Another nice summary from correspondent Steve Springfield, via e-mail:

“I don’t need to belabor what a hindrance our former chief executive has turned out to be for the Prairie State. You can (and should) read it elsewhere – there’s a lot of entertaining chicanery to explore. Heck, the state and national media and talk shows were piling on worse than anything we saw on the gridiron Sunday. But he certainly had it coming, and deserves every bit of it after going on his woe-is-me PR blitz last week instead of facing the firing squad like a man. It was the last gasp of the narcissist, and it was quite effective at painting an even larger target on a dead man talking.

Things coulda been different. Just as our new President has been generously provided with a multitude of examples how NOT to govern by his predecessor, Rod had watched Gov. George Ryan exit after a single term clouded by corruption. Rod even got to hit from the women’s tee for his first gubernatorial campaign, when the GOP’s candidate, Attorney General Jim Ryan, emerged from the primaries with that most unfortunate of surnames. Blagojevich had the money, the Dem organization backing him and the appealing blue-collar, immigrant background story to convince the majority that real change was coming.

It was at a time when we really could’ve used a youthful, reform-minded politician to steer the Ship of State out of (George) Ryan’s wake. Instead, Rod just steered it right back into the rocks.

For a man who loved running for office, he sure didn’t know how to act once he got there. (Supposedly this was the same style exhibited out in Congress, but no one took much notice of his ineffectiveness that far from home.) Here, he wasted no time in alienating those whom he’d need to accomplish things. Lawmakers, the media, his party leadership, religious groups, you name it — he eventually pissed ’em off. Those old enough to remember the ’70s saw echoes of Dan Walker. (Ed. note: Gov. Walker eventually did time for malfeasance that occurred after he left office.)

One of Rod’s first perceived slights was a diss to my hometown, and it offered an early glimpse into his public relations spin pattern. He justified not moving down to the Governor’s Mansion in Springfield because he said he didn’t want to uproot his young daughter from her school and friends. I happen to have a couple of daughters roughly the same age as Rod’s. They’re wonderfully resilient little kids. Oh sure, they would’ve bitched some at first, but Springfield’s not exactly Siberia. We have theaters and restaurants, malls, even a couple of nice museums. Moving into a gated mansion where you would be waited on by servants, having all your needs met at the push of a button — to a kid it’s the stuff of a Disney sitcom. You’d be thinking your old man was Daddy Warbucks, ferchristssake. But no, he wanted us to believe he had the best interests of his child at heart.* And so Chicago slowly and inexorably became the operational base for Team Blago.

*This “Do It for the Kids” mantra is now about as credible from him as it is from Velvet Revolver. Rod can tell us under oath in a few months about how his health care expansion plan was another way of looking out for the kids. And then why he expected a $50K campaign donation from the director of a Chicago Children’s Hospital before he’d release an $8 mil State payment to the facility. (Hey, Rod: unfortunately wiretaps = context, i.e. goodbye to wiggle room.)
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Another early warning sign of dysfunction: There was a family falling-out with poppa-in-law Dick Mell, the Chicago Alderman and power player who helped Rod seize the brass ring. Supposedly it was over a small quid pro quo mentioned innocuously at a holiday dinner. “Sorry, Dad. Homey no longer plays that game,” or words to that effect may have been uttered. One can imagine young Rod clumsily trying to burn a bridge for the right reason, so eager to cast himself as the crusader for clean government, that he threw Patti’s dad out with the landfill trash. When his son-in-law later tried to get traction by publicizing the conversation, Mell was so livid that he threatened to sue. He eventually backed down, but the damage was already done. The family is estranged to this day, and it was enough of a red flag to draw the attention of the feds.

(See Rod, some people were paying attention to the good things you tried to accomplish.)

A couple more red flags flew over Springfield back in ’03: First, the consolidation of powers under the Central Management Services umbrella meant the Gov could move money around so confusingly that it became very difficult to track. The State was soon paying rent to itself for buildings it already owned. Second, grouping all agency communication officers into one hydra-headed beast in Chicago ensured that no director housed in the various department HQs generated anything noteworthy without it first having the administration’s polish applied. I have to believe that these reorganizations would have been appreciated by folks like Bernie Madoff and Joseph Goebbels, respectively.

If Rod truly wanted to be a white knight, all he had to do was walk the walk. But he probably saw it as The Path Least Taken in Illinois. It may have been strewn with all the pitfalls intrinsic to real public service and sacrifice. So he chose the well-trodden path instead. There his ineptitude and style of governance might better blend in with the woodwork, just like those pesky bugs that the FBI had to eventually place in his campaign office.

The variety of criminality and sheer vacuousness caught on Fitzgerald’s wiretaps is surprising, even in a “How Low Can You Go”-arena like Illinois politics. He can spin it all he wants to Whoopi and Larry and Dave, but those of us who’ve been paying attention know it’s ultimately not going to be chalked up as misinterpretations of Rod’s style.

And when his dear daughters are old enough to do their own research — HS or college-age — they’re going to look back and realize Dad was a major asshole. Having to pass through security checkpoints each time they want to see him will be a major clue.

Elvis has finally left the building, but he’s left it in shambles. Now the hard choices of fiscal responsibility fall to others. Governor Pat Quinn has had a few weeks and a career to prepare for these tasks, but the list of problems grows tougher every day. He’s asked for our prayers, and he certainly needs them.

But for many of us in Springfield, one big prayer has already been answered.”

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