Steve Chapman

The fireworks you see on the Fourth of July make an irresistible spectacle, but they can do it only in the course of destroying themselves. Rod Blagojevich, in his mad blitz across all the channels on your TV, was following a similar course. He has our attention now, but not for long.

A wise sage once said that every man labors to conceal his insignificance from himself. Politicians do so by conducting campaigns, winning elections and basking in the deference that goes to high elected officials. No one goes into politics in an effort to learn self-effacement.

Some people, of course, enter politics from a selfless resolve to advance idealistic goals. Blagojevich, however, has never given indications of being one of those. He sees the electorate as a vast mirror reflecting his glory back on himself.

He has shown an amazing capacity to block out anything that interferes with that view. When he lost a major House vote on his health care plan by a withering margin of 107-0, he responded, "Today, I think, was basically an up. I feel good about it." So it's not surprising that he can dismiss FBI recordings and other powerfully incriminating evidence as though they were just graffiti on a men's room wall.

His televised comments this week were vintage Rod: brazen, lacking in substance and utterly unconvincing. He explained his absence from the first three days of the Senate trial by insisting it was rigged. The legislature, he claimed, is about to "remove a governor elected twice by the people without being required to prove any wrongdoing." He lamented that he is not allowed to call witnesses on his behalf.

In fact, he is free to call witnesses, have lawyers present a defense and appear on his own behalf -- which he now says he'll do by making a closing argument, though not answering questions. His only witness impediment is that the Justice Department asked that the legislature not call anyone who might be asked to testify in the criminal prosecution -- but that restriction binds his accusers as well.

In any case, much of the impeachment case concerns matters, like his efforts to circumvent the law on prescription drug imports and vaccine purchases, that are not the subject of criminal proceedings. No one is stopping him from calling witnesses on those.

Steve Chapman

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

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