Friday, December 12, 2008

Political Machines in Our Past

I’m not a native Illinoisan; I don’t play one on TV. I did live in the state for just shy of 10 years. That time was spent about two hours south of Cook County. Well, most of it was anyway. I lived in Cook County during the week for about nine months, though. This, however, does not make me an expert. It doesn’t give me license to spout out like I know something about politics in the windy city, which is why I’ve remained rather silent on the subject over the past week.

I heard about the good governor’s problems early enough to be able to deliver the news to a few who hadn’t heard yet. One of the responses was nothing more than some very strongly negative feelings about Rodney R. Blagojevich. The voting public mostly accepted that he was as crooked as a barrel of snakes – about as slimy too. There’s just something about the politics of Chicago that makes me nauseous. For nearly 10 years, I found myself looking at the statewide elections and those on the ballot and seeing nothing but bad and worse as my choices. Am I surprised at the news this week? No.

Now, recently, we elected a fellow from the Chicago political machine to the highest office in the land. President-elect Barack Obama knew these men with whom he had to rub elbows as he ran for public office. I’m not going to get into the “you know a man by the company he keeps” arguments. For the record, I believe Mr. Obama is a pretty honest man. I hope I am not proven wrong. Anyway, I’m pretty certain our president-elect knew very well the caliber of men with whom he was rubbing elbows. I’m sure there are some skeletons in his closet. That’s one of the hazards of playing the game on the Chicago turf.

So, Mr. President-elect has this off-the-wall guy who’s been elected to be the state governor, a nobody who came from nowhere. He was elected to a couple of good political jobs and now he’s somebody. He’s somebody with some very interesting political problems but you just cannot pick and choose your associates in the windy city. You see, like everywhere else, that’s the job of the voters. So, Mr. Obama is pretty much forced to play with the likes of Blagojevich because that is how you get things done. They aren’t blood brothers or anything.

So, here’s something that Barack Obama probably knew all too well. His past associates in Chicago were possibly going to pop up in some kind of scandal in some way at some time. It was only a matter of time before something was going to happen. This Governor guy, he was one of these guys. The worst part of this, however, was that Mr. Governor would have the power to pick his successor. This loose cannon, rolling around and smashing things up was going to be a problem. Mr. Obama certainly recognized that such a scandal would be distracting and embarrassing. Do you think he is the kind of guy to just sit back and wait for something to happen? Or, did he see an opportunity to clean up a little bit.

A month or so post-election and the “Yes We Can” frenzy is over. We’ve got a little over a month before the inauguration so the “We’re Changing the World” fever has not had a chance to kick into gear. Mr. Obama has been assembling his “Team of Rivals” for his cabinet. He has placed most of his main opponents from the primaries safely in positions within his administration, giving them secure positions in history for the next few years. Barack has done a pretty good job managing the media, though that isn’t too difficult since the economy is keeping everyone distracted and Christmas is only a couple weeks away.

Slow news cycle, distractions and . . . Bam! One morning at 6:45, the FBI knocks on the door of Rodney’s home. “I’m special agent . . . from the FBI and I’m here to place you under arrest.”

After a quick surge of news interest that won’t last long and damage control in the right places at the right time, Governor Blagojevich will be out of the picture and Mr. Obama will be free of any ties he might have had with the slime ball. The Governor is toast. The replacement senator will be selected in some other way, lending some credibility that would otherwise not exist. It’s a twofer!

I am enjoying this political stage play. I am left wondering, though, what will the next act bring!
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