Because the case for would be too much. But my usual contrarian mood forces me to say what there is to be said in the man’s favor.
First, the laughs seem more authentic than the disgust. Which is to say, does anybody think that this sort of political horse-trading is all that uncommon, especially in Chicago or Illinois today? I mean, the part about trying to get a straight-up bribe, that’s over the top. But trying to parlay current political power into future success or campaign contributions? That is the stock and trade of pay-to-play politics. And that’s not a system Rod (I won’t keep typing his last name, too fraught with peril) created, nor is he the only one perpetuating it. Nothing about rolling his high-profile head, without more, makes me believe this situation is going to improve.
Second, from the perspective of procedural justice, I’m not sure how comfortable I am with Fitzgerald’s presser yesterday. It made for great TV, but that’s the problem. I don’t know if Rod could have gotten a fair trial absent yesterday’s show, but I’m dead certain he can’t get one now.
Fitzgerald is nobody’s fool, and no stranger to high-profile prosecutions. And we are in a slow news cycle, where it doesn’t take much to rip the CNNs of the world from wall-to-wall coverage of who’s going to be named Car Czar. Fitzgerald had to know that those sound bites would play in a loop all day. They were red meat thrown into a pit of hungry, feral dogs. And the media storyline developed quickly: this guy is the craziest, most selfish, most corrupt politician the world has ever seen.
Now, maybe he is. But that should be decided in a court of law. And it never will, not fairly, not in the state of Illinois, probably not in any state in the union at this point.
I have a theory as to why Fitzgerald approached this the way he did. He seems to have believed that Rod was actually in the process of selling Barack Obama’s seat. I once heard a couple of police officers talk about how, if they received a reliable tip about some drugs in, say, the trunk of the car, they would go seize those drugs, even if they weren’t sure the search would hold up in court. Here, maybe Fitzgerald was more concerned about stopping Rod from tainting the Senate than convicting him. Perhaps he reasoned that, by going this far in announcing in the indictment, he all but ensured that Rod would not be able to choose the next senator.
Maybe that was the right choice. These are tough values to weigh. But I do think that Fitzgerald's presser seemed like a cross between a public stoning and a stand-up routine. And that’s probably not the best way to maintain the integrity of whatever legal process awaits our always well-coiffed governor.