Explaining Blagojevich’s fall

Why Chicagoans weren’t as shocked as the rest of us at the corruption charges against the Illinois governor

"For every Barack Obama or Abraham Lincoln," said Edward McClelland in Salon, Illinois "produces a dozen Rod Blagojeviches." Political corruption runs so deep in the state, in fact, that the Illinois governor's arrest on Tuesday was no huge surprise, even though he was elected promising "to clean up the state's 'pay to play' political culture." It's almost "hard to blame" the man for going down such a worn path.

So maybe the governor should try the "insanity defense," said Mark Brown in the Chicago Sun-Times. "As a product of Chicago politics, he could argue, he just couldn't help himself. Nobody ever taught him the proper way to govern. All his role models were crooks."

"If convicted, Mr. Blagojevich would be the second consecutive Illinois Governor to be found guilty of a felony," said The Wall Street Journal in an editorial, "and the fourth in 35 years. We'd ask if it's something in the water, but that would be unfair to the Chicago River. It is certainly something in the Chicago political culture, where money and government power seem especially fungible."

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But, come on, said Scott Turow in The New York Times. "Even by Chicago's picaresque standards," the accusations against Blagojevich are "mind-boggling." The complaint filed by prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald suggest that the Democratic governor—even though he was the "obvious target of a three-year-old grand jury investigation into trading state jobs and contracts for campaign contributions"—had "to be taken out of his house in handcuffs to prevent him from selling off the Senate seat vacated by President-elect Barack Obama."

The nation was shocked at the charges, said John Kass in the Chicago Tribune, and at the image of Blagojevich standing before the judge in jogging pants and a powder blue fleece. He looked like "a jester." But the joke is on the rest of us.

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