A lot has been said this week about Rod Blagojevich and about his book deal with Phoenix Books. It seems that the issue is the presumption of innocence is no longer with us. As a publisher who believes that there is more than one fascinating story here I am puzzled as to why we have been made part of the story.
When Harper Collins decided to pay $3 million to O.J. Simpson there was no public outcry until the book turned out to be a great hoax. Little Brown paid Paula Barbieri $3 million for having accomplished no more in her life than having had a fling with the same Mr. Simpson. There were no lessons learned, there were no compelling reasons. Mr. Blagojevich may or may not have committed a crime; that is for the courts to decide. However, the rush to judgment was a landslide seemingly aided by political lobbyists and those with their own agendas. It could appear that Mr. Blagojevich considered breaking the law, but whether he did or not is a decision for a jury and not the spectators to make.
His story is in large part the story of how the lobbyists in America work and how integrity can easily be lost. The casual free drink turns into a free lunch and is often followed by a paid speaking engagement for a trumped-up audience. These are followed by fact-finding trips to luxury vacation spots and a myriad of other temptations that seem to be, for many in government, part of the standard perks. If through Mr. Blagojevich's book we learn how the system works from someone who is as critical of himself as the system that he used, and perhaps abused, then this is a cautionary tale worth telling.
The effort to block his story from being told makes it all the more enticing. If Mr. Blagojevich is guilty, that guilt is shared by a myriad of public officials as well -- and the true victim of these excesses are you and I -- the American public.
I cannot recall a book that delineates the pitfalls and the failings of any governor. But if this book is well and honestly told, then it is one that should be a guidepost to all those who serve, or would serve, the American public, as well as to the lobbyists who have contributed to many of the problems in our system that have caused the present economic dilemma. While governor, Mr. Blagojevich took on the drug companies and many other lobbyists. It is not beyond the realm of possibilities that his swift ejection from power has something to do with the windmills he tilted and the transgressions that he made.
It is an open secret that exceptional pressure was exerted on publishing companies not to publish this book. The reasons why will become self-evident, and I only ask that the public at large give him a fairer trial than the railroad ride he was given out of his role as governor.
Whatever the verdict, this is not a black-and-white case, and we hope to at least show the full scope of the rainbow web behind these events.