Kathryn Lopez

Merriam-Webster defines conscience as "the sense ... of the moral goodness or blameworthiness of one's own conduct, intentions or character together with a feeling of obligation to do right or be good." Not only did Blagojevich cast aside any such sense in his operations as governor and his maneuvering for increased power, he also sought to deprive others of their right to live according to their own established ethical codes.

The pharmacist issue foreshadows a debate that, if President-elect Obama is true to his word, will soon rise on a national level. Obama has promised that the Freedom of Choice Act will be one of his first legislative priorities after assuming the presidency. The FOCA would lift all restrictions on abortion in America. This means that states where governors did allow their legislatures to keep pharmacists and hospitals free from mandated abortion-assistance will be overruled by a federal conscience interruptus.

There are obvious takeaways from the Blagojevich scandal that pols were quick to pick up on. For one: distance yourself from these crimes. The Democratic Party has been smart about that -- Obama and all of the Senate Democrats didn't take too much time before they called on Blagojevich to resign from office. But there are more lessons to learn, ones not so obvious. Whether you're running for office, holding a public trust or simply voting -- politics are all about conscience. Being guided by it, protecting it and understanding it. Rod Blagojevich not only cast conscience aside, he ridiculed it, he trampled on it, and, worst of all, he thought he could live without it. He sang his anti-consciousness from the rooftops.

It's not just the crime, it's a matter of conscience.

Kathryn Lopez

Kathryn Jean Lopez, editor of National Review Online, writes a weekly column of conservative political and social commentary for Newspaper Enterprise Association.