Have you ever watched a baseball game between two really bad teams? You know, that really good rivalry between Seattle and Baltimore, or Pittsburgh and, well, . . . the Cubs. It doesn’t necessarily mean that all the players on those teams are bad, although you would think that would be part of the problem given how bad they are. But in these situations, sometimes something just doesn’t seem to gel, and the product on the field is just not as stellar as say the Yankees or (can’t believe I’m about to say this) Minnesota. The strangest part about watching two really bad teams play is that they really seem to give it that much more, because they don’t want to be the ones who got beat by “that” team. The baseball on the field might still be bad, but the intensity is up, and the games are at least interesting to watch. And should a game be close, you might still be treated to one of those wild celebrations at home plate as one team squeaks out a win with a home run in the bottom of the ninth. Sure, in reality, the team really didn’t win anything except the ability to say, “Hey, we aren’t as bad as they are.” They are still bad, but at least now they are the best of the worst that baseball has to offer.
That was the feeling I had the other day while watching the reaction to the verdict in the Rod Blagojevich corruption trial. For anyone outside of Illinois who may have been living under a rock for the past couple days, the verdict was that there was no verdict. There was a hung jury on 23 of the 24 charges, and a conviction on just one of the lesser charges, lying to the FBI. But the way Blagojevich and his attorneys met the press with their chests all puffed up and spouting about how they had been vindicated, you would have thought they had won an acquittal on all charges. Maybe they were not watching the same trial I was, but this verdict was not a grand slam. The final vote on the strongest charges including dealing with the alleged “selling” of President Obama’s former Senate seat, were 11 to 1 for conviction. The former governor should be thanking his lucky stars, not rubbing things in the face of the prosecutor, Patrick Fitzgerald, who has already indicated that there will be a retrial despite the erroneous allegation from the defence that it would cost $25 to $30 million and that the money could better be spent saving the dead babies in the streets.
To call the Blagojevich trial a circus almost seems somewhat demeaning to the real clowns rather than the ones involved in this fiasco. With most of the $2.8 million gone from the campaign fund that was bankrolling his defence, Blagojevich will most likely not be able to retain the loud mouthed antics of his current legal team, and they will be missed. In part, it was the boisterous personalities of Sam Adam (Junior and Senior) that help convince that one juror to hold out. Without that sleight of hand and misdirection, there may have been more than just that one conviction. You know, that little thing about lying that Rod himself has brushed off as an unjust persecution from five years ago. It may seem like a very small victory for the prosecution, but that one little lie could cost Blagojevich up to five years in prison, although it will probably be more in line with the five months Martha Stewart served when convicted on the same charge.
And where has Robert Blagojevich been during this whole ordeal? With all the big headlines and front page covers that the former governor has commanded, many have forgotten about Rod’s co-defendant. His brother Robert. It seems that the trial and publicity that has come with it has caused quite a strain on there already turbulent relationship, and I would imagine the prosecution will make another run at Robert to try to get him to turn on his brother. And if I were Robert, I would strongly consider it this time. Eventually, his brother’s ego will be his downfall, and it is a big enough ego to take them both down. We all know the real reason Rod did not take the stand in his own defence, and that is because he would have hung himself. The mounting no defence ploy probably won’t work as well the second time around, and I would expect that Fitzgerald will streamline the charges to make them easier to understand and ultimately easier to convict. It is not very often that we get a second chance to do something right, but I suspect Fitzgerald has learned a lot from this first round and will be more prepared for the second trial. A second trial that I am sure Marcia Clark would have killed for, if you will pardon the bad pun.
And so the Blagojevich saga continues. Much will be written in the coming weeks, and I am sure we will be hearing from Rod himself on the nightly news, or radio talk shows, or The View. But the best quote about this whole ordeal came from former Alderman Edwin Eisendrath, who ran against and lost to Blagojevich in the 2006 Democratic Primary.
“If we find him guilty, it’s an embarrassment. If we don’t, it’s an embarrassment. We found a way to do both.”
And on a final ironic note. Did you see that Roger Clemens was indicted today? The charge? Lying to Congress during the steroid hearing. When will these people with the oversized egos ever learn. You can get away with cheating and stealing, and in some cases you can even get acquitted of murder, but never, and I mean never, lie about it.
Especially to the government.