The week of Dec. 10, began with lawmakers contemplating a bailout. It ended with an Illinois lawmaker getting bailed out.
Over the weekend, President George W. Bush was dodging a shoe-throwing, Cy Young-wannabee Iraqi journalist while speaking at a press conference during the president’s visit to the war-torn country. It was not a great week in politics.
However, Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s indiscretions on tape were the major story of last week for its impact on both local and national politics, with the fate of Barack Obama’s U.S. Senate seat still uncertain. Obama held a press conference on Monday to announce the appointment of Colorado Sen. Ken Salazar as Interior Secretary.
But Obama spent much of the conference defending his staff while answering report’s questions concerning chief-of-staff appointee Rahm Emanuel’s prior discussions with Blagojevich regarding the Senate seat. Obama said his office did nothing inappropriate. Federal investigators are still interviewing members of his staff. Meanwhile, they’ve informed the president-elect to hold-off from releasing an official account of who talked to Blagojevich and when until next week.
At a time when job losses in the U.S. continue to rise, these allegations against Blagojevich have forced Obama to once again play damage control in responding to a controversy loosely associated with him. Remember Rev. Jeremiah Wright? It’s just another challenge on Obama’s already-full plate of issues.
Then there is the issue of filling the Senate seat that the governor allegedly tried to auction off like china. Chicago Sun-Times columnist Laura Washington recently stated that the scandal could prove the death blow in seeing an African-American candidate in Obama’s vacated Senate seat. A cloud of suspicion, she insists, will follow Jesse Jackson Jr.-among many candidates in contention-no matter how much he denies not taking part in any dirty dealings with the governor to take over the seat.
Jackson admits he was “Candidate 5,” mentioned on one tape as having an associate looking to cut a deal with Blagojevich over the seat. Jackson says he had no knowledge that a big-time fundraiser and supporter was trying to cut a deal on his behalf. Just what Jackson knew and how close he is to the millionaire fund raiser still needs to be sorted out.
I don’t completely agree with Chicago Sun-Times columnist Mary Mitchell’s assertion that “without an African-American in the Senate it will not reflect America’s diversity.” These are the type of “race politics” we have been trying to move away from in the wake of Obama’s win. And to assume that only a black candidate can address the issues facing our country right now is silly. But I do believe that the choice should be made by Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn. Any choice of Gov. Blagojevich’s would be automatically tarnished.
To hold a special election, which House Speaker Michael Madigan favors, would cost millions that state can’t afford and be too lengthy. The most disheartening aspect of the governor’s poor judgment, though, is the way it has infused “politics” back into the national spotlight when what is needed right now is bi-partisanship to solve our current economic crisis. There is still no resolution on the impending demise of the big three automakers, and home foreclosures across the country have shown no signs of an immediate turnaround.
Right now, too many Republicans and Democrats are spending too much time assessing the political damage of the corruption charges instead of what they need to be doing for their constituents. The governor’s arrest has ultimately slowed our political process a grinding halt when quick and drastic actions are needed to turn this country around.
Granted, there is never a good time for your governor to go to jail, but given the state of the nation, Gov. Blagojevich picked a mighty anachronistic one.