IF WHAT is being said about Gov. Rod Blagojevich is true, we can safely conclude that he is a fool, or deranged or no more than a street corner crook - or all of the above. Even the dumbest mobsters use pay phones or aliases for their shakedowns. With the shuddering allegations pouring out of the district attorney's office against the Democratic Illinois governor's office, the stench took me back to the pages of Upton Sinclair's expose of the early days of Chicago's sordid meatpacking industry, The Jungle, in which operators and their agents cut more bloody deals than cattle carcasses under the filthiest of circumstances.
I don't know. Maybe the governor had been reading up on the successful modus operandi of the Iraqi politicians who became millionaires at our expense simply by exchanging vows with the American government. Whatever the case, Blagojevich is history, except for whatever tidy things the D.A. and the justice system have in mind for him.
As an Illini graduate who spent more than a little time in and around Chicago, I confess that I have a soft spot for the Windy City and cannot bring myself to condemn it for the slipping and sliding of some of its politicians. Maybe I am still taking a cue from my late father-in-law, who lived in a suburb on the edge of the city. A businessman, he was a dedicated Republican. But he did insist that although he never voted for a Democrat, he lamented that as a suburbanite he couldn't cast a ballot for the first Mayor Richard Daley. "He's the one Democrat I would vote for," my-father-in-law said unapologetically. "He runs a great city."
I agree that Chicago is a great neighborly town today, too, with much to appeal to the residents and visitors. Even the Cubs came close to a championship this year. (It would have been the first since, let me think, the great Chicago fire?) In Chicago, loyalties run deeply to the point of making exceptions for the sort of political mischief that would hardly win any style points. And that made for some bartering, whenever necessary. The story is told of a visit to Daley's office by a physician who was having trouble getting an easement for some improvements at his office. The mayor offered him, um, a deal. He would see to it that the easement was granted by City Council on one condition: The doctor had to promise free medical care for the Mayor's political operative in the neighborhood. It worked. Not the same as shaking down people to buy a Senate seat, not by a long shot. But it's how things get started to the satisfaction of everyone involved.