The Wall Street Journal
Chicagoans and Illinoisans love political scandal the way that Milanese love opera.
We trade recollections, like baseball cards, about the secretary of state (Paul Powell) who stashed money in shoeboxes, and the Chicago mayor (Harold Washington) whose birthday was April 15 but never filed his income tax return.
Rod Blagojevich stands a chance to be the fourth Illinois governor in recent history, and the second in a row, to wind up in prison. This run suggests that Illinoisans are indifferent to political corruption, and it's hard to argue with such an impressive procession of felonious officials.
But all of Illinois' disgraced former governors were considered honest pols when they were elected. Otto Kerner had gone to Cambridge, won the Bronze Star, and was a respected judge. Dan Walker was a self-righteous reformer of such blatant rectitude that he managed to cast Illinois Congressman Paul Simon - bow-tied Paul Simon, a man who wouldn't try to sneak a tenth apple into a Nine Items or Less checkout line - as a stooge for the Chicago machine. George Ryan was considered a slightly frumpy small-town druggist who would keep a wary eye on Chicago sharpies. Mr. Blagojevich, for that matter, ran as a fresh face to chase out Ryan's stale old ways.
I leave it to biographers and psychiatrists to ponder if these governors of both parties were honest men who got corrupted in high office, or lifelong crooks who had simply been waiting for the opportunity.
President-elect Barack Obama has never been close to Mr. Blagojevich. He has aligned with the Daley division of the fractured Democratic machine, while Mr. Blagojevich, chiefly through the sponsorship of his father-in-law, a powerful Chicago alderman, has been from that faction that has always resented the mayor's good fortune for being born with the Daley name.
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