Tuesday, June 29, 2010
Bryd, Blago and Barack
By Alan Caruba
The long history of the nation is filled with examples of stupid and greedy politicians. The very profession seems to be a magnet for those who are, too often, ill equipped to function well in any other capacity. There are, of course, exceptions.
The death of Robert C. Byrd will be concluded with the ceremonies attendant to someone who should have left the Senate decades ago due to extreme age. Would any State trust its care to a man who, by the time he died, was so impaired that watching him in his final days in the Senate was an embarrassment of befuddlement. The answer is yes.
Byrd will be hailed a great statesmen, the embodiment of the Senate, and other encomiums, but the fact is that he mastered the rules of the Senate and achieved his stature by being reelected enough to have seniority over everyone and everything there including the chamber’s furniture.
Over the years Byrd managed to transfer an estimated $3 billion to the State of West Virginia. It is filled with some fifty highways, bridges, and every other manner of public structure, all named for Robert C. Byrd and even a few for his wife, Emma. For keeping him in office, West Virginia got back $1.75 for every $1 it sent to the U.S. treasury.
There will be brief references to his former membership in the KKK, but little mention of a voting record that resisted equal rights and justice for black Americans. For as long as he could, Byrd held out until the tide turned. To the end, he was a racist, the only senator to vote against the confirmations of both Justice Thurgood Marshall and Clarence Thomas.
Byrd, however, was not intellectually deficient, a common factor among too many elected to high office. It is one thing to be able to raise campaign funds and make promises and quite another to have actually read a book since having left high school or college. He could quote the ancient Romans and classic literature. His greatest redeeming factor was, we’re told, his devotion to the U.S. Constitution.
In Chicago, a trial is unfolding in which the former Governor of Illinois, Rod Blagojevich, is alleged to have improperly used his office to benefit himself from the appointment of a replacement for Barack Obama, formerly a Senator and, at the time, President-elect of the United States.
Illinois has put several former Governors in jail for various crimes, but I am inclined to believe that Blago is guilty mostly of stupidity and cupidity. As far as I can discern, putting a public official in jail for that is a stretch. Were that the case, Nancy Pelosi and most of the California delegation in Congress would be wearing stripes.
As Jeff Coen and Bob Secter, reporters for the Chicago Tribune, wrote on June 27, “At times, there’s a kid-in-the-candy-store flavor to the wish lists that Rod Blagojevich rattles off in the wiretaps played at his corruption trial. A very frustrated kid in a store with shelves that leave things mostly out of his reach.”
“Blagojevich wants to be ambassador to India, ore maybe Indonesia. Or how about the United Nations? The list goes on: a cabinet post such as health and human services secretary or commerce secretary, university professor, political action committee director, advocacy group head, leader of a nonprofit. Maybe, he said, he would just appoint himself to the vacancy in the U.S. Senate that he’s now accused of essentially trying to sell to the highest bidder.”
Blago even tossed out Oprah Winfrey’s name at one point. His political advisor, now a state’s witness, tried to steer him toward any kind of rational, reasonable choice, even in the context of Chicago’s and Illinois’ Byzantine political circus.
The White House, through Rahm Emanuel, Obama’s Chief of Staff, is implicated insofar as various candidates for the vacancy were run by those most seriously involved in the selection process. The president was kept informed. There is nothing unusual in this.
Indeed, unless someone can be proved to have delivered a suitcase of cash to Blago, what is unfolding in the course of the trial is the sheer banality of the process. No one, including the federal prosecutor looks particularly angelic and free of sin.
What is most striking is that Blago actually believed he was capable of performing the duties of the positions he yearned for. He is a totally vacuous, foul-mouthed egotist with few redeeming qualities, but that is not a crime.
It is, however, an indictment of the voters who elected him and the Chicago machine that exploited their indifference to Blago’s obvious deficiencies. This reflects the growing apprehension regarding Chicago’s gift to America, Barack Obama.
If Blago was a big frog in a small pond, Obama is the biggest frog in the biggest pond there is. It has taken barely a year and a half in office for voters to realize they have voted a man into the White House who has no real capacity, nor competence to be President.
Byrd, Blago and Barack. They offer us the ugliest aspect of politics in America and each was elected by people who should have known better, but didn’t care enough, voting robotically as Democrats or for whatever other reason they had for pulling the lever.
© Alan Caruba, 2010