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Illinois scandal not really hair-raising

December 16, 2008

Maybe it's the hair. Maybe it's the preoccupation with coin. Maybe it's the fact that he's holed up in his home like Butch and Sundance in the face of the Bolivian army.

Whatever the reason, I'm starting to root for the guy.

For all I know, Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich might be history by the time you read this. But so many people are wishing that he would just go away that I can't help but hope that he holds on for the balance of his term -- and then runs for Congress.

Other people might look at him as a criminal, but I look at him as a sort of civics lesson. Who else since Spiro Agnew has provided us with such a clear blueprint of the way the system works?

And under his policy, I think the potential for corruption is actually less than it is through more traditional channels.

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See, Gov. eBay here had a pretty clear and direct method for choosing a replacement for President-elect Obama's Illinois Senate seat. Without rehashing unpleasant details, let's just say that his top three preferred candidates were Johnny Cash, Eddie Money and Joseph A. Bank.

So let's pretend he had not been caught. Someone might have ponied up a half-million for the seat and that would have been that. It would have been a nice, clean business transaction. After it was finalized, no one would have owed anyone anything.

Now, let's compare and contrast this with the more "legal" approach. To win the Senate seat, a candidate would have needed to raise serious campaign jack by selling his soul to oil drillers, credit card goons, chemical companies, Big Tobacco, pharmaceutical manufacturers and George Soros.

This senatorial winner would enter office owing a million favors to a million different special interests -- the notable exception being the American public.

I ask you, who do you believe would be more likely to have your own personal interests at heart?

Now, some of you might be thinking that if a politician were of the moral character that would dispose him to offer a -- bribe is such an ugly word, let's call it a senatorial users fee -- that he, having achieved office, might be tempted by other dark seductions as well.

Oh, and like this is news? What's he gonna do that hasn't already been done? Our energy regulators were caught accepting drug and sex favors from oil companies. Lobbyists jet members of Congress off to exotic locations under the guise of "fact-finding missions," where the primary fact they find is how hard the 17th hole is at St. Andrews. And this is not to mention all the page chasing and wide stances that come part and parcel with the job.

All I'm saying is that the bar has already been set pretty high. What in the name of Ted Stevens is a cash-and-carry senator going to do that isn't already being done as we speak?

Yet, do we show any appreciation to Gov. Blagojevich for showing us a better way? Au contraire. We say he is beyond criminal and perhaps even mentally unstable, primarily because he brazenly talked purchase price, knowing his conversations were probably being taped.

Well of course he knew he was being taped and that he would be caught. This is what he wanted. How else was he supposed to get his seat-selling message out -- hold a press conference? He has shown us a superior method of lawmaker selection and delivered it to us through an ingenious scheme that was cleverly designed to attract the most attention.

My hat is off to the guy, revealing a suspiciously thick head of hair. That's because I have already placed the governorship on layaway.

Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 2324, or by e-mail at timr@herald-mail.com.

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