Friday, January 9, 2009

Before the Big Doings in D.C., Springfield Takes Center Stage

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — The Illinois House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly to impeach Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich on Friday, setting the stage for a trial in the State Senate, where lawmakers will have the difficult task of separating the political theatrics of the governor’s problems from the legal issues.

Mr. Blagojevich, a Democrat, is the first governor in Illinois history to be impeached.

The New York Times

My trip to Illinois included three days in Springfield, the state capital. And that is how I have my very own photos of the august capitol, and how it came to pass that I was on a tour of the building, just as Governor Blago was in Chicago, announcing Burris as his choice for the open Obama Senate seat (Dec. 30).

We stopped by an office on one of the floors, and the guide made a point of saying that this the “actual working office” of the governor. We were allowed to take pictures of the anteoffice, and there is a portrait of good old Honest Abe next to a statuette of Elvis, which the guide made a point to say is an important possession of the governor.

Under the watchful eye of the great Lincon, the ego is the Las Vegas Elvis, with all the undertones of the delusions of kingship. That pretty much sums up the Blago. New Yorkers can’t really throw stones at governors these days—the era of Mario Cuomo being long over. But, woah.

Blago ended yesterday's press conference with Tennyson's Idyls of the King:

"Though much is taken, much abides; and though
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are;
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield"

That's the same way that Fraiser Crane ended his last radio show. This is one pop culture kind of leader.

Springfield is a company town; almost everyone works for the state government. My Illinois friends say that Blagojevich is NEVER THERE—-he won’t live in the executive mansion, but lives in Chicago instead. He announces everything from Chicago. What an insult to his own state government staff.

The general observation has been that Obama has distanced himself from Blago for years now. That’s good. The whole “tainting” issue, in terms of Burris, would apply to Obama too, though less drastically so.

But that shouldn't worry the president-elect, for Stanley Fish brings intellectual smoke and mirrors to the rescue. Citing no less than St. Augustine, Hobbes, and the tradition of the monarchy, Fish reasons that the workings of the body politic are in a dimension beyond anyone’s particular body:

The (perhaps paradoxical) truth is that while governing has or should have a moral purpose — to safeguard and advance the health and prosperity of the polity — it is not a moral practice. That is, one engages in it not by applying moral principles but by applying legal principles. Senator Reid and his colleagues in the Democratic party seem finally to have figured that out, which is why, in the absence of any more bombshell revelations, Roland Burris will be seated as the junior senator from Illinois.

Of course, many don't agree with this perspective:

That a marriage be valid though the clerk be immoral is in no way analogous to the Blago-Burris situation. . . . Blagojevich stands accused of bleeping attempting to sell the office to which he has appointed Burris, and he has been caught on tape saying as much. Burris knew this (and evidently spoke out against Blago shortly after the governor’s arrest). When he accepted a Senate seat that Blago had been marketing, Burris himself acquired the taint. There is a direct relationship between the alleged crime (selling the seat) and the appointment. As Reid said before Burris/Rush/Blago played the race card and Obama muscled him to reverse himself, any Blago appointee would be tainted.

There is a spirited discussion following Prof. Fish’s essay, which makes for interesting reading during a snowy weekend. But soon we’ve all got to get beyond these distractions and pay full attention to the new president and his plans for leading this country.

Travel tip: If you go to Springfield, I highly recommend that State House Inn. It has been beautifully renovated to late 1960s grooviness.


Christopher Campbell-Howes said...

Tennyson's Ulysses, surely?

'.... Come, my friends, 'Tis not too late to seek a newer world.
Push off, and sitting well in order smite The sounding furrows; for my purpose holds To sail beyond the sunset, and the baths Of all the western stars, until I die. It may be that the gulfs will wash us down: It may be we shall touch the Happy Isles, And see the great Achilles, whom we knew. Tho' much is taken, much abides
etc., etc.

*Deep sigh*

They don't write them like that these days, even in Chicago...

M.A.Peel said...

Christopher, it remains to be seen how good the inauguration address is.