Tuesday, February 3, 2009
In Defense of Rod Blagojevich
The following is an op-ed I sent to the New York Times last week. They chose not to publish it, but I had a lot of fun writing it.
Of course I thought it was completely outrageous when I heard what that now-former Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich planned to sell Barack Obama's vacated Senate seat. I even sarcastically posted "Blagojevich '12!" on my Facebook page. But, as the politician's demise played out over the following weeks, I actually came to support him.
The first sign that Blagojevich might be more than a simple, two-dimensional corrupt politician came when, despite clamoring from his colleagues, the media and the public, he didn't resign. Not only did he not resign, he went ahead and appointed a new Senator, who was ultimately seated.
That's when Blagojevich won me over. Any other politician would have apologized and politely faded away. But Blagojevich did what no one expected him to do and it paid off. Naturally, I cheered when instead of showing up to his own impeachment trial, he went on talk shows. I saw it as a challenge. "Try and impeach me," he seemed to say.
In those final days in office, he compared himself to Gandhi, King and Mandela, and I certainly wouldn't go that far. Those men are heroes. But Blagojevich, I think, is very much like a classic American anti-hero. He's a cowboy. I see him as a wanted man who, cornered in the saloon, knows he won't get out alive, but resolves to fight it out anyway.
And isn't that what Americans are supposed to do? Aren't we a nation of people who go up against the odds and succeed? Yesterday, as Blagojevich made his last stand, he also made a good point--he's been impeached, but he hasn't even been convicted of a crime yet. And I couldn't help but feel that justice wasn't served, the same way I'd feel if a gunslinger were shot down by a posse before he was brought to a judge. "Remember Blagojevich!" That's what I'll say next time I see a courageous soul fighting an impossible fight.