There Aint No Sanity Clause

Another column by the Chicago Tribune’s John Kass makes the season bright:

…Illinois Atty. Gen. Lisa Madigan asked the state Supreme Court on Friday to declare [Governor] Blagojevich “disabled.” She called on the justices—some of whom are there by grace of the Chicago machine—to remove Blagojevich, pronto.

“State government is paralyzed by a governor who is incapable of governing,” Madigan insisted. “We would look to the fact that the term ‘disability’ legally is very broad, that it is not simply isolated to a physical or mental disability.”

Incapable of what? Signing his name to bills? He can sign his name, to bills, or to a federal witness list, which would be much nicer. But they don’t want that, or another week or two of Gov. Dead Meat leading the nightly news.

After stubbornly refusing to see Chicago politics as it really is, the national media are finally paying attention. That’s great news for most everybody, except for our politicians.

Madigan’s stunt was treated as legitimate jaw-dropping news by the national networks. She declared herself “the people’s lawyer,” over and over. It has a nice ring to it, “people’s lawyer,” and I thought of one of those TV shows I would watch only on pain of death, like “Law and Order,” where the earnest attorneys make the big speech for the public good, before they cut to the Depends commercial.

What they didn’t report on the evening news is this: Lisa Madigan is more than just “the people’s lawyer.” She’s a candidate for governor and Dead Meat is in her way. Her daddy is Mike Madigan, powerful boss of the machine’s 13th Ward and speaker of the Illinois House who hates Dead Meat.

Her dad wants to make her governor. She wants to be governor. And the best way to get there is to whisk Dead Meat into a political straitjacket and lock him in the political version of a padded cell.

This business about the governor’s sanity didn’t begin when he was charged. It began during the state budget battle last summer, when Mike Madigan’s spokesman, Steve Brown, told reporters in Springfield that the governor was a psycho.

“Let me give you a little hint: Go to a computer and Google ‘sociopath.’ In layman’s terms it lays out the traits and diagnosis of behavior that accurately fits Blagojevich,” Brown said.

That was funny. And now, Jay Leno and Dave Letterman and Conan O’Brien repeat variations of it, buttressing the Democratic mantra that what comes out of a madman’s mouth cannot be believed.

But just imagine if Dead Meat talks to the feds, or stands up on his hind legs to fight back if fellow Democrats impeach him in the Illinois legislature. The governor might actually mention a few of the legislators’ deals. Ouch.

Obama, though not personally implicated in any of this, wouldn’t like it much. The national media outlets were desperate to portray him as someone about to transcend our politics. But in Chicago he was just a smooth guy on the way up, looking the other way.

If crazy hair and strange utterances—even frightening expressions in public—are the criteria for a politician who’s been “disabled,” I wonder why the Illinois Democrats didn’t apply their standards to another guy.

Mayor Richard Daley.

Sometimes he frightens people, his hair gets wild, his eyebrows fly off his forehead, his face turns purple, his jaw juts out, like when he’s channeling his inner Mayor Chucky.

It happened a few years ago, when the Tribune revealed he gave $100 million in affirmative action contracts to white guys who were friends of his with Outfit connections. Even Obama didn’t question the mayor’s sanity then. Nor did any other Democrat who valued his or her career.

In Illinois, I guess, political mental health is just a state of mind.

And Victoria Toensing thinks obsessive-compulsive Inspector Javert, also know as Patrick Fitzgerald, ought to stop his now familiar moral grandstanding:

…In [his] Dec. 9 press conference regarding the federal corruption charges against Gov. Blagojevich and his chief of staff, Mr. Fitzgerald violated the ethical requirement of the Justice Department guidelines that prior to trial a “prosecutor shall refrain from making extrajudicial comments that pose a serious and imminent threat of heightening public condemnation of the accused.” The prosecutor is permitted to “inform the public of the nature and extent” of the charges. In the vernacular of all of us who practice criminal law, that means the prosecutor may not go “beyond the four corners” — the specific facts — in the complaint or indictment. He may also provide any other public-record information, the status of the case, the names of investigators, and request assistance. But he is not permitted to make the kind of inflammatory statements Mr. Fitzgerald made during his media appearance.

…What’s more, Mr. Fitzgerald is a repeat offender. In his news conference in October 2005 announcing the indictment of Scooter Libby for obstruction of justice, he compared himself to an umpire who “gets sand thrown in his eyes.” The umpire is “trying to figure what happened and somebody blocked” his view. With this statement, Mr. Fitzgerald made us all believe he could not find the person who leaked Valerie Plame’s name as a CIA operative because of Mr. Libby. What we all now know is that Mr. Fitzgerald knew well before he ever started the investigation in January 2004 that Richard Armitage was the leaker and nothing Mr. Libby did or did not do threw sand in his eyes. In fact — since there was no crime — there was not even a game for the umpire to call.

In the Libby case, rather than suffer criticism, Mr. Fitzgerald became a media darling. And so in the Blagojevich case he returned to the microphone. Throughout the press conference about Gov. Blagojevich, Mr. Fitzgerald talked beyond the four corners of the complaint. He repeatedly characterized the conduct as “appalling.” He opined that the governor “has taken us to a new low,” while going on a “political corruption crime spree.”

Additionally, Mr. Fitzgerald violated another ethical mandate under Justice guidelines for prosecutors: He is supposed to “exercise reasonable care to prevent” law enforcement — in this case the FBI Agent — from making the same type of extrajudicial statements. Mr. Fitzgerald exercised no care.

Special Agent Rob Grant volunteered that when he arrived in Illinois four years ago, he was asked by the media whether Illinois is the “most corrupt state in the United States.” He then answered that four-year-old question claiming, “[I]t’s one hell of a competitor.” Mr. Grant did not stop there. He revealed that the FBI agents who participated in the case were “thoroughly disgusted and revolted by what they heard.”

Well, weren’t we all? Even though the governer’s maneuvering to sell the Senate seat most likely had not yet crossed the line to become criminal behavior, it was base, sordid conduct. But those thoughts and words are for the rest of us to express before the trial. It is unethical for those who are government prosecutors to do so.

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