From his boyish bangs to his dressed-for-success wingtips, Illinois Governor Blagojevich is a liar, a man whose word is meaningless. Thatís not remarkable for a politician. Whatís noteworthy is that Rod himself is the one saying his political rhetoric canít be believed.
From his boyish bangs to his dressed-for-success wingtips, Illinois Governor Blagojevich is a liar, a man whose word is meaningless.
Thatís not remarkable for a politician. Whatís noteworthy is that Rod himself is the one saying his political rhetoric canít be believed.
Blagojevich has been sued by several former state employees who thought that he was sincere in his campaign promises. Specifically, they bought his seeming pledge four years ago that good workers need not fear losing their state jobs only to have them filled with Blagojevich lackeys.
Yet some prison officials, Republicans and Democrats alike, found themselves unemployed. When they sued, reported Mondayís Chicago Tribune, the governorís lawyers made an astonishingly candid argument.
They claimed that Blagojevichís promise wasnít binding. It had been nothing more than "classic political puffery."
Illinois voters this election year will be in a quandary. As Rod runs around the state making promises all over the place, how can they know which ones are genuine and which ones are merely classic political puffery?
He had an opportunity to set things straight last week when he delivered his state of the state address. After guaranteeing, among other things, the creation of hundreds of thousands of jobs, better roads and public transportation, providing all veterans with health care, a $1,000 tax credit for every student in college, a new prison and treatment center tailored for meth addicts, and a $500 tax rebate on fuel-efficient cars, he could have wrapped it all up by saying, "Just joking!"
Of course, he wouldnít do that. Itís not politically expedient. And Blagojevich is all about electability. Heís a blow dried, poll driven, photo op ready, pre-packaged political creation.
He doesnít even use his real name. Itís not, as you may have thought, Rod or Rodney. Itís Milorad, but he set that aside years ago.
Perhaps itís just as well. Weíd get mighty tired of seeing "Milorad R. Blagojevich, Governor" on all those highway billboards, posters, press releases, Web sites, refrigerator magnets and notices that Illinois mandates insurance coverage of prescription birth control. "Rod R. Blagojevich" just flows so much more smoothly. And looks so much better on a ballot.
Milorad Ė make that Rod - has left his stamp on Illinois. Hoping to use Springfield as a springboard to the White House, heíll say anything to be reelected.
We can expect even more promises than he delivered four years ago. Remember when Mr. Keno said that gambling was addictive and he wouldnít do anything to expand it? That heíd be a reformer cleaning up the mess left by George Ryan and ending politics as usual? That heíd attract many new businesses and jobs to the state?
Rod didnít deliver on any of those pledges. He did, however, figure out how to spend $720,000 on a heated driveway at the Governorís mansion. You know, that place he drops by every so often.
And heís managed to find some new and innovative ways to employ his armed state police bodyguards. Rod has used them to carry his familyís luggage, to hand out Halloween candy and even to maintain custody of that holiest of holies, Rodís hairbrush.
Not that he hasnít acted on some matters. Heís signed legislation on gay rights, a higher minimum wage and public breastfeeding and taken the lead on that most pressing of matters, violent video games. I donít remember him talking much about those issues four years ago, but perhaps he did on days that werenít devoted to classic political puffery.
This year, prudent voters will be well advised to presume that nothing he says is binding. Much of the time, thatíll also be true of his opponents. The difference is they donít use their prevaricating as a legal defense in federal court.
Thereís a story, possibly apocryphal, of President Harry Truman campaigning on an Indian reservation. Each promise he made to the Native American audience was met with enthusiastic cries of "Oompah! Oompah!" The response invigorated the then underdog and gave him a much needed charge of optimism.
That was until he was leaving and had to walk through a corral filled with ponies. Be careful, his escort warned. Donít step in the oompah.
If during this campaign Blagojevich encounters voters yelling "Oompah! Oompah!" at him, heíll know theyíre acquainted with his stylized form of classic political puffery. Heíll need every bit of "testicular virility," as heís called it, that he can muster.
Notes: This appeared in the February 2, 2006 Oak Lawn Reporter.
Biography - Mike Bates
Mike Bates wrote a weekly column of opinion - or nonsense, depending on your viewpoint - for over 20 years. Additionally, his articles have appeared in the Congressional Record, the Chicago Tribune, the Chicago Sun-Times and the Mensa Journal. He has been a guest on Milt Rosenberg's program on WGN Radio Chicago, the Bruce Elliott show on Baltimore's WBAL, the Jim Sumpter show on the USA Radio Network and the New Media Journal's Blog Radio. As a lad, Mike distributed Goldwater campaign literature and since then has steadily moved further to the Right. He is the author of "Right Angles and Other Obstinate Truths." In 2007, he won an Illinois Press Association award for Original Column