Steve Chapman

Amid all these revelations, you could almost forget that Blagojevich had been practically begging to be evicted for years. During the bribery trial of Chicago developer Tony Rezko, there was testimony he traded state contracts for campaign cash. He tried to import flu vaccines and prescription drugs in defiance of federal law. He expanded a state health care plan without any legal basis. And along the way, he did just about everything possible to make a buffoon of himself.

But his earlier sins were only proof of how hard it is to get oneself removed from office. In all of the republic's political history, only seven governors have ever been impeached and convicted. Americans are often disappointed with the performance of those they elect. But as a rule, citizens seem to think that if they were foolish enough to install a clown or a crook, they deserve to suffer the consequences.

In this case, the voters of 2002 could be excused for assuming any Democrat would be an improvement on Republican incumbent George Ryan, whose own envelopment in scandal dissuaded him from running again. Blagojevich -- I am not making this up -- got elected on promises of reform. As a Chicago Tribune story put it during his first gubernatorial campaign, his main theme was "a promise to overhaul the scandalous culture of Springfield and install new leadership imbued with hope, idealism and, of course, opportunity." Ha. Ha. Ha.

By 2006, people didn't expect that from Blagojevich anymore than they expected palm trees to sprout on Michigan Avenue. But thanks to great piles of campaign cash, weak opponents and widespread despair at ever achieving good government in this state, he was able to win re-election. Like many a politician, the governor benefited from his talent for fostering cynicism.

The victory, however, seems to have fed his own worst instincts. After being forced to resign as governor of Connecticut in 2004 and serving time in prison, John Rowland reflected that what brought him down was a "sense of entitlement" and the "arrogance of power." He's not the last politician to display those flaws -- or to learn that the public's patience is almost unlimited, but not quite.


Steve Chapman

Steve Chapman is a columnist and editorial writer for the Chicago Tribune.
 

 
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