Blago The Clown Makes Me Laugh, But It’s Not Really Funny
As the news media and politicians from both sides of the aisle expressed their shock and outrage at the very public fall of Rod Blagojevich yesterday and today, I turned to cynical humor to express myself. The entire story is ridiculous and laughable on many levels.
Of course, there’s the obvious: that Governor Blagojevich knew he was under investigation and still spouted off at the mouth over the phone and even dared the media to bring it on. Like excitement at Christmas, hubris was in the air. One couldn’t help but wonder what kind of nut job this guy really is. Or is he just an idiot? Or, more to the point, is he just another politician
Then there’s the professional-journalist media “experts” who were SHOCKED by Patrick Fitzgerald’s revelations. I call BULLSHIT! These so-called political analysts could hardly be surprised by this whole thing. I know I wasn’t. They work the halls of power day after day getting access to information that we in the real world rarely see or hear about. They know that backroom deals are always being worked by our elected officials/politicians trading off favors for favors. It’s the way the system works, and the nation’s journalists know that. Many of these political analysts come straight from inside those power centers to the airwaves.
They also know that powerful interests have easy access to our elected officials every day and use that access to get what they want from our government. How do they do it? Follow the money! They do it openly in two ways: lobbying and political campaign contributions. They sometimes also do it in covert, illegal ways: bribery such as building or remodeling houses for elected officials. This brings to mind names other than Blagojevich like Ted Stevens, and Randy “Duke” Cunningham and some say Sarah Palin herself, although the jury isn’t in on that last one. But ask yourself, how did the everyday woman from Wasilla with a relatively modest income get that great new house right after letting the bids and obtaining the funding for that overly lavish community center? I’m sure time will tell.
Now, as Dr. Phil says, “Let’s get real.” If you smugly think that this is only going on in faraway Illinois, get your head out of the sand! Look at your Statehouse and City Hall. This kind of politics is everywhere! It’s how democracy has evolved in our country. It’s probably always been like this, but most of us don’t know about it. But some of us do! That last group includes the news media, both electronic and print, as well as our elected officials. There are others of us who also know because of personal experiences gained through a lifetime. I am in that category.
This whole sorry mess takes me back more years than I care to think about to a time when I attended a meeting of the local court reporters in Corpus Christi, Texas, where the President of the Texas Shorthand Reporters Association made an impassioned plea for us to give money to a newly-formed Political Action Committee (PAC) to help us combat those who were trying to replace us with tape recorders in the courtrooms of Texas. Included in that plea for contributions for PAC money was a further plea for money to enable the state organization to hire an Austin lobbyist. I left that meeting outraged. The whole thing ran counter to everything I had learned back in civics class in junior high school. It all sounded like corruption in government, and I wanted nothing to do with it. I decided right then and there that I was going to campaign and get elected to the Board of Directors seat that represented my region of Texas and stop this evil practice.
Fast forward about two years and there I am sitting in that board seat at my first statewide meeting as an elected official of the organization. That day we voted on the hiring of a management company that would join our efforts with other clients to hire an experienced Austin lobbyist. What was my vote? Yea! That’s right, I went against the very thing that had made me decide to run three years before. Why? Because in that three-year period I educated myself on how things really work in Austin, Texas. What I learned was that a powerful lobby funded by big, out-of-state, national tape recorder manufacturers was donating to the campaigns of my elected officials in order to push their agenda: the sale of tape recorders to the courts of Texas. They also had a well-connected lobbyist and several former judges and current elected judges on board to make that case. I was stunned and disappointed that my state government was being manipulated behind the scenes by people from places like Atlanta, Georgia. I quickly realized that the only way to get access to my own elected officials and defend myself and my fellow court reporters was to fight fire with fire. So, yes, I voted to do what had to be done. I don’t apologize for it, but I still consider the whole sorry truth exposed to me in this episode of my young life to represent what was wrong then and is still wrong today.
The real lesson that we must all face in politics is simple. Follow the money! As long as we allow our politicians to accept political donations from big corporate interests and the richest of our citizenry, this will continue to go on. As long as we allow a group of professional lobbyists on K Street in Washington, D.C., and on similar streets in our State Capitols, to
have access to our elected officials, we are going to continue to get more of the same. As long as we allow people like George W. Bush and Dick Cheney to give no-bid sweetheart deals to companies like Halliburton, this is going to keep on keepin’ on. As long as we continue to allow our Governors, like Rick Perry in Texas, to get away with selling toll roads across the land of his cronies to the Nation of Spain, without any investigation as to what the good governor got in return, these things will keep on happening.
Who is to blame for all of this, you may ask? Well, look in the mirror. We, the American citizens are to blame for this. Day after day we go along minding our own business, with our heads firmly in the sand of denial, while the people we elect rip us off. Why? Partly because we go to church and let a man who only cares about abortion and homosexuality tell us how to vote, ignoring everything else that’s going on. Partly because we don’t bother to educate ourselves about what is going on in Washington, let alone our Statehouses and City Halls. Partly because we let some television commentator do our thinking for us. (Can you say FOX NEWS?) Partly because too many of us believe “Rush is right!” when he clearly is wrong on almost everything. Partly because we let some quick-talkin’ woman breeze in from Alaska without the most basic knowledge about the world outside her own community and jump on her band wagon because, “She’s one of us.” The list of why’s goes on and on.
People, IT’S TIME TO WAKE UP! Democracy may be a gift that was handed down to us from our forefathers, but they are no longer here to make us do more than take it for granted. Once upon a time the City of Athens was a democracy, but that did not last. Even the mighty Roman Empire practiced a form of democracy in its Republic days, but it was swept away by men who knew how to manipulate a lazy public into giving up power over their own lives. Using democratic elections, Hitler led his nation on the most self-destructive course in modern times.
I’m encouraged by our newly elected President’s desire to change the way things have been going, but it would be foolish for me or any of the rest of us to just sit back and relax without keeping an eye on what’s going on. Fortunately for President-Elect Obama, Blago the Clown expressed his disgust with him in one of those infamous tapes. Of course, that hasn’t stopped the Republicans from making what hay they can out of this. And it may be that Blagojevich may walk away scott free from this whole mess because Patrick Fitzgerald felt he couldn’t wait to let the problem run its course. Joe Scarborough and Mike Barnicle had an interesting conversation today about how Blago the Clown wasn’t saying anything in those infamous tapes that politicians don’t say all the time behind closed doors when they think no one is listening. That’s discouraging.
If we want to preserve our democracy, it is time that WE, THE PEOPLE, demand our government back and start screaming for an end to the lobbying system and enact not only a felony-level ethics code for our elected officials, but find a real way to get public financing of all political campaigns in our nation, our states and our cities. Otherwise, we may be living in the last days of the American Republic and heading down the road to the American Empire led by a well-funded group of elites who do as they please, leaving the rest of us behind. IS THAT WHAT YOU WANT? I didn’t think so.
KEEP FIGHTING THE GOOD FIGHT!