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Politics as usual?

Thursday, August 19th, 2010

Perhaps you’re wondering how Democratic celebrity sleaze Rod Blagojevich has managed to escape relatively unscathed from a federal corruption trial, garnering a mere slap on the wrist after being hit with 24 counts of racketeering, bribery and extortion that threatened to put him in the slammer, along with his hair, for the next 415 years.

How is it conceivably possible that the impeached-and-deposed Illinois governor got convicted solely for lying to federal investigators – an offense that, in reality, would put him away for a few months, followed by cushy home detention – despite the fact that the feds in 2008 had taped him doing all kinds of shady business? How could he basically skate on Tuesday – guilty on one count, the jury gridlocked on the other 23 – when it was clear in the profane recordings that he was determined to conduct the public’s business in ways that would boost his earnings and career?

Maybe the jury was confused, maybe the instructions from the judge were too complicated, whatever. Those theories abound. But I’d bet above all that Blago was a beneficiary of the DDD syndrome.

The phrase defining deviancy down was coined nearly 20 years ago by the late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan. He argued that the rise in deviant behavior in our culture and politics has numbed us to the point where we frequently dismiss such behavior as routine or even normal.

In other words, it can be tough to nail a politician on criminal corruption charges if the belief persists that “everybody does it.” And, by all accounts, the holdout juror in the Blago case was a DDD adherent. As another juror told the press yesterday, “She did not see (the tapes) as a violation of any laws. It was politics.”

Many of the courtroom spectators were DDDers, too. Back in early June, Time magazine quoted a married DDD duo. The wife said, “To stay in politics, you have to make deals.” The husband said, “That’s just politics in Illinois. Nobody knows right from wrong because everyone is doing it and getting away with it.”

But there are laws against such behavior, and sometimes the system does work. Philadelphia has also been a hotbed of “pay to play” corruption (with decision-makers skewing their governance to benefit those who pony up money for the decision-makers). The scandal that rocked Philadelphia back in ’03, during the Mayor Street era, ultimately yielded 10 criminal convictions.

But, all too often, we are numbed by the hack behavior that seems so endemic. As legal analyst Andrew Cohen mused the other day, “Is it possible that ‘routine’ politics have become so venal and unbecoming that we cannot distinguish it from official corruption and fraud and obstruction?”

Yes, it is possible. And the DDD syndrome created the opening for Blagojevich to leverage his notoriety, to own his knavery, to market his victimization. You know the guy’s drill already – the Donald Trump show, the weekly radio show, the wife who ate a tarantula on TV, the obscene FBI-taped tirades that wound up as downloadable ring tones. (Personally, I’d rather keep my piano jazz ring tone than have people’s heads swivel at the sound of Blago ranting, “Only 13 percent of you all out there think I’m doing a good job, so f— all of you!”)

And the performance will continue, because the feds are planning to try him again. Yeah, it’s somewhat entertaining that he eerily resembles Carlo Rizzi in The Godfather (Carlo was the dirtbag brother-in-law who got strangled in the car by Clemenza), but the fact is, this machine Democratic governor was accused of extorting money from the CEO of a children’s hospital, for Pete’s sake.

So perhaps it’s worth enduring yet another year of Blagomania, just on the chance that he’ll finally be held to account and our benumbed political culture will find true north on its moral compass – however briefly, at least until the inevitable debut of the clown prince of corruption’s new NBC reality vehicle  I’m in Prison, Get Me Out of Here.


  • swedesboromike says:

    The prosecuter is a boob. It’s the same “yea hoo” who investigated the outing of the not so covert Valerie Plame. For months this boob knew it was Armitage who revealed her name yet continued the investigation at great expense to the US Taxpayers for no apparant reason. In this case they went in too quickly. I have a feeling if they let it play out that it would be Blago, Emanual, and possible Obama headed for prison

    • p-diddy says:

      Swedesboro: George Soros is deleting your messages. He’s the person moderating the this message board. I would know, I’m in on the conspiracy.

      • swedesboromike says:

        ha ha. This site has some nice features but posts should appear as quickly as philly.com so debate and engagement can’t take place in real time.

