The governor of Illinois, Rod Blagojevich,
is becoming a folk hero. Have you noticed? Among other things,
he has succeeded in sticking his thumb in the collective eye of the politicians,
not just in Illinois but in Washington, D.C., as well. While those politicians run around in apoplectic circles, trying to figure
out how to clip Blago's wings, he outflanks and outmaneuvers them at every turn. Resign from office? Up yours — and watch as the Illinois Supreme Court refuses to remove him. Refrain from appointing a replacement for Barack Obama's Senate seat? Fahgitaboutit — and watch as the Senate's Democrats are forced to seat Blago's appointment. Impeachment? A mere technicality, a political hatchet job. After all, we know how bogus Bill Clinton's impeachment was (not to mention that he survived it quite nicely, thank you).
Blagojevich is, if nothing else, a lovable rogue, if only because he's figured out he doesn't have to buckle under the pressure of the "powers that be." He has managed to survive the all-out collective onslaught of the state of Illinois, the United States Department of Justice, and the United States Senate.
Talk about grace under fire! With the full arsenal of state and federal government aimed at him, what does he do? He goes jogging, of course. Oh sure, everyone says that someone who's charged with a crime is innocent until they're proven guilty, but we all know that's an exercise in lip service. Everyone knows Blago is guilty, if only because everyone has already decided he is. How can anyone with that much hair, or who reveres Elvis, not be guilty of something? Right to trial? Just a formality. And yet, many capable criminal-law practitioners believe he may very well not be guilty of any crimes, based on what has come to light about his conduct so far.
Think about it: We idolize criminals, convicted or not. We may not admire them, but we sure do erect legends around them. How else to explain the Bonnie and Clyde phenomenon? Or D.B. Cooper, Jesse James, John Dillinger, Billy the Kid (or Captain Kidd, for that matter)? How about the entire Mafia, à la The Godfather and The Sopranos?
We even name products after criminals (e.g., Captain Morgan rum, named for the famous pirate). Sometimes, we even secretly hope they outwit the authorities, if only because we know the authorities aren't always right, and there, but for the grace of bad judgment or bad luck, go we. Remember, even Robin Hood was considered a criminal by the authorities. It's no accident that "true crime" books are perennially best sellers (especially the kind that have pictures). We are fascinated by anyone who can commit crimes and sometimes, for however long, even get away with them.
Don't get me wrong. We pick and choose which criminals we idolize. No one idolized Jeffrey Dahmer, and yet a film that loosely replicated his exploits was a multiple Academy Award winner and one of the most popular films of all time. Same for Don Corleone or Tony Soprano.
There's no telling how much longer Blago will survive the withering pressure he's under, both politically and criminally, but in the meantime, we can all watch his exploits and marvel at his chutzpah.
Marty Aussenberg writes the "Gadfly" column for