Worth Reading: Eric Zorn on why Blago does not deserve sympathy

Here is a link to an Eric Zorn column entitled “Still cleaning up Blago’s mess” which argues that any sympathy that he might have had for Blago dissipates whenever he thinks of the thousands of people whose petitions for pardons went unanswered.  Here is a quote:

 Whenever I felt a surge of pity rising for former Gov. Rod Blagojevich as he headed off to federal prison yesterdat, l snapped out of it by reminding myself of the Illinois 3,000.

That figure – 3,000 – was a rough estimate provided to me by the Illinois Prisoner Review Board of the number of petitions for commutations and pardons that was at least figuratively piled up on Blagojevich’s desk when he was arrested in December, 2008…

Not all of these petitions had merit, to be sure. Some were hail-Mary efforts by the wicked. Others, though, were from those who’d committed minor crimes or been in the middle of dark, confusing situations many years ago and were still having trouble getting hired because of it.

All of them, however, deserved the favor of a quick yes or no from the governor – a release from limbo.

The ability to issue such a release is an awesome power, one that comes with potential political risk:  Show compassion to the wrong person, someone who comes back and commits some ghastly crime, say, and you’ll be branded a dupe and an enabler of evil.

Show compassion to the right people, on the other hand, and almost nobody cares, since most  of them are already on the margins of society anyway.

Not only that, but under Rod Blagojevich the Illinois State police defied court orders to expunge criminal records.

As a human being, I am sympathetic to Mr. Blagojevich and especially his two young daughters.  (His wife, I think, was lucky to avoid indictment herself).

As a citizen of Illinois and a taxpayer, I am outraged by his lack of ethics and betrayal of the people he was supposed to represent.

And as a lawyer, I find it terribly sad and disappointing that he instead of using his discretionary power to grant pardons, Mr. Blagojevich apparently thought only about the political ramifications of doing so.  Even worse was his obstinate refusal to have the state police process expungements, which is totally inexcusable and to my mind, criminal.

Ultimately, I think we, as voters, bring this on ourselves, because we reward politicians (and worse, the shadowy anonymous political action committees) that run attack ads.  These are the ads that stridently claim that someone “is on the wrong side” because he or she did something like grant a pardon to someone who later did something bad.  The result is that we get politicians who will only do the expedient thing.

I see a lot of judges who do that too — instead of confidently deciding a case on the merits, they worry about how their decision will play out in the newspaper headlines after all the subtleties of the case have been scrubbed out.

This is not how we were taught that our leaders would act when we were back in fourth grade civics class.

As next Tuesday is primary day, it would be a good start if we all took a little time to learn about the candidates and make decisions based on his or her background, integrity, intellect, and political philosophy, instead of frivolous reasons like the sound of their name, ethnic background, a catchy campaign slogan or worst of all, an anonymous attack ad.

(Chicago Bar Association Judicial Evaluation ratings can be found here).

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