Rod Blagojevich Is Not the Political Norm

Neither side is immune.

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Let's be clear about scandals in government: Neither party is immune from deep embarrassments or far worse. We are always going to have politicians/officeholders from both parties who lie, cheat, or even defame their office and the public trust for money.

The latest sordid example, of course, is Gov. Rod Blagojevich of Illinois, a Democrat who not only appears to be a crook but stupid as well. Because the odor of scandal was already permeating his office, the governor should have known law enforcement folks were on his trail.

Perhaps he was laying the groundwork for an insanity plea when and if his criminal case comes to court. His actions—attempting to sell President-elect Barack Obama's Senate seat—demonstrated an almost deranged man. The tapes of his phone calls and those of his top aide are disgusting.

As my colleague David Broder of the Washington Post wrote last week, this governor has led a charmed life at the ballot box.  He won his first term in 2002 because he had more money than two more qualified Democrats, and he won the general election because the GOP itself was mired in scandal. As the incumbent,he won re-election four years later thanks to weak opposition.

The sooner this already infamous governor resigns from office, the better. Illinois has had too many former governors, two Democrats and one Republican, behind prison bars. Not a pretty picture for just one state.

Naturally, a few right-wing Republicans are trying desperately to draw Obama into this web of scandal. There is no evidence to support this claim, but those Republicans seem unwilling to forget that their presidential ticket was soundly defeated last month. Guess they are looking for revenge of sorts.

Part of the reason for the McCain-Palin team losing to Obama-Biden was the scandals in the last eight years during George W. Bush's two terms in office. It may not have been a core issue, but voters have long memories for scandals without being reminded very often.

Let's call the GOP roll in case you've forgotten: Scooter Libby, Jack Abramoff, Duke Cunningham, Bob Ney, Larry Craig, and Ted Stevens, along with a supporting cast of lesser knowns. Former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales was not charged with any wrongdoing, but he politicized his office so deeply that he left the government a pathetic figure.

Obama's chief of staff, Illinois Rep. Rahm Emanuel, reportedly made suggestions to the governor but no money was discussed. If it had been, prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald would have certainly made a point of it. Nothing wrong with suggesting names for appointments to vacancies unless sleaze sets in.

The point here is not to minimize Blagojevich's alleged crime of pure greed. In my book, he's a genuine dirtbag for being so brazen in his apparent attempt to sell a Senate seat to the highest bidder. He would deserve prison time and a fine for his actions.

However, those same Republicans should think strongly about further attempts to tie Obama to the governor. In fact, the record so far is that Obama's people seem to have distanced themselves from him.

Unfortunately, these events tend to deepen the cynicism of voters toward all politicians. In my nearly four decades of reporting on politics at the national level, I found nearly all in both parties to be honorable public servants. The bad apples like Blagojevich tend to tar all of them.