Thursday, January 29, 2009

Illinois Democrats Turning Blagojevich Into a (Somewhat) Sympathetic Figure

Only Illinois Democrats could turn fellow Democrat Governor Rod Blagojevich into a (somewhat) sympathetic figure. The Illinois Senate impeachment trial, run by the majority Democrats, appears somewhat unfair in that Blagojevich cannot challenge certain key evidence against him that is put forth by US Attorney Fitzgerald, who carries a great deal of ethical baggage himself (link). Fitzgerald has leveled serious charges against sitting governor Blagojevich via a criminal complaint yet still has not obtained an indictment, and in fact requested and was granted an extension of time in which to do so (link). As for the Illinois Democrats, they're in a huge hurry to get rid of Blagojevich as soon as possible so voters have enough time to forget Democrat complicity and corruption by the time the 2010 elections for all state-wide offices roll around.

The unfair aspects of the Senate impeachment trial have been well commented on by law professor William A. Jacobson at Legal Insurrection (link) and others such as Dave Kopel (link) at the legal group blog The Volokh Conspiracy and Geraldo Rivera the other night on Fox News, for what that's worth (he is an attorney).

People exercised against Blagojevich and in favor of his removal, who assert that this impeachment trial is a political process and not a criminal trial with different rules of evidence and a different standard for "conviction," forget that all of the charges other than the ones relating to Fitzgerald's allegations are based on things that never would have resulted in impeachment let alone conviction. The heart of this case and the heart of the public outcry are the Fitzgerald allegations, the evidence in support of which is mostly in Fitzgerald's hands. So what should the evidentiary standards be for removing a sitting governor? Just that a majority of senators think he's been a bad governor? What if most Senators were Republican, as well as the next-in-line lieutenant governor, and the governor a Democrat (or vice versa)? Do they need solid evidence at all, and if so how much? Are allegations enough for removal? Could the mere fact of a criminal complaint, not yet even an indictment let alone a conviction, be enough to justify a Senate vote to remove from office? What if some of Fitzgerald's evidence is wrong? I detest corruption, but more than that I love the rule of law and basic principles of fairness, which include the right to examine and challenge all evidence said to be against you.

Few seem to care about any of these concerns about fairness and process and precedent, particularly Illinois Democrats so anxious to be rid of their albatross, so Blagojevich the governor is almost certain to be soon gone.

Meanwhile, some Illinois Republicans are illustrating why the state party still has a long way to go. I've caught a few brief news clips on TV and radio featuring comments by prominent Illinois Republicans on the whole Blagojevich mess. They slam Blagojevich. Well, that's fine and good, but no one is defending Blagojevich right now on the merits of his performance as governor. It would be far smarter to blast the Illinois Democrat party of which Blagojevich was a part all these years and the prominent Democrat leaders who endorsed him and pitched his candidacies to the public. That's the Democrat party the state Republicans will be running against in 2010; Blagojevich will likely be long gone politically. When it comes to this kind of public political positioning, too many Republicans are in the minor leagues next to Democrats.

John M Greco