Updated: August 3, 2011 6:50PM
Don’t these people have any shame?
That’s the question I always hear from people during political corruption trials.
The answer is “No.”
You could hear it in the defiance of former Gov. George Ryan when he took the witness stand during his trial on federal charges of political corruption.
And you could perceive it in the twisted logic Rod Blagojevich used in defending his actions.
They had good intentions, these men would tell you.
They did nothing different than any other politician.
In fact, they just wanted to help the little people.
Blagojevich wanted nothing more than to provide health care for children and cheap prescription drugs for the elderly.
Ryan repaired the state’s roads and bridges and saved the innocent from Death Row.
As for the damage done to the public’s confidence in government and the suffering of their own families, they take no responsibility.
Federal prosecutors pursued them like some crazed cop in a 19th century French novel, they claim.
To really understand how morally bankrupt these fellows are, however, you have to look at the “trusted” friends and aides they relied on for advice.
Many appeared as prosecution witnesses during the trials, usually after their own convictions or indictments for corruption.
These guys were sleazebags.
People who would do virtually anything and turn on anyone for a buck or a break.
And that’s exactly why these people had the confidence of these two governors.
You don’t put guys like that in positions like that unless you want something done that an honest man would not do.
Blagojevich to this day believes a “not guilty” verdict would somehow vindicate him.
Ryan, from the interviews I’ve read, still thinks he was railroaded despite a guilty verdict in his trial.
Maybe that’s just human nature.
Perhaps denial is the only way a man can stop himself from walking in front of a Metra train.
Still, all of us long to see a politician take the stand and confess.
“Yes, I did it all. I was carried away by power and ambition. I didn’t care about anyone else because I am a bad, bad man.”
Would that really help?
Would it make you feel better to see someone cry?
Would you believe them if they did?
Blagojevich wants the world to believe he did nothing illegal. But even if that were the case, it does not mean he did nothing wrong. He does not understand that.
Politics can be a nasty business. It requires compromise after compromise, favor in exchange for favor and making deals with people you dislike to get legislation passed for the greater good.
Money is required to run for public office.
Has a stranger ever given you money without asking for anything in return?
Politicians would have you believe they know such people.
Blagojevich and Ryan would tell you they are no different than any other politician.
And sometimes the evidence does blur the line between right and wrong.
A congressman asks a governor to appoint his wife as the lottery director and no illegal act has been committed.
A sitting president uses his chief of staff to suggest the names of people he wants appointed to a vacant U.S. Senate seat and that’s just old-fashioned politics.
Businessmen make political contributions and get state grants and that’s all right.
But a politician better not tell a businessman they have to give a contribution in exchange for government funding.
Or if he does, he better make sure there’s no wiretap on his phone.
If there’s no evidence, there’s no crime.
It’s a shame. All of it. No matter what the politicians tell you.