  • yobill626 says:

    I listened to some commentary yesterday indicating that the Defense basically used “Simplicity & Entertainment” as their defense themes, whereas the Prosecution did things that increased the complexity of the case. As someone who cynically believes that the world has too many “lazy thinkers” & morons, the fact that Blago got a hung jury is no shock. Also, is it a possibility that Fitzpatrick’s legal skills are exaggerated? He didn’t nail Scooter Libby…

    • Rich says:

      He didn’t “nail” Libby in the sense that he didn’t get him to testify against Cheney; however, he did get him convicted of a felony charge (perjury, I think), made him pay a $250,000 fine, and got him disbarred for life, which was probably about the best he could have done. That said, it’s hard to believe he could only make 1 out of 24 charges stick on Blago. Then again, the OJ case was hard to believe at the time too. They let anybody serve on a jury, apparently.

      • swedesboromike says:

        So basically Fitzgerald ruined Libby’s life. And you’re happy about that? It was a stupid political witchhunt. Speaking of that I see the Obama justice department dropped the case against Tom Delay. So now where does DeLay go to get his reputation back?

        • Rich says:

          You mean his reputation as “The Hammer”, the most vicious partisan hack in the history of Congress? I think he still has a lock on that.

  • NE Philly says:

    ***NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) — A government report Thursday brought bad news for workers and the economy: The number of unemployed Americans seeking a financial lifeline has reached its highest level in nine months.
    Last week, the number of first-time filers for unemployment insurance rose for the third time in a row, to 500,000, according to a Labor Department report released Thursday.
    There were 488,000 claims filed the previous week. “This 500,000 level is very difficult, on both a psychological and semi-technical level,” said Tim Quinlan, an economist at Wells Fargo. Initial claims had been hovering in the mid- to upper-400,000s since November.
    “You can sometimes dismiss a big number and say , ‘Oh, it’s just one week,'” Quinlan added. “But with the four-week moving average continuing higher, you can see this is just a bad trend.” The 4-week moving average of initial claims — a number that tries to smooth out week-to-week volatility — was 482,500, up 8,000 from the previous week.*** http://money.cnn.com/2010/08/19/news/economy/initial_claims/index.htm?hpt=Sbin

  • F. Inahoy says:

    Jurors don’t operate in a vacuum. We have a government that refuses to enforce its immigration laws and sues states that try to pick up the slack. We a Justice Department that ignores voter intimidation laws. We have a tax cheat appointed as the secretary of the treasury. We have direct ownership of companies by the government via a lawless bypassing of the bankruptcy courts. We have had multiple Speakers of the House insist that they’ll “drain the swamp” when what they really mean is that it’s now their turn at the trough. And this ugly chain of behavior goes back through multiple administrations. And after all this, people tut-tut at conservatives (NOT republicans) who say things Daniel Patrick Moynihan would have considered obvious.

  • HandNik says:

    Government is corrupt, we should put it in charge of our health care. Now that is a great idea!

  • A Hired Gun says:

    Blagojevich will most likely be retried on at least some of the counts, and it’s a pretty good bet that he will be convicted on more of them. He got lucky that there was one nut case juror, and he may not be that lucky a second time. Blagojevich will do time and maybe serious time.

  • NigeltheMastiff says:

    Now that’s strange. At home, I get a message saying my comments are awaiting review. But I can’t really post at this computer, as I’m working all day. Just thought I’d try this during lunch. BTW, I completely agree with USA#1. I’ve never understood why people want to watch Maury Povich and that other guy (names escapes me at the moment) who has the really trashy talk show. Takes all kinds, I guess.

    • swedesboromike says:

      Nigel, I get the same thing. It says my comment is awaiting moderation. I thought it was a conspiracy to keep conservative posters off of here but since it’s happening to you I guess not. I like the reply function on this site but it does not operate in real time like philly.com

  • NigeltheMastiff says:

    I’m testing. I have left comments for a couple of days, but they don’t show up. I don’t say anything amiss at all, so I can’t understand why.

  • USA#1 says:

    DP, I think the fact that there are people who actually watch the Jersey Shore reality show or pretty much any reality show tells you all you need to know about what has happen to this country. When you have people getting paid to be rude, ignorant, self indulgent morons and people spending time watching them, you know the lines have become blurred.

  • p-diddy says:

    Re the mosque NEAR Ground Zero: If the opposition to the mosque is rooted in irrational fears and prejudice, why should Rauf accede to their wishes? I like how some say that they “don’t like to paint with a broad brush”, then they go ahead and say that the community center/mosque should move – because a majority of Americans are painting with a broad brush.

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