Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Blagojevich — Business as Usual

All who pay any attention to the news have now heard about Illinois Governor Rob Blagojevich's trolling for payment in return for appointing so-and-so to Barack Obama's now-vacant Senate seat.

Much shock expressed in Washington, the news media. Yadda yadda yadda.

Come on, let's not act so surprised. American politics is largely about how much a candidate or supporters are willing to pay for office. The only distinguishing feature is legality — and that's a pretty gray area.

On one side we have Ted Stevens, Tom Delay, Rod Blagojevich, William Jefferson, and on and on. The politicians who glaringly, stupidly, cravenly grub for money.

On the other side, we have cases like Michael Bloomberg, who spent almost $69 million of his own money to buy the 2001 New York mayoral election — $92.60 per vote. He is the respectable extreme. Respectable because this is the way "Washington," broadly taken, does business from day to day. Other "respectable" businessmen have taken the same approach — Ross Perot, Steve Forbes, Jon Corzine, Ronald Lauder. (Billionaires are willing to spend a lot to reassure themselves that someone likes them.)

Less extreme but no different in kind are Charles Rangel, with his special rent-stabilized million dollar apartment. New Yrok Governor Paterson is also a member of that club.

Whatever Obama's merits, whatever he has done or will do, he has unambiguously established one new standard — raise raise raise money and dismiss federal funding. Howevermuch Republicans may wave their hands over Obama's "broken promise" to take public funding, we can be sure that they respect his example. And by gum, they'll follow suit. And if they can't, because the people are sick and tired of right-wing idiocy, then Republicans will just turn to the tried and true oldies — PAC money, etc. The Democrats are little better.

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