I just watched Rod Blagojevich jog to the podium with his improbable hair caressing his eyebrows and do a full Bill Clinton. I read on a blog somewhere that a political associate of the governor's called him Bill Clinton with morals. As the governor jogged off into the sunset he left his versions of Clintonistas to handle the details.
Even the CNN anchor remarked that by not resigning but pugnaciously challenging the overwhelming evidence of his unfitness for office that he was mirroring Bill's modus operandi after the blue dress put an end to his red faced rants of innocence. Well, for a while anyway. We got to see vintage big Bill again this summer as he saw his uxorial partner in political brazenness lose to a rookie.
Blago obviously has learned, as a generation of politicians have learned, that you can get away with it. That is the great lesson of the Clinton years. Proven by the fact that the Clinton years persist. In any other cycle of American history lying under oath while president, being disbarred for perjury, wagging fingers at the American people and ranting falsehoods would, if found out, cause the red faced wagger to resign his office of public trust and disappear in shame from the current scene. To do penance in obscurity, forgotten for transgressions against the faith of a nation.
But, not Bill. He invented a new paradigm for being caught and caught badly. It consisted of a series of steps, none informed by morality or sense of shame. Deny. Deny again. Continue to deny unless your denial is directly contradicted by actual videotape or DNA. Blame your transgressions and any negative reactions to your transgressions on politics. Invent phraseology, easily repeated by a sycophantic press, to murk up what you did and make a personal failing a general malaise: the politics of personal destruction. I didn't do anything wrong, or that wrong, or too wrong ... it's my opponents that are using elephant guns to punish gnat like transgressions. These unjust accusations, though true, are taking me away from my important responsibilities (here you must list wedge issues to confuse the public: civil rights, women's rights, abortion rights, the environment). Call in ethinc ministers to pray with you to counter the unjust attacks of your aggrandizing political enemies.
And, the best, most cynical and destructive step, used by Bill to great effect: I didn't do anything that every other president didn't do, at least in sexual terms. Trash the White House, trash dead presidents and their families, rewrite history to make you look less singular in your self-indulgences. Do whatever it takes and whatever the press will print to retain power.
Meet with your Cabinet. Lie to them. Send them out to the waiting cameras to lie for you. And, depend that in the new world you created, populated by Cabinet members who share your slippery view of responsibility, ethics, and public service, that none of them are honorable enough to resign when your manipulation and fictions are revealed to them.
Hey, this is starting to sound like Illinois.
Bill begat Hillary, whose penance for lying about being under fire got her a nomination to be Secretary of State. He begat the Mayor of Detroit, who hung in there, playing racial cards and bluster, until tapes caught up with him too. He begat Illinois Gov. George Ryan, who took his teachings to a new level with a wholesale commutation of murderers to curry favor with the deep thinkers and academia as his tawdry money grubbing was revealed.
He begat Representative Jefferson of Louisiana, whose $400K in bribe money, hidden in a freezer, and rescued from Hurricane Katrina while actual citizens waited to be saved, mounted a sturdy shameless defense that led to reelection to the House. Finally, and recently, a population-depleted electorate threw him out of office but not in jail.
He begat Rod the "I will fight"-er.
A check list: shame/none ... denial/constant ... preposterous declarations of non-involvement/at every given opportunity ... a willing co-conspirator spouse/there and also on tape ... delusional/he bests Bill on this one ... belief that the ends (his political survival) justify any means/he learned from the master.
This won't stop until Bill finally pays the piper. He's slid by so far, and continues to abuse his position and public trust and former office. But, to a large extent beyond wealth he is the poorest man in America. He has no honor, for honor has no price. Once gone it is gone. He will forever be the butt of late night jokes and leers.
Blago won't get away with it. The press and public, never really admitting that they were hornswoggled by a talented grifter, won't play the game again on a national stage. But, in trying, he will harm this state, and this country, and our ideals and hopes. He will continue to sully what should be the joyous weeks of Barack Obama's run up to be President to save his own skin.
Come to think about it, Bill begat George W. Bush, too. Without the one, there would never have been the other.