Feb 012009
 
Authors: Sean Reed

If it looks like a rat and talks like a rat, it’s probably a rat. Or at least that seems to be the opinion of the Illinois legislature.

On Thursday, in a unanimous vote, the Illinois Senate voted to oust and permanently bar from serving in state office disgraced Gov. Rod Blagojevich for a slew of corruption charges, including an allegation that he tried to sell the vacant U.S. Senate seat left by President Barack Obama.

This vote comes after two months of intrigue, accusations and sound bites from tapes the FBI obtained while performing their own investigation for a future criminal trial.

For his part, Blagojevich has and continues to assert his innocence, even going so far as to boycott his trial in the legislature as unfair because of rules that barred him from calling witnesses to testify on his behalf.

Instead of attending the trial, Blagojevich instead hit the media circuit in New York, in an attempt to make his case directly to the public.

In several interviews, he challenged the legitimacy of the proceedings and specifically called into question the evidence being used against him, including the FBI tapes.

And, to be perfectly honest, he had a point.

Because of the ongoing investigation, much of the evidence compiled by the FBI was not accessible to members of the legislature, leaving much left to hearsay, a fact even admitted by some members of the state senate, according to The New York Times.

This hindrance was especially apparent when it came to the tapes, which many media outlets would have you believe were damning evidence against Blagojevich.

Of course, that could still be true. However, the versions heard by the senators and posted online were so heavily redacted that multiple conclusions could be drawn from them.

Really, when it comes down to it, the so-called “evidence” didn’t prove anything beyond a reasonable doubt.

On that point, Blagojevich was at least partially in the right.

However, contrary to his claims on the press junket, this doesn’t mean that he should not have been impeached.

This trial was not about proving beyond a reasonable doubt that Blagojevich committed a crime. Nor was it even to prove so with a preponderance of evidence.

This trial was about whether or not Blagojevich was, given his activities, fit to remain governor of the state of Illinois.

Now, at best, the man was a misunderstood miscreant with a penchant for profiting off his political position. As worst, he was a criminal. It isn’t clear which, but really, it doesn’t matter.

What is clear is that Rod Blagojevich, through his actions following the resignation of President Obama from his Senate seat, acted in a manner which, in the opinion of both major parties within the Illinois state legislature, was unbefitting of the governor of their state.

In this manner, he lost the confidence of the lawmakers of his state, with whom at least a working relationship is absolutely necessary for him to effectively serve his constituents. Without their confidence, he’s a lame duck.

Now, Ol’ Blago may have been comfortable with this — he repeatedly lauded how he was able to circumvent the legislature to get things done — but his constituents certainly wouldn’t have been.

The fact is, as a governor, you need to be able to count on the legislature to help you further your agenda and serve your state — at least sometimes.

When he opened his big yap on those tapes and said whatever it is that he supposedly said, Blagojevich lost the faith of his legislature and his state. There’s no coming back from that.

The Illinois legislature did the right thing by removing him from office. Hopefully, the new guy, Gov. Patrick Quinn, won’t make the same mistakes.

Sean Reed is a senior political science major. His column appears Mondays in the Collegian. Letters and feedback can be sent to letters@collegian.com.

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