Wednesday, June 20 , 2018, 1:00 am | Fair 61º

 
 
 
 

Mark Shields: Is Blagojevich Dumb and Crazy?

The Illinois governor's actions were so low that they could be the basis for an insanity defense plea.

As of this writing, according to the deputy historian of the House of Representatives, Fred Beuttler, 11,991 individuals in the past 219 years have served as House members. Every one of them has been elected to the House.

Mark Shields
Mark Shields
Winning a popular election is the only way anyone can get to be a House member. Article 1 of the U.S. Constitution requires that all House vacancies be filled by special election. House members take some justifiable pride in the fact that while U.S. senators (177 of them since senators were first popularly elected in 1913), vice presidents and even presidents can be appointed, no House member has ever been appointed to his or her office.

One House alum who obviously never grasped that basic truth about the institution in which he had served was the former three-term representative from the 5th District of Illinois from 1996 to 2002, Democrat Rod Blagojevich.

In wiretaps obtained by the FBI, now-Illinois Gov. Blagojevich can be heard, when not plotting how to allegedly “sell” the U.S. Senate seat recently vacated by President-elect Barack Obama, discussing with his staff members whether and how they might profit from appointing a successor to Rep. Rahm Emanuel of the same 5th District of Illinois, because Emanuel has agreed to be Obama’s White House chief of staff.

We have learned from the tapes how venal, craven and avaricious Blagojevich is, but here we see just how ignorant he is. This is a man who served as Cook County assistant prosecutor (under then state’s attorney, now Chicago Mayor Richard Daley) and who is widely regarded as one of the most prominent graduates of Pepperdine University School of Law. And he thought he could shake down some deep-pocketed airhead for a couple of grand for an appointment to the vacant House seat.

This guy Blagojevich is as deep as a birdbath. He must be able to clean out both his ears with one long cotton swab. On tape, he is heard stating that if the Senate appointment doesn’t bring him the vast riches he so relentlessly covets, he could always appoint himself to the Senate: “And I can always use it. I can parachute me there.”

In addition to being no constitutional scholar, Blagojevich shows he is no threat to historians Doris Kearns Goodwin, Henry Steele Commager or Arthur Schlesinger Jr.

The track record of governors who have gone through the charade of resigning their governorships so the lieutenant governor can take the oath and then appoint the resigned governor to the Senate is less than dismal. Voters don’t like their elected state officials playing too-cute musical chairs with phony resignations followed by Senate appointments.

How much do voters object? A whole bunch of precedent is a good guide.

Donald Ritchie, the assistant Senate historian, lists the last nine governors who have resigned their office to then be immediately appointed by their successors to a vacant Senate seat: Wendell Anderson of Minnesota, Donald Russell of South Carolina, J. Howard Edmondson of Oklahoma, Edwin Mecham of New Mexico, John J. Hickey of Wyoming, Edward Carville of Nevada, Charles Gossett of Idaho, A.B. “Happy” Chandler of Kentucky and John E. Erickson of Montana. All nine — except Happy Chandler (who later became the commissioner of baseball who integrated that sport with the Dodgers’ Jackie Robinson) — lost their Senate re-election races. Voters don’t like cute.

Blagojevich is demonstrably dumb, and by “planning” as he does on the tapes — with a current job rating somewhere in the margin of error of 4 percent favorable to 12 percent favorable — to make a run for president in 2016, he proves himself totally delusional. This may be the basis for an insanity defense plea.

For Obama and his staff, which have been forced by this scandal to divert precious time, energy and attention away from the transition tasks, Blagojevich is a living reminder of the second rule of U.S. politics: There will always and inevitably be somebody on your side you wish devoutly was on the other side.

Mark Shields is one of the most widely recognized political commentators in the United States. The former Washington Post editorial columnist appears regularly on CNN, on public television and on radio. Click here to contact him.

Support Noozhawk Today

You are an important ally in our mission to deliver clear, objective, high-quality professional news reporting for Santa Barbara, Goleta and the rest of Santa Barbara County. Join the Hawks Club today to help keep Noozhawk soaring.

We offer four membership levels: $5 a month, $10 a month, $25 a month or $1 a week. Payments can be made through PayPal below, or click here for information on recurring credit-card payments.

Thank you for your vital support.

Become a Noozhawk Supporter

First name
Last name
Enter your email
Select your membership level
×

Payment Information

You are purchasing:

Payment Method

Pay by Credit Card:

Mastercard, Visa, American Express, Discover

Pay with Apple Pay or Google Pay:

Noozhawk partners with Stripe to provide secure invoicing and payments processing.

  • Ask
  • Vote
  • Investigate
  • Answer

Noozhawk Asks: What’s Your Question?

Welcome to Noozhawk Asks, a new feature in which you ask the questions, you help decide what Noozhawk investigates, and you work with us to find the answers.

Here’s how it works: You share your questions with us in the nearby box. In some cases, we may work with you to find the answers. In others, we may ask you to vote on your top choices to help us narrow the scope. And we’ll be regularly asking you for your feedback on a specific issue or topic.

We also expect to work together with the reader who asked the winning questions to find the answer together. Noozhawk’s objective is to come at questions from a place of curiosity and openness, and we believe a transparent collaboration is the key to achieve it.

The results of our investigation will be published here in this Noozhawk Asks section. Once or twice a month, we plan to do a review of what was asked and answered.

Thanks for asking!

Click Here to Get Started >

Reader Comments

Noozhawk is no longer accepting reader comments on our articles. Click here for the announcement. Readers are instead invited to submit letters to the editor by emailing them to [email protected]. Please provide your full name and community, as well as contact information for verification purposes only.

Daily Noozhawk

Subscribe to Noozhawk's A.M. Report, our free e-Bulletin sent out every day at 4:15 a.m. with Noozhawk's top stories, hand-picked by the editors.

Sign Up Now >