There is something delicious about the dual spectacles of Governors Paterson and Blogojevich. Each is currently taking a bashing in the media, each has become the subject of ridicule and each is a sort of ludicrous cartoon character. Paterson won the Hamlet award, wavering on and baiting a flock of senate wannabes and ultimately dissing Princess Caroline. Blago is now the poet laureate, spouting Kipling and Tennyson at every turn. Each has made a hash of his political career. And yet. . . Yes, there is something almost endearing about them.
For starters, they certainly aren’t the run-of-the-mill, consultant-trained politicians you see everyday. They haven’t perfected the art of opening their mouths and saying nothing memorable. So they get points for originality and individuality. They, in their own way, are more real than their less controversial peers. Well, at least more entertaining — as Blago proved once again on ABC’s Nightline:
No, I’m a very honest politician and I see myself — and you can laugh and call this delusional — but when all the facts come out you, will see that I’m right. This is a modern-day Frank Capra story. You remember those old movies? Those black and white movies with Jimmy Stewart and Gary Cooper? The guy who was siding with the little guy, trying to fight for them, create more opportunities for them and protect them from big, powerful forces? Well, that’s my story. It’s a modern day version of it.
And what those people do, some of those establishment people do in those movies is try to make the good guy, whose got idealistic intentions, look like he’s just what you suggested. And I view myself as Jimmy Stewart and Gary Cooper and I know that’s gonna be met with mockery, but that’s how I see it.
It sure beats “no comment,” or “I have faith in a jury of my peers.”
But more substantively, they each have a point. Deep beneath the media sideshow that has enveloped them, they may have the better argument over their refined, horrified critics. It has yet to be shown that Blago actually offered something of value for the senate seat. Indeed, multiple Obama officials swear he didn’t. Yes, he’s given to loony talk about his designs on a cabinet seat or a cushy job at a non-profit firm, but that’s not a criminal offense. (If it were, there would be 535 suspects on Capitol Hill.) So as far as the senate seat “sale” goes, I’m not so sure that Patrick Fitzgerald has the better legal argument.
As for Paterson, his technique left a bit to be desired, but didn’t he wriggle out of appointing an utterly unqualified senator despite the wishes of the Kennedys and the President? He gave Princess Caroline all the running room she needed and let her prove her own lack of fitness for office. Who could blame him in the end for picking someone else? (Well, other than the furious Kennedys and the elite media.) New Yorkers overwhelmingly blame Caroline, not him, for her failure to get the seat.
There’s plenty of fault to be found with both Blago and Paterson. The former may be a crook and the latter an incompetent governor. The jury is out (or yet to be impaneled in Blago’s case). But there is something more than schadenfreude at work here in the delight one feels following their tales. They are, if nothing else, entirely unpredictable and unscripted. That is more than you can say for most politicians.