Jewish World Review Dec. 24, 2008 / 27 Kislev 5769
Governor waxes poetic, but Combine rolls on
By John Kass
http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | You've heard of "Dead Man Walking"?
That was Dead Meat talking to the nation on Friday, letting America - and the Beltway media that have willfully ignored political corruption in Illinois - know just how low our politicians will crawl.
"I will fight. I will fight. I will fight," said Gov. Rod "Dead Meat" Blagojevich, his hair helmet remarkably relaxed as he proclaimed his innocence.
Portraying himself as the victim of a "political lynch mob," he promised to fight impeachment until his last breath, sending a none-too-subtle message to politicians in Illinois and Washington.
The governor's message?
Better make me a good offer, boys, and be quick, or this bucket I'm lugging will spill and everybody will get their loafers wet.
The thing is, the Illinois slop bucket has already begun to spill.
With the nation distracted by Dead Meat's manic performance art, President-elect Barack Obama made a fascinating announcement.
Obama selected outgoing Illinois U.S. Rep. Ray LaHood, R-Combine, for the post of secretary of transportation, putting LaHood in charge of Obama's planned trillion-dollar public works bonanza being sold as a jobs bill.
"Every dollar that we spend, we want it spent on projects that are there, not because of politics, but because they're good for the American people," Obama said. "If we're building a road, it better not be a road to nowhere."
Not because of politics? What does the great reformer take us for, a bunch of chumbolones?
What Obama forgot to mention is that with LaHood in charge of the roads, they'll lead to one place:
Cellini, the Republican boss of Springfield who has been indicted in the Blagojevich scandal for allegedly shaking down the producer of the movie "Million Dollar Baby," is a strong LaHood ally. Cellini runs Sangamon County, and LaHood has enjoyed Cellini's political support.
They also joined to help oust the last true reformer in Illinois politics, former Sen. Peter Fitzgerald, the Republican who was denied an endorsement from his own state party after he brought federal prosecutors to Illinois with no connection to the bipartisan Combine that runs things here.
Republican money man Cellini is not only the Chicago political connection to machine Democrats and Mayor Richard Daley's City Hall - and a Blagojevich fundraiser - he's also the boss of the Illinois Asphalt Pavement Association.
They're the guys behind the guys who pour that hot sticky stuff on the roads, but don't get their cashmere sweaters dirty and drive black Escalades to the job site, before wheeling off for some osso bucco at Volare or other fine restaurants. They're interested in federal highways, aren't they?
But all that is future politics, waiting to spill from the Combine's bucket, and in the meantime, there was Blagojevich, in his frenzied mind the victim of our coarse appetite for innocent political blood, invoking Winston Churchill and calmly reciting Rudyard Kipling.
In his mind, the governor is not the man we thought he was. He's not the guy who was wiretapped by the feds, then charged with trying to sell Obama's Senate seat to the highest bidder, or who tried to shake down a children's hospital, or who pressured the Chicago Tribune to fire editorial writers.
Instead, he's a hero who has not lost his head and can be called a man, my son.
"I'm dying to answer these charges. I'm dying to show you how innocent I am," Blagojevich said, a study in casual outrage.
Then he proceeded to recite "If," Kipling's poem that is reprinted on millions of graduation cards given to boys in eighth grade, usually with a $50 bill inside, telling them how to grow up to be men.
"If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs and blaming it on you..." Dead Meat recited, thrilling TV news producers, his head still, his voice clear.
It was a touching performance, not as emotionally charged as his defense lawyers screeching that this was an honest man, and that they were honest men who would tell reporters the truth about everything.
But it was touching nevertheless. Especially that Elvis salute at the end, when he walked off without answering questions.
Though he clearly invoked the courage of the Brits at the height of their empire, the one thing I didn't think about as he spoke was Churchill during the Battle of Britain.
Instead, watching Dead Meat, I was thinking of the guy in the ShamWow commercials on late-night TV.
ShamWow, the magical fabric that mops up 10 times its weight in liquids. The guy on the commercial pours cola on a white carpet and presses the ShamWow to the fluid and presto. It's mopped up. Yours for only $19.99.
Like Dead Meat, the ShamWow guy also knows the value of repeating the theme three times. Only he doesn't say, "I will fight! I will fight! I will fight!" He says, "ShamWow! ShamWow! ShamWow!"
And if Dead Meat fights to the last breath, as promised, politicians will need boatloads of ShamWows to sop up what's going to spill.
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John Kass is a columnist for the Chicago Tribune. Comments by clicking here.
© 2008, Chicago Tribune. Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.