Bill Steigerwald

Don't hold your breath waiting for economic historian Thomas DiLorenzo to show up as a guest lecturer at your local Republican Party's next Abraham Lincoln birthday gala. The professor at Loyola College in Baltimore has made too many enemies among Lincoln lovers and mainstream historians whom he says belong to the "Church of Lincoln."

His two short but sacrilegious books, "The Real Lincoln: A New Look at Abraham Lincoln, His Agenda, and an Unnecessary War" and "Lincoln Unmasked," argue, among many things, that Lincoln was a lover of Big Government whose name should be not "The Great Emancipator" but "The Great Centralizer."

I telephoned DiLorenzo, 54, after he wrote a column online arguing that "Honest Abe" would not be the least bit appalled at the political corruption scandal now racking Illinois because it was exactly the kind of politics he played:

Q: Based on what we know so far, what do you think of Gov. Blagojevich's alleged pay-to-play schemes?

A: What we know so far is he's been accused of all these schemes. Of course, he hasn't had his day in court yet, but it doesn't sound any different than the way Illinois politics works, and Pennsylvania politics and Maryland politics, where I am. It's politics ... . I grew up in Western Pennsylvania, and I always understood that the only reason the people around me who got into politics got into it was so they could do the kind of things Blagojevich is accused of doing. So this is not at all as surprising to me as it is to the mainstream media.

Q: Is it more crude or more brazen, or is it just because we found out about it?

A: Who knows why they targeted him of all people. I'm sure they could have gone to any state and investigated any governor, just about, and found similar things. Maybe it'll come out some day that someone in the federal government had some sort of vendetta against this particular governor. But I suggest that is why he was targeted -- someone in the Bush administration must have had it in for him for some reason . . But this is very common practice. This is how politics works -- pay for play. This is how it's worked for a couple hundred years, hasn't it?

Q: How do Gov. Blagojevich's alleged crimes compare to some of the scandals from history?

Bill Steigerwald

Bill Steigerwald, born and raised in Pittsburgh, is a former L.A. Times copy editor and free-lancer who also worked as a docudrama researcher for CBS-TV in Hollywood before becoming a reporter for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and a columnist Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Bill Steigerwald recently retired from daily newspaper journalism..