F***in golden! So how did Barack miss Blago?
Barack Obama began the week by saying how sad it felt to be vacating the home where his children had grown. Well poignancy has its place but, in political terms, the president elect must be delighted to leave, unscathed, Chicago and the state of Illinois. Is it the most corrupt of all 50 states? As the Justice Department man put it when announcing the indictment of the current governor: if it's not the worst, it's certainly a contender.
I'll be in the Windy City next week reporting on the murky world of the Chicago Political Machine. But for now, the allegation is that under Hot Rod/Blago/Governor Rod Blagojevich business and government practice in Illinois was no less corrupt than it had been under his three predecessors who've served jail terms since 1970. Indeed, if the charges stick (and he insists he's innocent) Blago may well be the most egregiously corrupt governor. A record holder!
Somehow Obama has emerged from Illinois without blemish. There's no suggestion he knew anything of Blago's alledged attempts to sell his Senate seat ("It's f***in' golden! I'm just not giving it up for f***in' nothing!" - according to the affidavit - download it here (pdf)). And Obama's closest political aides, Valerie Jarrett, Rahm Emanuel and David Axelrod - all veterans of the Chicago school of politics - will, if he is found guilty, have missed Blago's apparently brazen hustling. In those circumstances the question will surely be asked how did these, the sharpest political brains in the country, fail to see what was happening in their home town? It's a big question and a potentially embarrassing one for all concerned.
While we mull over that let's leave the final word to Illinois' greatest contemporary playright, David Mamet, a writer whose characters are almost as profane as Governor Blagojevich and his First Lady on the wiretap tapes.
"I am from Chicago and, so, having been disillusioned with politics at an early age I do not become involved," said Mamet. "The only reason I vote is because they pay me."