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At last: The crook is caught



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Updated: October 28, 2011 12:31PM

The clown act didn’t work. The winks, nods and staged affability didn’t mean much. The bluster was wasted.

The curtain has come down on the Rod Blagojevich burlesque show.

“I am stunned,” he said after the verdict. We are not. We are merely relieved.

At long last, we need not pay attention to who Rod Blagojevich is or what he has to say about almost anything. He is officially who we thought he was. The venal crook with a taste for sharp suits is going away to federal prison for a long time, and even a state with a history of tainted politics now has an official standard for what integrity is.

Integrity is everything that Blagojevich was not. We have no reason now to wonder what is right and what is wrong. A jury figured it out quite precisely.

So now we are left to ponder the larger lessons of what his conviction on 17 of 20 counts means.

First, criminal conspiracy is a real punishable crime and not such an arcane murky concept as pundits had suggested. He was a thief who used power and clever manipulation instead of a gun.

He conspired to sell a Senate seat. He conspired to get a sweetheart deal for himself and his wife. He was dealing, and he was serious about pillaging. The jury saw it clearly, judged it harshly and punished it unequivocally. In the quest for gray, the jury saw distinct blacks and whites.

Now there is a standard. A clarity that the “everybody does it” argument had seemed to obscure. His towering hubris had made the criminal conduct of previous governors seem almost tepid.

Second, now that Blagojevich has been consigned to the scrapheap, the people of the state need to ask themselves about what they — and we — must demand of leaders all the way from City Hall to the Statehouse. Blagojevich was under federal investigation when he was elected to a second term, so we should have known who it was we were entrusting with the state’s reputation. We have to do better. Demand better.

He was a crook, and a jury of his peers saw it clearly. That makes us feel pretty good about the jury system.

And third, Prosecutor Pat Fitzgerald’s decision to spend more money, time and legal muscle to achieve justice was not a waste of time. Justice is never a waste, for it separates us as a special nation.

And last, it was a good day for the people of Illinois. Finally.

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