The nation's attention has been riveted by two spectacles this week, one a tragedy - the impending collapse of the domestic automobile industry, and with it much of America's remaining manufacturing capacity and expertise, and therewith as well any hope of America rectifying its chronic trade imbalances and avoiding an ultimate reduction to the status of economic colony - and the other, l'affair Blagojevich, a rousing farce. No, make that a burlesque. Most of the commentary has focused on the corrupt dealings at the heart of the scandal, and the question of whether and how Blago will be removed from office. The remainder of the commentary has dwelt upon his profanity-laden tirades.
The most delectable of his utterances, however, was free of profanity, and perhaps for that reason, much more revealing, ultimately, of both the character of the man and the nature of the system in which he, like most professional politicians, operates. His statement was that he wished to monetize the relationships he had established as governor. Ah, there's the hard kernel of the thing, so redolent of so much in our society, from the way the meritocracy really functions to the self-dealing of the establishment, in which pols transition seamlessly from "public" service to lucrative employments in lobbying and the private sector, monetizing the relationships they established while in office, or, in which financial masters of the universe "serve" the public and then return to the financial firms from whence they came, all to benefit from the policies formulated during their "terms of service". Where, then, is the sin of Blagojevich, and why the clucking of tongues?
The sin of Blago is quite simple, in reality, so simple that it deserves its own formulation as 'law'. Mine is the law of temporal separation, though you may wish to coin your own. According to this law, then, Blago's sin was to have attempted the monetization of his relationships and contacts during his gubernatorial term. It is perfectly legitimate, according to the system of self-dealing we have in this country, to monetize such relationships and expertise, with, that is, a wink and a nod and a handshake, or some other equivalent, during one's tenure in a specific office or role, to be realized, like capital gains, once one has transitioned to the next office or role. This artifice respects the letter of the integrity of each office, while adhering to the LoTS, and it is this, and only this - and the greater ingenuity and sophistication it requires and instantiates - that differentiates our American system from vulgar kleptocracy, be it African, Latin American, or Russian.
That is the sin of Blagojevich - that he was so very vulgar in his self-dealing.