe that they deserve to be treated with respect and consideration, why do we not believe that a duly-elected governor deserves any less?

What makes me mad is that I now find myself in the position of defending Rod Blagojevich.

7 Responses to “Stop the Lynch Mob”

  1. tas says:

    Has anyone in the state been able to find the governor’s forehead yet?

    I’m not sure what to make of this angle… On one hand, I see your point. This man is only charged with a crime and has not yet been brought to trial. On the other hand, though, couldn’t this be considered a failure of democracy? Here we have a governor accused of using his office for incredibly corrupt purposes and we can’t impeach him; it’s his right to keep his job until proven guilty in a court of law. And in this case, he surely will be found guilty — they’ve got the guy on tape. I’ve seen the way Fitzgerald operates when he’s allowed to prosecute on a state level: one he builds a rock solid case and files charges, it’s pretty much over for the defendant.

    All of this goes outside of the moral high ground argument that Blago should resign for the good of the state. This case will be a huge distraction to Illinois state govt. and in such a case it’s only proper for him to step down. Being the governor isn’t a normal, 9-5 job. Conversely, someone holding a “normal” job isn’t afforded the opportunity to resign from it for these kind of corruption charges because they’re never in a position to be that corrupt.

    Is there any way in your state’s constitution to democratically recall a governor, and quickly? That’s the only democratic failsafe I can think of. Otherwise a likely corrupt governor gets to stay in office. I understand your point about one being innocent until proven guilty, but I think we’re also looking at a failure of democracy if he’s allowed to stay in office.

  2. DrGail says:

    You phrased it quite well, actually, tas: “a failure of democracy”.

    As I understand it, after a quick perusal of the Chicago Tribune, impeachment is possible, but it’s not very quick. It follows much the same process as impeachment of a president: a house committee passes the issue to the full house, then the full house votes, then the state senate tries the governor. Keep in mind that the speaker of the house (Mike Madigan — Lisa’s father) and the senate president (Emil Jones, a mentor to Obama) have not previously been very warm to the idea.

    Keep in mind, though, that had Blagojevich not been allegedly moving toward “selling” Obama’s vacated Senate seat, the wiretapping and the like would have continued merrily along the way and Fitzgerald would not have acted until he had sufficient evidence to move forward confidently on all the other potentially illegal activities Blago is involved in. During that time, of course, Blago would have remained as governor.

    The real problem, then, is that we need and deserve to have that Senate seat filled quickly, but there are no provisions in the state constitution to do that other than through gubernatorial appointment. So, there’s a real stalemate.

    My own belief is that Blago should be given a paid leave of absence until his legal situation is resolved, and the state legislature should move very quickly to develop an alternate means for filling that Senate seat. That would certainly be fair to all involved. It just frosts my Wheaties, though, that everyone is so focused on “getting Blagojevich” that they aren’t thinking about what is the right thing to do.

  3. Kathy says:

    You know, with respect, I have to say that I could not disagree more strongly with the focus of your concern, Gail. Obviously, Blagojevich is innocent until proven guilty, but I think the term “lynch mob” is more accurately applied to what the media is doing to Barack Obama and his transition team with regard to this matter. I mean, have you been reading the coverage linked from Memeorandum? Have you seen it today? Obama and Rahm Emanuel are being smeared as accomplices and co-conspirators to bribery and extortion because Emanuel might have spoken to Blagojevich about Obama’s preferred candidates for his Senate seat. Over and over, they add the disclaimer that neither Obama nor anyone on his staff has been charged with any wrongdoing, and sometimes they are good enough to add that there is absolutely nothing illegal or unethical about the president-elect talking to the governor of Illinois about Obama’s vacant seat and who might be the best choice to fill it, and then they go right back to not just suggesting but all but stating that a phone conversation about filling Obama’s Senate seat and offering bribes to insure a particular choice of candidate for that Senate seat are the same thing.

