Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Making Money Talk

My appreciation of irony is as strong as ever; but I never anticipated that it would strike so quickly with so much precision. It appears that, while I was slaving away on my post about the effort of Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich to resolve the current standoff between labor and management at Republic Windows and Doors, a story about the Governor's corrupt practices was breaking. Here is how John Nichols introduced the news in his latest post to The Beat, his blog for The Nation:

Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich, a scandal-plagued Democrat who among other things was preparing to appoint a senatorial successor to President-elect Barack Obama, was arrested Tuesday by FBI agents on what can only be described as breathtaking charges of corruption.

Nichols' elaboration certainly makes a case that his use of the adjective "breathtaking" may be more than rhetorical hyperbole:

Intriguingly, one of the charges against Blagojevich is that he demanded appointment for himself as Secretary of Health and Human Services in the Obama administration. That raises the prospect that either the president-elect or members of his transition team may have cooperated into the federal investigation of the governor's activities. Certainly, Obama fans will hope this turns out to have been the case.

Blagojevich is also charged with seeking benefits for himself and his campaign in return for appointment of a replacement for Obama. "The breadth of corruption laid out in these charges is staggering," declared US Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald. "They allege that Blagojevich put a 'for sale' sign on the naming of a United States senator..."

One of the allegations is that the governor offered to appoint a favorite of organized labor in return for a top-level union job.

And it just gets uglier.

As Fitzgerald says, "(Blagojevich) involved himself personally in pay-to-play schemes with the urgency of a salesman meeting his annual sales target; and corruptly used his office in an effort to trample editorial voices of criticism."

That final reference is to an alleged scheme by the governor and his chief of staff to demand the firing of editors of the Chicago Tribune -- a newspaper that has long been critical of Blagojevich -- in return for state aid for the financially-troubled Tribune Company's sale of Chicago's Wrigley Field.

What emerges is a picture of a governor gone wild, and the FBI reportedly has the tapes to prove it.

Where does that leave things at Republic? The one thing we seem to learn from the case being made against Blagojevich is that he is a man with a clear understanding of how to make money talk, and that is precisely what he was trying to do in trying to improve the relationship between Bank of America and Republic. However, at the very least these charges should lead us to question what his motives really were. Was he standing up for those little guys who had occupied Republic's facility; or was this merely an opportunity to flex his muscles over Bank of America? After all, in Murder in the Cathedral T. S. Eliot had described doing "the right deed for the wrong reason" as "the greatest treason." I just worry that those 200 workers currently occupying Republic Windows and Doors may become collateral damage in this effort to bring down Blagojevich.

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