Thursday, January 29, 2009

Thoughts on Blago

This is going to be short, as I really don't want to spend much time on this sordid subject. But I think something needs to be said that no one wants to talk about. To no one's surprise today the Illinois State Senate removed God's gift to late night television comedians, otherwise known as Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich, from office. The vote was 59-0.

The man was indisputably a clown and almost indisputably guilty of some of the most insane behavior in the history of political crime. Let’s be honest here. If stupidity were a crime he would get the chair. But the bone sticking in my throat is not whether or not he was guilty (he clearly was). Nor whether or not he should have been removed from office (this is a couple years over due). My problem is with a really quaint and to be honest, damned inconvenient phrase composed of two words, "Due Process."

It's the bizarre idea that no matter how obviously guilty a man is, no matter if he shot the sheriff in front of a hundred people in broad daylight and sat on the corpse until he was arrested, he is still entitled to a fair trial before he can be hung. And let us again be frank and honest. Whatever you choose to call what went on in Springfield over the last week; due process and fair trial are not words which can be applied. The descriptive term which I am leaning towards is "kangaroo court."

OK, I will admit it. It really is hard to feel bad when an obvious sleaze ball like Blago gets the legal shaft. And I don't think anyone not in urgent need of anti-psychotic medication could seriously argue that Illinois is not better off without him. But I keep getting pulled back to those damned inconvenient words again, “Due Process.”

The man was hauled (figuratively) in front of a tribunal where the rules established that all evidence received from the lower house (which had just impeached the Governor) was to be accepted at face value and could not be challenged. No matter that the accused was not allowed to question or challenge any of the evidence in the House of Representatives either. Nor was he permitted to summon any witnesses on his behalf to testify or to question his accusers under oath.

No. Whatever we might want to call it; this was not justice. This was a lynching. For the record a lot of people who were lynched were as guilty as sin of the crimes they were strung up for. But it was still a lynching. There was not even a pretense to a fair trial. The outcome was pre-ordained. Stalinist show trials had more drama and suspense.

Call me a wimpy liberal (I self identify as a monarchist with strong libertarian sympathies), but when we stop worrying about due process for the obviously guilty, who will stand up when the not so obviously guilty are getting railroaded? How will we know the difference? Blago is gone and good riddance to be sure. But I gotta admit that the way it was done has left a really bad taste in my mouth. All in all, this was not a great day for American justice. It was a rather depressing one.


frmilovan said...

Unfortunately he is Serbian. As if we need more bad press.

Although, he wasn't much of a Serb. How I understand it, he doesn't attend the Orthodox church nor does he go to Serbian functions (unless of course he is looking for a vote). I think he even voted for the bombing of Serbia in '99.

AMM said...

I can be fired by my employer at any time for no reason whatsoever.

orrologion said...

I think the devil is in the details on this one. Do we know, to start with, what the Constitution of the State of IL says on a matter of impeachment? Can impeachment only be done on the basis of a crime, or can other factors be taken into account.

As an example, the Clinton impeachment required both a legal proceeding, undertaken by the House of Representatives and presided over by the Chief Justice AND a ratification by the Senate, which required no legal proceedings being a purely political standard. Clinton was (rightly, to my mind) impeached by according to the legal standard and then that impeachment was not approved by the Senate (rightly, again, to my mind, given the fishing expeditions that led to the perjury). The IL Constitution may not require a legal proceeding, or at least not one that demands a specific and overly high bar if the framers intent was to ensure trust between the executive and the legislature (a constitutional ethic of shared weakness akin to Fr. Stephen Freeman's comments on the 'weakness' of Orthodox ecclesiology).