I can’t decide who’s dumber: the genius who came up with the idea of giving the car companies $40 billion when the Senate already voted not to give them $17 billion, or the governor of Illinois.
Watching Rod Blagojevich act like everything’s fine, go on about his business governing the state, and refuse to resign leaves me wide-eyed with wonder. It’s like watching those car chases that were always on the TV news when I lived in LA. The guy keeps driving and swerving and hitting more parked cars even though the cops see every move he makes from their helicopters and there’s absolutely no way he’s going to get away. Or that part of Goodfellas where Ray Liotta’s character is so strung out on coke that he keeps right on with his illegal shenanigans even though he knows the Feds are watching him and bugging his phone.
That’s why my first thought was that he had to be on drugs. Most of the car chase guys are on drugs, too, or at least drunk. Figuring he was either insane, stupid, or on drugs, I Googled “Rod Blagojevich cocaine” and “Rod Blagojevich drug use” but nothing came up, so I guess he’s either just significantly less bright than the average political grifter, or mentally unbalanced. Either way I almost — I said almost — feel sorry for the guy. I mean, he’s just so obviously out of his league. And now the whole country is making fun not only of him, but of his wife and his hair, too. Consequently, I am not going to make fun of his hair, or his wife, or anything about him except his venality and the lack of finesse with which he practices his venality. It would be too easy and too cruel, sort of like picking on the fat kid with pimples in junior high school. A decent human being just doesn’t do it.
On Sunday the panel on CNN’s After Party were talking about — what else? — Mr. Blagojevich, and they showed the video clip of Barack Obama saying that there are basically two kinds of politicians: those who go into politics because they want to serve the public (noble souls like himself, naturally) and those who see it as an opportunity to line their pockets. I’m paraphrasing from memory, but that was the gist of it. Then the woman on the panel (not Donna Brazile; the other one, whose name I don’t know) said something to the effect of, “We all know that 95% of politicians are in it for the right reasons, and it’s just that awful 5% that gives the profession its bad reputation.” Or words to that effect, with which everyone else on the panel appeared to agree.
Do they really believe this? Do you? Does anyone? I wanted to yell at the TV (I didn’t because I was exercising and was short of breath), “No, you don’t! You don’t know any such thing!” I’ll bet if every American had to bet a year’s salary on whether more than 5% or less than 5% of politicians were venal, only people significantly dumber than Governor Blagojevich would bet on less than 5%.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that they’re all corrupt, so let’s cut poor old Blagojevich some slack. “Everybody does it” is no excuse for you doing it, buddy. After all, I’m a mom, and we moms are famous for saying to our kids, “If all your friends jumped off a building, would you jump off one, too?” I’m sure even Mrs. Blagojevich would say, “Even if all your friends are selling senate seats, Rod, does that mean you should sell one, too?” I’m speculating about the governor’s mom, by the way, not his wife; the younger Mrs. B appears to have no problem with graft.
I won’t hazard a guess as to what percent of the politicians in this country are lining their pockets, but I’m inclined to think you could represent political honesty with a bell curve: a small segment at one end who are as squeaky clean as Jimmy Stewart in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, a small portion at the opposite end who are as thuggishly corrupt as Blagojevich, and a great big hump in the middle who allow varying degrees of “wiggle room” in determining what’s a legitimate exchange of favors and what’s actual corruption. People do favors for each other all the time. Sometimes it’s just doing a favor, and sometimes it’s pay to play. In some cases it’s obvious which is which, but there’s also a gray area between the two, and I submit that a lot of politicians (a hell of a lot more than the paltry 5% the CNN panelists would allow) operate in that gray area at least some of the time.
And then there are the politicians who, instead of trying to make a few bucks to line their own pockets, are busy picking your pockets and mine so they can give $40 billion to the failing car companies. Bad enough that my children and grandchildren are going to have to stagger along under the $700 billion plus they already gave the banks and brokerages and insurance companies.
Maybe we should take a page out of Mr. Blagojevich’s playbook and just sell all 100 Senate seats to pay off the debt. Every two years you put 33 (or 34) Senate seats up on e-Bay with a $10 million reserve price each. That’s at least $330 million every two years. No, not enough to pay for all the bail-outs. Maybe if we sold the 435 House seats and all the cabinet posts, too? It sounds like a joke now, but if the government keeps on doing what it’s been doing, it won’t be just Chysler facing Chapter 11 and a fire sale; it’ll be the Federal Government.