Blagojevich: The Governor Of Self Destruction

This analysis is written by CBS News legal analyst Andrew Cohen



(AP Photo/ Louis Lanzano)
We have learned over the past thousand years or so that there is something about the nature of politics, something about the yin-and-yang of governance and the gratuitous bowing down to voters, that draws self-destructive people into its orbit. The list of elected officials who have ruined their own careers through hubris and greed and lust and sheer stupidity is endless. See, e.g., Spitzer, Eliot.

Illinois Governor Rod R. Blagojevich, however, may have brought this pattern to a new low.

First, he pulled a Gary Hart and challenged the world to tape his phone conversations. His challenge, naturally, came exactly one day before U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald filed a powerful criminal complaint against him based upon incriminating wiretapped phone conversations between Blagojevich and his satellites.

No reasonable person in the world, under investigation (and who knew or should have known that his phone was tapped), would talk smack that way. And yet Blagojevich did.

But that suicidal move was nothing compared to what the governor has done this week while his impeachment trial has been underway in the state legislature in Springfield.

Instead of respecting the political/legal process and defending himself against still-unproven bribery and corruption charges, instead of doing what a reasonable person in his circumstances would do, Gov. Blagojevich left Illinois, traveled to New York, and compared himself to Ghandi, Mandela, Roosevelt, etc.

No doubt Blagojevich chose this tactic—to go out fighting and snarling and shouting—because he believes that no matter what he does or says his political opponents have the votes they need (a two-third majority in the senate) to kick him out of his job. And he's probably right.

But a funny thing happened on the way to the impeachment: the mini-case presented against him in Springfield this past week (just a shell of the full case) has not surprisingly been underwhelming and Blagojevich's disrespectful absence has given newly-wobbling lawmakers a great excuse to impeach him even if they don't think the evidence supports it.

The Chicago Tribune reports this morning on state senator, Kimberly Lightford, who declared yesterday that the "federal case" against Blagojevich "isn't strong" but that Blagojevich and his lawyer "should have been there, in my opinion, to defend themselves… I think they would have had a grand opportunity to take some context and turn it into substance because I just felt like there wasn't much substance to it today."

Listen to audio and read transcripts of the wiretaps played at the trial.


She's not alone, apparently. You add up enough of these "New Doubters" and perhaps you block that super-majority vote, right?

So there you have it: a politician who once again has snatched defeat from the jaws of victory; who is in a deep hole but who keeps digging.

Forget the bribery charges. Forget the foul language. Forget the inapt comparisons. Any politician who wants out of office this badly ought to get his wish.

  • Andrew Cohen

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