CHICAGO -- It was a marriage made in heaven, as this politics-saturated city probably understands heaven. Rod Blagojevich, the future governor, met his future wife at a fund-raiser for her father, the alderman from the 33rd Ward for 30 years now. Herewith a story about the perils of politics in what is -- the state's license plates say so -- the Land of Lincoln.
Illinois' northern border is north of Cape Cod and the southern tip is south of Richmond, Va., but the state's beating heart is Chicago. Here the alderman and his son-in-law recently had a falling-out that began at a family Christmas gathering where talk turned, naturally enough, to a Joliet landfill that was violating laws. The landfill's operator was a relative of the alderman's family -- a second cousin of the governor's wife.
This was a test for Blagojevich, 48, a former congressman. Because he hails from this city, and because his opponents warned that he would be a pawn of the alderman who launched him into politics, and because he replaced a Republican who has been -- like four previous Illinois governors -- indicted, Blagojevich wants to be seen as reformer from the city where, years ago, a politician cheerfully and accurately declared, ``Chicago ain't ready for reform yet.''
Blagojevich closed the landfill. The alderman said he felt like a first wife discarded for a trophy wife. He also accused the governor of trading appointments to state boards and commissions for campaign contributions, then retracted the statement. The governor said, ``I'm glad my father-in-law finally told the truth.''
The truth, says a Blagojevich aide, is: ``The people who are qualified to serve in these appointments are by definition people who are active in government and active in their communities. So it should be no surprise that they are active politically.'' So there.
Sleek is the mot juste to describe Blagojevich -- elegant dark suit, glistening white shirt, subdued tie and a shock of jet-black hair that Elvis would have envied. He has mended his ways since being criticized for sending six Illinois state police cars and 10 bodyguards for his fund-raising trip to Beverly Hills, where at one point they blocked intersections to speed his passage.
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