My take on the quad-fecta of bad stories today for our beloved governor, Rod Blagojevich:
The stay-at-home governor. Daily Herald's Eric Krol does a front page spread on Rod's absentee style of governing. Rod has done a good job of hiding his laziness over the years. When he first campaigned for governor in 2002, the TV airwaves were filled with Rod running back and forth across the street at community parades, his arms flailing like the inept high school basketball player he was. That, combined with an unprecedented blitz of advertising fueled by his bandit campaign treasury, created an image of Rod as a fast-moving, energetic politician. He does move fast when he moves. The truth is, when it comes to government, he doesn't move that much. He didn't in the state Legislature, in Congress, or the Governor's mansion. According to one source very close to Rod, he curtailed his minimal governmental activity sharply once the federal investigation stories began to appear in 2005. His trips to the downtown governor's office ceased almost completely. He spends most of his time reading books and jogging.
Rod is George Ryan. Sun-Times reporters Chris Fusco and Dave McKinney opine in a commentary that Rod is morphing into George Ryan. I'm glad that one is sinking in. When I was helping Jim Ryan in 2002 against Rod, we tried to sell that notion but couldn't get much traction against an opponent who was carpet bombing us with campaign ads. JR called Rod a "blow-dried version of George Ryan." Memo to Illinois reporters for future reference: When a mediocre politician runs the table on campaign contributions and starts picking up improbable endorsements, like from State Police troopers against a career friend of law enforcement, it's OK to surmise that the game is being rigged. A difference between Rod and George is the breadth of the corruption. When you carefully look at the investigations into the Blagojevich administration, it is clear that the scope of conduct being explored is far wider and more systematic than the George Ryan charges.
Rod's word is not golden. The State Journal-Register's Bernie Schoenburg explores the governor's reputation for not keeping his word. This should not be an open question. Rod, in those 2002 campaign commercials, ran on three themes: cleaning up state government, bringing jobs to Illinois and getting the state's finances in order. It was apparent from year one of his administration that he was failing horribly at all three. He is the most investigated governor in the country, Illinois is about 45th in job creation since he's been governor and the state's financial picture is arguably the worst in the nation. If someone needs further proof, watch this video again in its entirety. Any time Rod's word intersects with the truth, it's an accident.
Rod is a clothes horse. Schoenburg also looks at Rod's expensive taste in clothes and rhetoric against those with the same tastes. Rod has made some feeble attempts to malign high-powered lobbyists and their flashy clothes. Bernie points out Rod likes $135 ties. I have been told by another person close to Rod that he wears nothing but custom tailored suits that cost well north of $1,000 each. Of course, he doesn't need as many fine threads these days lounging around the bungalow reading Teddy Roosevelt biographies. And where all these stories are headed, he'll have his clothing needs taken care by our government's finest institutional fashion designers.
Rod and cicadas. Daily Southtown columnist Kristen McQueary said the governor can't hide his problems with silly press releases about bugs and trees. For the record, I beat Kristen by a day with the cheap Rod-cicada comparison, although I give her credit for the double entendre.