Sunday, January 25, 2009

The Many Faces of Rod

He used to portray himself as a modern-day JFK Jr., but apparently Governor Blagojevich has now decided to channel other historical figures in his 'Look at me, I'm a Martyr' tour.
Impeached Gov. Blagojevich, on the first leg of his media blitz timed to the start of his impeachment trial, in an NBC interview broadcast on The Today Show Sunday compared himself to human rights heros Nelson Mandela, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Mahatma Gandhi.
For a Governor who thrives on confrontation to compare himself to Ghandi defies any and all logic.

And while I can almost picture the Governor overlooking the Washington Mall delivering his "I Have a Dream (about getting paid)" speech, his invocation of Dr. King is offensive.

The only comparison that can possibly be drawn to Mandela is the future likelihood that both men will have spent significant time behind bars, although I would have to imagine that Yankton, S.D. has little in common with Robben Island.

We should all be thankful that the Governor wasn't around during the civil rights movement. I have to believe that if the Governor was previously incarnated as Rosa Parks, he would have tried to sell his seat on the bus.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Give Him a C for Creativity Also

Just when you think that Illinois politics can't get any stranger, along comes the Governor to smack you upside the head and prove you wrong. In the immediate aftermath of his impeachment, the Governor shamelessly brought out health care recipients to use as human shields aimed at deflecting attention away from the charges against him.

The House was out to get him because of all of the good things that he had tried to do to improve health care for the people of Illinois. That's right, the same Governor accused of holding up $8 million for pediatric hospitals in order to shake out a $50,o00 campaign contribution from the head of Children's Memorial Hospital, was being persecuted for his compassion in the area of health care. But have no fear, because the truth, and the Senate, would set him free. Just like Andy Dufresne in Shawshank Redemption.

After that effort went over like a lead balloon, there was an unsettling silence coming from the Governor. No more. Today, he unveiled his latest tact, comparing his arrest last month to Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor.
"Dec. 9 to my family, to us, to me, is what Pearl Harbor Day was to the United States," he said in an interview with The Associated Press. "It was a complete surprise, completely unexpected. And just like the United States prevailed in that, we'll prevail in this."
Okay, so maybe it's not like Tora, Tora, Tora on the prairie, but it's quite the analogy nonetheless. But the Governor was just getting started:
"I'm not going to be a party to that process," he said. "That would be a violation of my oath of office. That, to me, would be an impeachable offense."
No, technically, it was found that a pattern of misuse and abuse of power were impeachable offenses - showing up to your impeachment trial smacks of common sense. One would think that an innocent man would jump at any chance to prove his innocence.

But then came the day's highlight. He was no longer being persecuted for wanting to provide health care to everybody, he was being impeached so (drumroll please) the Legislature could raise taxes. Of course. Why didn't we realize that at the time?
"The reason they're doing this is because they can't wait to get rid of me so they can raise taxes on the people of Illinois," he said. "This is as much about a tax increases as it is about anything else."
That's right, all the Republicans joined almost all the Democrats in impeaching the Governor for the sole purpose of pushing through a tax hike. Surely, not one nearly as massive as his failed Gross Receipts Tax proposal (that would be the one that failed in the House 107-0), but a big hike in any event. And for good measure, an overwhelming majority of the public was in on the plot as well, as evidenced by the widespread support for his ouster.

What is truly amazing, or unsettling, depending upon how you look at it, is that he says all of this with a completely straight face. And for good reason. It takes at least a day or so for the shock of what he has said to wear off of those who hear or read it. And by then, he's on to another excuse.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Change is in the Air

Everyone, regardless of politics or party, has to recognize and appreciate the historic significance of this Inauguration Day. There are few times in history during which you appreciate that you are actually 'in the moment' at the time that the moment is actually happening, but this is one of those days.

Despite finding ourselves is dire economic times, and as a nation at war, today our country is filled with promise and hope. And it is that spirit which has always lifted our country at the times when it has needed it most. That time is now. And the future is what we choose to make it.

As I write this on the eve of history, watching the news stories, seeing the hope-filled faces of Americans from all walks of life, I believe in our future, and our country, more than ever.

I doubt that there are any words that I can write on this day that would be more poignant than those spoken by Episcopal Bishop V. Gene Robinson at the "We Are One” concert this past Sunday:

“O God of our many understandings, we pray that you will…

Bless us with tears — tears for a world in which over a billion people exist on less than a dollar a day, where young women in many lands are beaten and raped for wanting an education, and thousands die daily from malnutrition, malaria, and AIDS.

