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Copyright: ©2008 Rusty Wright
HONEST ABE AND ILLINOIS' GOVERNOR
By: Rusty Wright
Well, Mr. Lincoln, now that you’ve rolled over in your grave, what do you make of the mess in your old turf?
U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald claimed that’s how you’d react to Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich’s “political corruption crime spree."
Serious allegations face the governor of your state. We call it the “Land of Lincoln.” (Americans still respect you lots and Illinois automobile license plates bear that slogan. Automobiles are modern transportation devices – once called horseless carriages – and the folks who make them have their own troubles now. But I digress.)
Of course, in the United States, we’re supposed to presume innocent until proven guilty. But, frankly, it’s looking grim for the Guv.
You see, federal agents say they overheard him discussing several nefarious schemes, like wanting to sell one of Illinois’ U.S. Senate seats. They claim he sought great personal benefit – positions and money for himself and his wife – in exchange for appointing the successor to the seat recently vacated by President-elect Barack Obama.
Oh, yes, I should explain. A lot has happened since Ford’s Theater. Though our nation still struggles with racial division, Obama, whose parents were interracial, won the presidency. He hails from your state and is modeling his cabinet after yours. By Illinois law, the governor names a successor to complete Obama’s Senate term.
The feds had been investigating Blagojevich. Illinois legislators were considering impeaching him. Blagojevich allegedly even toyed with appointing himself to the Senate to avoid impeachment. The feds finally arrested him: 6:00 a.m. at his home, handcuffs, the whole thing.
Fitzgerald says this guy granted state contracts in exchange for financial benefits, “pay to play” shakedowns. Says he arranged state funding for a children’s hospital but wanted a $50,000 campaign contribution in return. $50K is not what it was in your day, but it’s nothing to sneeze at.
When Blagojevich learned the authorities were secretly recording his conversations, he accused them of Nixonian tactics and announced anyone could record him, but indicated it was only polite to notify him in advance. (“Recording” … “Nixon” …. This could take forever. Just Google them, please.)
Sounded pretty lame to me, like a guilty person trying to divert attention.
Folks are calling for Blagojevich’s head. What would you counsel? Probably you’d want the legal process to play itself out. Fair enough, but there’s a deeper problem. His predecessor is now in prison. And it’s not just Illinois and politics. Sometimes it seems much of our nation lacks an ethical compass: business scandals, family unfaithfulness, cheating in education, and more.
Your second inaugural address pointed to higher goals amid turbulent times: “With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in….” You quoted the Good Book a lot. One of its Proverbs says, “By justice a king gives a country stability, but one who is greedy for bribes tears it down.” Leaders’ ethics can have cascading impact. Everyone needs a sound ethical base.
Before signing off, I have a story. When I was a child, I memorized your Gettysburg address. The one that said, “The world will little note, nor long remember, what we say here….” (Oops!) For memorizing it, my father gave me a five dollar bill. It had your picture on it. You inspired me.
I know you had your own flaws and struggles, and don’t we all. But thanks for being such a positive example. Rest well.
Rusty Wright is an author and lecturer who has spoken on six continents. He holds Bachelor of Science (psychology) and Master of Theology degrees from Duke and Oxford universities, respectively.
"Real Answers™" furnished courtesy of The Amy Foundation Internet Syndicate. To contact the author or The Amy Foundation, write or E-mail to: P. O. Box 16091, Lansing, MI 48901-6091; firstname.lastname@example.org
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