My relatives and friends who have not seen the blood sport that Chicago politics has always been are mystified by the theater that was our former Governor who may be joining the traditional retirement home for our former governors: behind bars. They have heard the tapes and wonder how he can go on national television with a straight face and claim he has done no wrong.
The thing you need to understand is that Blago truly believes in his soul that he has done no wrong. If ever the FBI were to tape our Cook County Board President, Todd Stroger, or the phone calls of the current Da Mayor, they would hear conversations remarkably similar than the ones transcribed in the New York Times. Mr. Blagojevich knows, just as George Ryan did, that EVERYONE does it (remember your teenager feeding you the same line about staying up after curfew?)
Illinois has a very unusual political training ground. You see, here in Chicago, politics is a coliseum worthy affair. Bring on the Lions, and the biggest meanest guy wins. Most everything gets decided in a back room, constantly revised ethics policies aside. There is blood and gore and drama. All is fair in hiring and government contracts. Blago forgot that you get by with a little help from your friends, and by the end he had nary a one, but a man who married into the machine that is Chicago politics learned early on that it is true if you say it is. Especially if you keep saying it on national tv in interviews timed for the news cycle.
We like to believe this cannot exist in a democracy—that My Way or the Highway Despotism only exists in banana republics and failed African democracies (There is No Cholera in Zimbabwe Mugabe) so it’s a little weird that Rod the Hairdo got legally (???) elected twice. But money talks in politics and he who has the most usually wins, even if you are electing the first Black president. So here we have, in real life, a rise and fall of epic proportion, another act in the ongoing circus that is our unique brand of politics, and something to take our mind off the fact that the state has a multi-billion dollar shortfall. Makes me feel all warm inside.