Bless this nation with anger — anger at discrimination, at home and abroad, against refugees and immigrants, women, people of color, gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.

Bless us with discomfort — at the easy, simplistic answers we've preferred to hear from our politicians, instead of the truth, about ourselves and our world, which we need to face if we are going to rise to the challenges of the future.

Bless us with patience — and the knowledge that none of what ails us will be “fixed” anytime soon, and the understanding that our new president is a human being, not a messiah.

Bless us with humility — open to understanding that our own needs as a nation must always be balanced with those of the world.

Bless us with freedom from mere tolerance - replacing it with a genuine respect and warm embrace of our differences.

And bless us with compassion and generosity - remembering that every religion's God judges us by the way we care for the most vulnerable.

And God, we give you thanks for your child Barack, as he assumes the office of President of the United States.

Give him wisdom beyond his years, inspire him with President Lincoln's reconciling leadership style, President Kennedy's ability to enlist our best efforts, and Dr. King's dream of a nation for all people.

Give him a quiet heart, for our Ship of State needs a steady, calm captain.

Give him stirring words — we will need to be inspired and motivated to make the personal and common sacrifices necessary to facing the challenges ahead.

Make him color-blind, reminding him of his own words that under his leadership, there will be neither red nor blue states, but the United States.

Help him remember his own oppression as a minority, drawing on that experience of discrimination, that he might seek to change the lives of those who are still its victims.

Give him strength to find family time and privacy, and help him remember that even though he is president, a father only gets one shot at his daughters' childhoods.

And please, God, keep him safe. We know we ask too much of our presidents, and we're asking far too much of this one. We implore you, O good and great God, to keep him safe. Hold him in the palm of your hand - that he might do the work we have called him to do, that he might find joy in this impossible calling, and that in the end, he might lead us as a nation to a place of integrity, prosperity and peace.


Amen is right.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Happy Birthday Dr. King

(I remembered seeing this photo a while ago, but it took me a while to track it down. I hope that we can all appreciate the juxtaposition of the sign behind Dr. King, on which you can see the words 'Why We Can't', in light of tomorrow when our country will revel in the words, 'Yes We Can'.)

Today we celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr. Day and join our neighbors and friends for the MLK Day of Service. In honoring the late Dr. King and President-elect Obama’s call to service, I saw the residents of Illinois come together to serve their community.

While January 19 is designated as Martin Luther King, Jr. Day and is rightfully celebrated as a federal holiday, we are reminded to ‘make it a day on, not a day off.’ I am personally thankful for the success of my 7th Annual Helping Hands Campaign, during which almost two dozen community groups and businesses came together to collect clothing and toiletries for people in need.

During the winter season when many in need are most directly affected, our neighborhood came together to provide new hats, gloves, scarves, toys and many other essentials for the less fortunate. Each year, the donations increase and even in these difficult economic times, the generosity shown through community assistance is heartwarming.

I join President-elect Barack Obama in asking all Americans to not only serve today, but to also make a commitment to volunteer year-round. Tomorrow, almost two years after starting a campaign based on hope, change and the desire to restore faith in government, Barack Obama will be sworn in and assume the Presidency of the United States. These principles will guide him though the next four years.

I hope you will join me in continuing the spirit of change and challenge you to get involved in your local community by volunteering at a local food bank, being a mentor for a young adult or making a donation to a neighborhood organization.

In the words of Mahatma Gandhi, “Be the change you want to see in the world.”

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Rachel and Me

Here's my Friday night appearance on the Rachel Maddow show discussing the impeachment of the Governor.

Saturday, January 10, 2009


What a day. For now, I'll just put up a portion of my comments from today's floor debate.

The rest of the final quote was as follows: "My Illinois is not the Illinois of George Ryan and Rod Blagojevich. Our Illinois is the Illinois of Abraham Lincoln and Paul Simon and Barack Obama...but when it comes to restoring the people's faith, it's not a matter of 'Yes We Can', but 'Yes We Will'."

These are historic times indeed.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Here's to a New Year (and not a moment too soon)

2008 may have been many things, but boring wasn't one of them. Here's to a Happy and Healthy New Year to all of my friends, readers, and constituents. I wish you all the best.