    Again, with the caveat that your views are entitled to respect, I think your concern that Gov. Blagojevich is being convicted in advance of a trial is extremely misplaced. Stop the lynch mob? For sure. But it’s clear to me that the lynch mob metaphor applies to what’s being done to Obama, not Blagojevich.

  4. DrGail says:

    The feeding frenzy (perhaps a better term than lynch mob?) that is working on Obama and his transition team is disgusting, I agree, but I don’t see it as an either/or. The right wing will always smear any prominent and popular Democrat (and I certainly hope that his race has nothing to do with it), but it seems that everyone — regardless of political affiliation — is smearing Blagojevich based on a paucity of facts.

    However, the real issue for me is not only that everyone has convicted Blagojevich without a trial, but that no one (besides me) appears to be bothered by that. Due process is due process, and fair is fair, and there are precious few voices reminding people of that.

    Of course, what do I know? I still think the ACLU was right for defending the KKK’s right to march in Skokie, and for defending the privacy of Rush Limbaugh’s medical records. Distasteful? Of course. So is Blagojevich, but he’s being slandered and demonized and, even though I am no fan of his and find it hard to imagine that he is actually innocent, that’s just simply not right.

  5. tas says:

    Blago is innocent until proven guilty, but.. I think with Fitzgerald’s track record — and the fact that Blago is on tape (or as he might say, “[bleeping] tape”) — he’s innocent in name only at this point. I mean, it got to a point in the 1970s when most of the country knew that Nixon was guilty as sin. He was innocent in name because no court of law had yet to find him guilty of a crime, but still… Blago’s in that position right now. I know we need to have respect for people’s rights, but the guy’s guilty. We know a trial will reinforce that. He no longer deserves to be in a position of power.

    • DrGail says:

      I would disagree with this. In fact, we know (to an almost certainty) from the evidence we’ve seen so far that Blagojevich is corrupt. Whether he is in fact guilty or not remains to be seen. David Johnston in today’s NYTimes took on the question of whether, with regard to Obama’s now-vacated Senate seat, Blagojevich engaged in anything more culpable than talking tough. This strikes me as being a reasonable question to ask.

      This whole issue about Blagojevich’s alleged criminal activity upsets me for two reasons. (Well, three, when you consider that I’m an Illinois resident.) First, I hate feeling compelled to come to the defense of a guy I can’t stand. Second, from a partisan standpoint, why must Democrats feel compelled to “pile on” to any other Democrat who has a whiff of taint about him or her? Once one of our own is shown to be corrupt, then we should show no mercy. But until that point, I wish we could refrain from outdoing the Republicans on the outrage-meter.

  6. Mark says:

    The thing is – impeachment and criminal prosecution are two different types of due process, created for two very different circumstances. The punishment created by impeachment – removal from office – does not require a criminal conviction, nor should it, as it is inherently political. Still, impeachment requires that the House and Senate abide by certain procedures to make sure the impeached officer is not being thrown out for political reasons, but instead has in some way failed to uphold his oath of office in a material way. In this sense, there is absolutely nothing wrong with impeachment occuring without a conviction. I also highly doubt that you could get a recall election in place before any impeachment proceedings resulted in a conviction.
    There is a definite problem with the AG filing suit to force the governor to step aside before impeachment proceedings have concluded, especially given that the provision she is using cannot conceivably be read to mean “politically disabled,” but instead clearly refers to a state where the governor is physically incapable of performing his job because he is comatose, brain-damaged, etc.
    As for whether this represents a failure of democracy, I disagree – that democracy works slow and demands processes be followed is a feature, not a flaw. What if, for instance, evidence arose that the voice on the tapes is not Blagojevich, but is instead the Lieutenant Governor? Not that I think this hypothetical is remotely the case, but the point is that democratic process gives you an important measure of (admittedly less than absolute) certainty that the result is just and not simply the result of popular whims.

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