“What is it kid? You’re not saying much?”
“Just got the jumps.”
“Take it easy. We’re not going to lose him now. We had him ten years ago when he decided to be somebody.”
Some of you may recognize this scene from “The Sting,” a great movie which I watched the other night on one of the “retro” movie channels. For better or worse, they are the ones I frequent more than not these days. But my settling into “curmudgeondom” I will leave to another column. For those eager to wield that charge (Exhibit A, our daughter Anissa mockingly referring to her cardigan sporting dad as a real “hipster”) please note that my wife, Yolanda, and I go to many live performances of music, drama and trek to a nearby “Arts” theater each month to see independent movies produced outside the Hollywood sausage grinder. So back off youngsters. In fact, you might be well-served to look, listen or read something produced more than ten years ago. Open minds search in all directions.
Wow, I do sound like a curmudgeon. Sorry. But I feel better.
Back to “The Sting.”
For those who’ve not seen the movie Johnny Hooker (Robert Redford) is the “kid,” Henry Gondorff (Paul Newman) the seasoned con man. They are close to completing the hustle they are running on crime boss Doyle Lonnegan (Robert Shaw) and Hooker is “jumpy,” concerned Lonnegan will wiggle free.
I can imagine the FBI agents who arrested Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich a few years ago having the same conversation the night before they slapped handcuffs on him. In Blago’s case, they “had him” years earlier when he decided to run for public office. And for those who have any doubt as to why Blago decided to become a public “servant,” it’s time to get real.
FBI interviews, observations and wiretaps all point to a man who could not wait to sink his pudgy jowls into the public trough. Deals were cut as he was being sworn in for his first term as governor. This after he ran a campaign as a “reformer” who was going to Springfield to drain the swamp. One early red flag as to his commitment should have been his refusal to move his family to the state capital. Look, I lived in Chicago and love the place. I understand why Springfield may be less attractive to some, but did Blago understand that’s where the job was? That’s why they have a mansion for the family? That in politics and government, face to face meetings, hands on management, is still the best way to get things done?
Of course he knew this. He just didn’t care. Because he didn’t run for public office to accomplish anything for others, just himself. He saw it as an opportunity to make a fortune and enjoy the notoriety that comes with being governor. Which brings me to my perspective regarding Blago.
To me he’s just another example of someone who wants to be famous for no other reason than to be famous. Not because he’s accomplished anything worthwhile for society, like being a conscientious public servant who, regardless of whether we agree with their viewpoint, have honorable intentions. With that as a basis, we can then debate in good faith the who, what, when, how and why’s of public policy.
No such “good faith” foundation exists with an attention getter like Blago because they don’t care about anything but themselves and their public persona. There is no “there” there, only narcissism.
When Blago was sentenced he professed to the court his regret, admitting he’d made mistakes, but still claiming he did not think he was breaking the law. Like the self-centered coward he is, Blago sought refuge in his children, his lawyers pleading to the judge that it was not fair to take their father away. Jeopardizing his children’s future and his responsiblity to raise them was apparently not a concern while Blago pillaged the state, trampled public trust, and lest we forget, put the squeeze on a children’s hospital for a campaign contribution. The judge bought the mea culpa to a degree, knocking a couple of years off Blago’s sentence, but for the most part he was unsympathetic.
Of course, Blago’s plea for mercy was expected. No surprise.
Neither, in my mind anyway, was what happened next. After being sentenced Blago said a few words to the press, emphasizing his priority was to get home to his daughters. But as he walked toward a waiting car, he worked the crowd, shaking hands, waving, acting as if he was on a red carpet at an award show. A few minutes later the scene was played out again at his home. Blago, unable to resist being the center of attention, even in disgrace. Kissing and hugging people, leaning over the railing of his porch as if he was his hero, Elvis Presley, shaking hands from the stage, before his wife, who had disappeared from view to enter the house, reappears and motions him inside.
Your daughters, Blago. Remember? The ones who need their father?
“Congratulations, pal,” I can hear Paul Newman say. “You’re somebody.”