Giving farewell speech, shaking hands with strangers, smiling for photographs and handing autographs amidst throngs of reporters, photographers, TV cameras and onlookers on his last few hours as a free man have raised more harsh criticisms than sympathy for disgraced ex governor of Illinois, Rod Blagojevich.
As he left his home Thursday, March 15 to catch his plane that would take him to Colorado’s Englewood Federal Correctional institution to begin serving his 14-year prison term for corruption, a relatively subtle but still friendly Blagojevich reaped unflattering send offs from the media who couldn’t help getting turned off, disgusted even, by his celebrity rock star-like antics.
Opinion makers, TV hosts and bloggers thought the had no remorse… no shame and never admitted guilt as he repeatedly said he was “leaving with a heavy heart, a clear conscience and high, high hopes for the future.” He vowed in his farewell speech on his final night as a free man, “But that this is not over, and we have faith in the future, faith in the rule of law and we have faith in God that right ultimately will make might.”
While the critics recognized the pain and sufferings the fallen governor has caused his wife and two young daughters, they were quick to point out that the public should not lose sight of the fact that he was found guilty of corruption and therefore, must do the time.
There is no denying the fact that Blagojevich got an extremely harsh punishment for his crime. Some people who don’t discount his guilt and the need to punish him argued he got a sentence worse than some murderers did. However, when in December, U.S. District Judge James Zagel sentenced Blagojevich to 14 years in prison for his crimes — one of the lengthiest terms in Illinois history for government corruption, the judge said the ex-governor’s conduct tore “at the very fabric” of government.
After Blagojevich’s predecessor, former governor George Ryan was sent to Indiana federal prison to serve a 6 ½ years term for corruption, one would think it would be a strong deterrent for those who will come after him. Lo and behold, the guy that came after him followed suit.
But unlike Ryan, Blagojevich has never quietly retired from the public scene after his indictment and consequent conviction. He has never admitted to any guilt either. He vowed to appeal his case to the Supreme Court believing he was on the side of the law and perhaps hoping to get his conviction reversed on a technicality. The truth is, some observers think that technically, he has not committed a crime. Still, some others think it was all a political machination and in the end, when his case reaches the Supreme Court, this decision will be overturned.
In the unlikely event that the Blagojevich ruling is overturned by the Supreme Court, does it really erase the significance of those taped conversations about Obama’s Senate seat and the rest of very revealing talks of impropriety all caught on tape? Perhaps the important thing for the disgraced governor right now is simply to be free and get back to his family. Who cares anymore about what people say? Like he said, he has high, high hopes for the future.
As for the State of Illinois, it was another sad day in history and another reason for people and late night talk show hosts to poke fun at.