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The Carletonian

The crime of the century: with liberty and justice

<d Blagojevich, last Thursday, lost his job as governor of Illinois. Impeached for attempting to sell former Senator Barack Obama's seat to the highest bidder, the former governor leaves behind a legacy of shallowness, callousness, and utter incompetence. However, his sham of a trial leaves a legacy of political pandering.

Mr. Blagojevich’s trial pretty much made Saddam Hussein’s own trial look as fair, balanced, and equitable as the trials over which John Marshall, himself, presided. If any additional kangaroos stood in last Thursday’s Senate chamber, the Illinois Capitol would have had to apply for a zoo license. Mr. Blagojevich surely disgraced his state, and summarily went on a media blitz, garnering more exposure in 2 months than Paris Hilton did in all of 2006. Nevertheless, however hated and vilified he is, Mr. Blagojevich is entitled to his day in court. Smart, rational people, civil libertarians, on campus and off, put forth a defense for the impeachment proceedings that nobody liked the former governor anyway. The Federal authorities filed suit against the former governor, and the evidence on tape sounds quite damning. But the Federal Authorities have yet to try Mr. Blagojevich, and last I checked, we live our lives, thankfully, with a presumption of innocence until proven otherwise. The evidential burden, since the days of King John and the Magna Carta, lies with the accuser, never the accused. To put forth otherwise is to imply that impeachment is a political tool, which is the furthest from the case. The grounds for impeachment lie in the text “high crimes and misdemeanors.” The US Senate did not vote to oust President Bill Clinton because, as to the claim “high crimes and misdemeanors,” the Republican Party lacked any iota of evidence. The case against Mr. Blagojevich lay in his conspiracy to commit fraud, extort, peddle influence, but, really, just talk big. Not one piece of substantive, tangible evidence exists in this case. The investigators lack any evidence that the former governor of my home state actually did something wrong, criminal, or negligent. As Al Pacino would proclaim, this is a case, for a defense lawyer, to end all cases. Furthermore, the Illinois lawmakers cannot even claim that Mr. Blagojevich lost the capacity to perform his job, fulfill his duty to the citizens of Illinois. We seemed to forget that Attorney General Lisa Madigan filed suit to the Illinois Supreme Court, in an effort to force the former governor from office, on the grounds that he no longer held the capacity to govern. The case was laughed out of court. Yet, Mr. Blagojevich’s ability to serve Illinois repeatedly fell under question, and, thus, served as the mantra by which the Senate ousted him. Did the Senate not understand the Supreme Court ruling, or were they just willfully ignorant in their haste to act? What happened in the Illinois Capitol last Thursday afternoon qualifies not as a fair trial, but as a political lynching that should provoke the deepest disdain from anyone who has read the constitution, much less identifies themselves as a civil libertarian.

Mr. Blagojevich may have been an inept scumbag, but can you oust a dully-elected office-holder for sheer ineptitude? If so, could we not have sent President George W. Bush to the political gallows long ago? Even President Barack Obama will anger some constituency at some point during his presidency. What about Harry Truman? Should have impeached President Truman because he wanted to create a global coalition, and, yet, got us stuck in a war with the Chinese? Or President Reagan? President Reagan left behind a culture of militarism and egregious greed. For committing crimes against Nature’s laws, should we have impeached him?

Everything else aside, though, what angers me most about the impeachment proceedings in Illinois is that the state refused Mr. Blagojevich the right to bring witnesses to his own trial. Even another former Illinois governor, and current inmate, George Ryan — whose actions in the licenses-for-bribes scandal culminated in the fiery decimation of a family — brought witnesses to his trial. Saddam Hussein’s defense attorney was a former US Attorney General. In our haste to put an “ass” on a stake, parade around, and then pat ourselves on the back, we forgot due process. We forgot that the crusaders who voted to oust Mr. Blagojevich represent constituents who voted out a party on the national level that tried to maintain that the military tribunal is a fair form of justice. As a Democrat, as a meritocrat, as a resident of Illinois, as an American, this trial compels me bow my head in shame. And, with this crime perpetrated, we will live on, thinking that we have, indeed, preserved liberty and justice for all. In reality, we have weakened both.

As to the title, I offer my apologies to SuperTramp and Al Pacino.

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