Friday, January 30, 2009

Turning The Page on WhatsHisName

State Senator Ricky Hendon said something remarkable during the impeachment trial yesterday, and I'm paraphrasing here:

"Congratulations to the press. You have reestablished your power. Use it wisely."

Its going to take ALL of us to "turn the page", move beyond our former governor, and move Illinois forward.

And just as even the lowliest fungus needs a ray of light to survive, our former governor needs media attention.

Bloggers, t.v. reporters, newspaper editors: You want to stick it to our former governor? Stop covering him.


I realize this can't happen immediately. There will be the necessary stories today, the editorials this weekend.

But starting Monday, can we declare an end to his 15 minutes of fame?

1. Just because WhatsHisName has a press conference, doesn't mean we need to show up. We know it'll be the same-old circus, hardly newsworthy.

2. Just because the U.S. Attorney has a press conference, doesn't mean we have to seek a comment from WhatsHisName or his attorneys. Why should we aid them in their defense?

3. Just because the legislature advances campaign reform or ethics reform legislation, doesn't mean we have to mention WhatsHisName by name. Reform is needed, no matter who the governor was or his party.

4. Just because WhatsHisName says or does something outrageously stupid, we don't have to write about it. Again, nothing "new" there.

In keeping with that spirit, this is the last time I'll be blogging about WhatsHisName.

Here are my final thoughts on WhatsHisName's final chapter:

Even if we are to give him the benefit of the doubt in every instance, even if we are to believe the point-of-view he articulated in his closing statement, the best thing I can say about WhatsHisName is that he was a Dictator, not a Governor.

WhatsHisName can argue that he was elected by the people. Even if you ignore the fact that his election had more to do with the lack of leadership from the GOP, or that he got less than 50% of the vote in his last election, or that his popularity now is at historic lows for any governor ever. There have been lots of popular dictators who've won elections overwhelmingly. Fidel Castro comes to mind.

WhatsHisName can argue that he was trying to what was right for the people. Even if you believe that his heart was in the right place, trying to expand health care, create jobs, increase education funding. Despite the evidence from his trial that he was willing to thwart health care programs, hold up jobs projects, and run our state finances to advance his own personal interests, you can believe those things. But nearly every dictator has used populist ends to justify breaking the law as a means.

At the end of the day, WhatsHisName believed and acted as though he was Above The Law. Violating the Constitutional separation of power. Breaking state and federal laws. Using his office for his own personal, financial and political gain. Dictator, dictator, dictator.

Finally, in response to some of the pundits and reporters out there who want to give U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald ALL the credit and the Illinois General Assembly NONE of the credit for yesterday's turn-of-events.

Its certainly true that WhatsHisName's arrest and revelations about efforts to auction off a U.S. Senate seat crystallized public opinion, making impeachment a slam-dunk.

Its also true that many of the allegations included in the impeachment indictment happened during WhatsHisName's first term, and so he surely could have been impeached sooner.

Why then, did it take so long?

First, when lawmakers, led by Speaker Madigan, complained about WhatsHisName's efforts to subvert the General Assembly, ignore the Constitution, violate state laws like those granting JCAR rulemaking authority, what did the pundits and reporters do? They covered it as a battle of personalities and personal intrigue, instead of advancing public discussion of the fundamental legal questions at the core of Madigan's arguments.

Secondly, while there were certainly enough Representatives to indict WhatsHisName, and probably enough Senators willing to convict last Spring, no one who pays close attention can honestly believe that House prosecutors would have gotten a fair hearing as long as Emil Jones was President of the Senate, or even be certain that a trial would have taken place.

Personally, I think WhatsHisName would have been impeached this year even without the U.S. Attorney's actions. owing to the change in leadership in the Senate. And Senate President John Cullerton, and the members of the Senate who elected him, deserve as much if not more of the credit than the U.S. Attorney.

Sine die.

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