Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Blagojevich, in the Footsteps of Ryan

The big buzz here in Chicagoland is Rod Blagojevich's 5:00 farewell address / speech / rally, just before he enters federal prison in Colorado (tomorrow).

Blagojevich actually used the word "mistake" early on in his presentation. It looked as though he might make political history by issuing something faintly resembling an unequivocal admission of guilt and an apology! But no, there were sudden, awkward references to having to "go through" this or that, and suffering "calamity." By the time Blago got to "bearing a cross," he was in the all-too familiar politician zone ... a victim, worthy of pity, certainly not condemnation. Once the groundwork was in place, Blago bragged about his political accomplishments, shared secrets about his personal prayer life and expressed sympathy for a Catholic school that is going to be closed. There was not a single trace of the profanity for which he has been known all of his adult life. 

No, it wasn't that long ago that former Illinois Governor George Ryan was entering prison. Ryan didn't have a rowdy gathering of fans around him on that day. And, as the doors closed behind him, he bitterly insisted that he was innocent and had no business entering prison. Ryan started applying for a full and unconditional pardon (not a mere commutation of sentence, mind you) almost immediately, and it took several years in prison before he could even put in writing the idea that he may actually have made some "mistakes." He is still in prison today. And rightly so. 

I spoke with Sam Adam, Jr. (Blagojevich's former lawyer), briefly on WLS this afternoon. I was actually only able to make a comment and was disconnected. Adam explained / rationalized Blago's failure to admit to anything this afternoon as residue of the fact that an appeal is under way. But, Adam then stated flatly that there was simply no possibility whatsoever that Rod Blagojevih would benefit from executive clemency. In the following twenty minutes, Adam said he believed Blagojevich was innocent, that the sentence was entirely too harsh and that the trial was not fair. Adam also seemed confident that the appeal to the 7th Circuit legitimately raised serious issues. Hmmmm ... the man is innocent, the trial was not fair and the sentence was too harsh ... but there is no chance whatsoever for clemency?! 

Go figure. 

Advice to Blagojevich, when the ear tickling of people like Adam disappears, and you realize you have a few months under your belt in federal prison, write the unequivocal admission of guilt and apology you failed to deliver today. Repeat as many times as possible. Never question your guilt. If anything, only question the severity of your sentence and whether or not any serious, legitimate, cost-effective end of justice is being served by it.

When the last December of President Obama's second term comes around, and you have a few years' time under your belt, make sure your application for a commutation of sentence at-a-later date is on the president's desk. Don't be an idiot, admit only to making "mistakes" and go applying for a full and unconditional pardon. Sam Adam, Jr. is no clemency expert. 

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