Saturday, December 13, 2008

Coup in Illinois

We've been enjoying the farce in Illinois as much as the next guy. You know, the Tony Soprano quiz, the comparisons to the Abscam defendant asking if there was any money sticking out of his pockets, the fishwife of a first lady picked up on tape as she screams in the background. I mean really, even though he's a Democrat, and we want him out, this is right up there with Duke Cunningham or Ted Stevens in entertainment value.

Still, I am concerned about the latest move by the Illinois Attorney General to get the Illinois Supreme Court to remove him from office on the pretext that he has become incapacitated by the criminal charges.

Here's what the Illinois Constitution says:

(b)  If the Governor is unable to serve because of death,
conviction on impeachment, failure to qualify, resignation or
other disability, the office of Governor shall be filled by
the officer next in line of succession for the remainder of
the term or until the disability is removed.

They also have a gubernatorial succession statute: ยง 1. (a) In the event that the Governor, for any of the reasons specified in Article V, Section 6 of the Constitution of the State of Illinois, is not able to exercise the powers and discharge the duties of his office, such powers and duties of the office shall be exercised by the officer next in line of succession . . .

The constitutional and statutory provisions are the basis for the A.G.'s action in the Supreme Court. Her argument is that "these criminal allegations strike directly at Mr. Blagojevich's decision-making process, and specfically at at his capacity to separate his personal financial and other interests from the exercise of his public, executive authority."

My question is this: how is this different from any other case in which corruption of a public official is alleged? Every time he tries to sell his gubernatorial power, whether for the appointment of a new senator, or approval of a construction permit, isn't it clear that he has failed to separate his personal financial and other interests from the exercise of his public, executive authority? If the A.G. is able to prevail on this basis,, doesn't it swallow up the impeachment process entirely?

It seems to me that it does. There are times, and this is one of them, where the passion to rectify some obvious evil overwhelms our commitment to the rule of law, and to following the established procedures and practices to achieve the public interest. In my view, though, these are exactly the times when we are most in need of adhering to our established laws and practices.

So I want this guy out, and the sooner the better. If he is impeached, great. If he sees the writing on the wall and resigns (although his ability to see the writing on the wall seems to be pretty seriously impaired. What shouldn't happen, though, is that somehow people decide that Governor X or President Y has to go, and they pursue some illegitimate, ad hoc, process to get rid of him.

Even with that haircut.


Blogger jay said...

I agree; I wonder if there is a more legitimate way for achieving what appears to be necessary, the removal of RB.

Civil action to recover his undeserved salary, to enjoin future acts of corruption, w/ TRO keeping him from doing certain actions that might further or cover up or give him benefit of corrupt practices?

Conditions of release from custody in the criminal proceeding?

There are big separation of powers issues with the first, I suppose, but more legit, I think, than Madigan's move.

December 13, 2008 5:03 PM  

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