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Jamie Stiehm Headshot

Three Truly Weird Governors, USA

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Even with a shiny new Barack Obama glow emanating out of the White House, I can't shake the passing strange sensation that a trio of governors we've gotten to know lately on the national stage have been as truly weird as the three witches in MacBeth.

Consider the evidence: Governors Sarah Palin of Alaska, David Paterson of New York (not to mention his tawdry and disgraced predecessor, Eliot Spitzer) and of course, Rod Blagojevich of Illinois. Wow, who knew what human dramas, complexes and perhaps perfidies lurked behind the doors of these governor's mansions?

All owe their newfound fame to the presidential election of 2008. Now we know too much, yet the mystery remains: why have we have we here three whacked-out governors in a row?

You could not make some of this stuff up. Let's take Palin first, she who swooped into our collective psyche last September as Sen. John McCain's chosen one for the Republican vice-presidential nominee. Somehow her plain speaking pattern, upswept hair, glasses and supreme self-confidence electrified the body politic. Love or fear her, she and her small-town ways could not be ignored. She was charming when she chose to be, with her winks and aw-shucks, doggone-it lines, but it wore thin when asked about foreign policy or how she intended to "be in charge" of the U.S. Senate. Sarah Palin also showed a smiling mean streak out on the campaign trail.

Substance was not her strong point and we never got an answer to Katie Couric's question: what in heck does the lady from Alaska read, anyway? Stay home up there near Russia and the North Pole, and chill out, Governor. You have delighted us in the Lower 48 long enough.

Less amusing was the daft and drawn-out performance of the New York governor, who botched his chance to appoint the U.S. Senate successor to Hillary Clinton. Paterson had the gift of two political plums in hand, either a Kennedy or a Cuomo, but he picked a first-term congresswoman named Kirsten Gillibrand, an unknown outside of New York. The daughter of the late president, Caroline Kennedy, an author and a civic do-gooder, and Attorney General Andrew Cuomo were shunned and treated shabbily, especially Kennedy. The governor curiously saw fit to let his aides tear her down as she withdrew from the agonizing endgame. This is an unelected governor who only got the job because of the spectacular downfall of the former governor, Eliot Spitzer. The perverse Paterson gave new meaning to "amateur hour" in his handling of a decision that should have been a swift and easy political win for him.

Now comes Blagojevich, who seems to tickle some funny bones on the media circuit as he peddles his own form of legal defense. Indictment and impeachment hanging over his well-groomed head seemed not to faze him one bit as he defiantly went ahead with making his own choice for the U.S. Senate seat vacated by Obama. It is sobering to realize that Illinois gave us Obama, but also elected this scary character, Chicago-born from a Serbian family, in the same space of time. While he has not been convicted of charges that he tried to sell the Senate seat to the highest bidder, Blagojevich's self-deluded public conduct is so far from dignity and reality that "Nixonian" is really the only word that does him justice.

Just to be safe, let's stick to electing senators to the presidency for a long time to come.