If there’s one thing that is as certain as death and taxes among most top Illinois Republican and Democratic party leaders, it’s this:
Justice demands that ex-Gov. Rod Blagojevich remain in a federal prison until his entire sentence has been satisfied.
Indeed, the lingering anger and disgust over the price he continues to exact from Illinoisans is apparent as GOP leaders join many Democrats in urging President Donald Trump not to cut in half the disgraced leader's well-deserved 14-year prison term.
Trump told reporters aboard Air Force One Wednesday that Blagojevich has "been in jail for seven years, over a phone call where nothing happens.” The president did concede that the potty-mouthed politico shouldn’t have said what he said during the call in question, “but it was braggadocio, you would say."
No, that’s what Trump would say. It’s not what those familiar with the body of evidence against Blagojevich would say. Nor is it what the testimony and facts presented at his impeachment proceedings and pair of criminals trials proved.
Illinois House Minority Leader Jim Durkin, R-Western Springs, suggested Trump’s comments were politically driven and a part of his effort to appeal to voters who distrust the government.
Releasing Blagojevich now, however, "is just wrong for those of us who lived through this,” Durkin said. “I don’t think (Trump) understands the different levels of corruption which the former governor was convicted of.”
Given the president's propensity to leave the fact-finding to others, we suspect he knows little about an extensive record of corruption punctuated by trying to sell President Barack Obama's Senate seat and threatening to withhold a grant for a Chicago children's hospital until he secured a $25,000 campaign donation.
Those are just two of the most egregious misdeeds committed by Blagojevich, who continues to say he is guilty only of “playing politics.” And it is that ongoing failure to acknowledge or apologize for acts a government prosecutor said “would make Lincoln roll over in his grave,” that continue to convince us that he is not a fit candidate for early release.
Sadly, Blagojevich's freedom remains on the president's mind thanks in large part to the ex-governor’s wife and chief defender Patti Blagojevich. It turns out, however, that she also may have a powerful ally inside the Trump White House. The New York Times reports that Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner had been pushing for a full pardon. Aides reportedly were able to convince the president to opt for clemency instead.
That would certainly be preferable to an outright exoneration that would allow Blagojevich to re-enter politics, perhaps even win another Illinois elected office. And in modern-day America, who knows what higher office might be in the cards for a player not only willing to cheat when he has to, but eager to do so even when he doesn’t.
Either way, Blagojevich's early release will amplify the terrible message that corruption continues to be business as usual in the Land of Lincoln.
Don't believe it? Here's what the Washington Examiner said after Trump's latests remarks: “Such corruption was typical of Blagojevich’s Illinois: a true American kleptocracy, in which his chief of staff was also accepting envelopes stuffed with cash from the infamous developer Tony Rezko. The former governor, like his Republican predecessor George Ryan, was sent to prison for his own robust role in maintaining Illinois kleptocracy.”
A clearly encouraged Patti Blagojevich tweeted last week that her family is “very hopeful that our almost 11-year nightmare might soon be over.”
Unfortunately, Illinois' nightmare will go on so long as the misdeeds of corrupt leaders like Blagojevich are treated by our top leaders like petty, victimless-crimes.