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Will He Or Won’t He ?: Blagojevich Resignation Watch

by @ 7:46 am on December 15, 2008. Filed under In The News, Rod Blagojevich

It’s beginning to look like yesterday’s comments by Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan that Rod Blagojevich could resign today were either a political game on her part or wishful thinking, because there’s every indication he’s staying on for now:

CHICAGO — Talk about mixed messages.

Not long after the Illinois attorney general, Lisa Madigan, told a national television audience that Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich of Illinois was thinking of possibly resigning here on Monday, the governor’s spokesman broke some news of his own.

Not only was Mr. Blagojevich not resigning, the spokesman, Lucio Guerrero, said, but he was planning to go to work on Monday and study a few bills that might at some point require either his signature or veto — including one that will be hammered out in a special legislative session in Springfield that would strip him of his coveted appointment power over President-elect Barack Obama’s vacated Senate seat.

“He has no plans of resigning today or tomorrow,” Mr. Guerrero said on Sunday. “He still signs bills as governor, and he wants to see details.”

The empty Senate seat is at the heart of a sprawling criminal case against Mr. Blagojevich, a 52-year-old Democrat who was arrested Tuesday on charges that he schemed to trade Mr. Obama’s old seat for money and favors.

Ms. Madigan is a longtime rival of Mr. Blagojevich who has expressed interest in the past of one day being governor herself, and she has requested that the State Supreme Court declare the governor unfit for office. Ms. Madigan acknowledged on CBS’s morning news show, “Face the Nation,” that her assertion was based on “rumors in the media.” But not before they set off a firestorm of speculation.

Her spokeswoman, Robyn Ziegler, said of her remarks after the television appearance: “She has no inside information about anything.”

And if Blagojevich doesn’t leave voluntarily. That leaves two options; either removal by the state’s Supreme Court as advocated by Attorney General Lisa Madigan, or impeachment by the legislature.

I’ve already discussed the weaknesses of Madigan’s argument that the charges against Balgojevich amount to the type of “disability that would allow the Supreme Court to remove him from office, Ann Althouse has more on the merits of Madigan’s petition.

Now, it appears that legislative impeachment wouldn’t be that easy either:

To impeach and remove Blagojevich from office, the Illinois legislature would have to act without benefit of the actual proof of these allegations which Fitzgerald will use, in due course, in court. Legislators would have to display the political courage and common sense to say, in so many words: “Even though these are so far only alleged crimes rather than crimes proved in court to the satisfaction of a jury backstopped by trial and appellate courts, we are going to use the discretion granted us by the Illinois state constitution to accept a lower, lesser burden of persuasion and proof than do the federal courts in criminal matters, and we’re going to hold Gov. Blagojevich responsible for these alleged crimes now.” They will have to listen to Blagojevich’s fervent, hypocritical pleas that he’s presumed innocent until proven guilty, and then they will have to say boldly in response: “True, but that’s in court, and this isn’t a court. We’re already sufficiently convinced that you’re guilty.”

The political legitimacy of such an impeachment would be, and should be, subject to close scrutiny — by the voters who will, in due course, consider whether they wish to re-elect legislators who voted for such an impeachment.

(…)

the harshest criticism that can be leveled at the people of Illinois is the old truism that people generally get the government they deserve. To get a government sufficiently principled that its legislators will have the courage to impeach and remove an elected governor who’s not yet been convicted in court, the public must first have voted for honest legislators who act according to principle. I frankly doubt that enough of those have been elected in Illinois.

Thus, my prediction is that an insufficient number of Illinois state legislators will have the courage necessary to impeach Blagojevich before he’s convicted in federal court. That’s likely to be many months from now. And that, too, is a consequence of awful electoral decisions made by the people of Illinois. It’s a pathetic, tragicomic circus, worthy of the ridicule of decent people when viewed from almost any angle.

So, we may have Rod Blagojevich to kick around for longer than most are anticipating.

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