Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Governor Blagojevich, the moral philosopher?!

Here is an interesting article pertaining to the Illinois Governor, Rod Blagojevich. This week, the governor chose not to attend his impeachment trial, where he is accused of conspiring to sell Illinois senate seat left vacant by Barack Obama, and instead, go on a media blitz. The governor went on the View, Larry King Live, Good Morning America (but curiously, avoided America's Most Wanted and World's Dumbest Criminals - must be a strategic move).

Now, it is bad enough that Bagojevich loosely comapred his self-inflicted travails to "Mandela, Dr. King, [and] Gandhi, for which he is now being deservedly lampooned in a musical called Rod Blagojevich Superstar.

Yes, that is bad enough. But the governor, as senseless as he is incredulous, has now become a moral philosopher. On Larry King Live, that is, the governor was called on his repeated assertions that the wire-tap tapes that find him intimating his plans to sell a senate seat were "taken out of context." When asked about what context would justify the statements he made about selling the senate seat, our dear moral philosopher said this:

"If you do an exchange of one for the other, that's wrong," he told ABC's "Nightline." "But if you have discussions about the future and down the road and what you might want to do once you're no longer governor in a few years, what's wrong with that?"

While I am sure that Blagojevich had a good time in law school, I am guessing that he never payed attention in any criminal law classes, and surely never took or understood clases in moral philosophy. Of course, what Blagojevich is trying to do here is distinguish between a criminal act and thoughts about a potential criminal act. The former, for sure, is illegal - he seems to have a firm grasp of that fact - but the latter is perfectly legal so long as it does not lead to a criminal act.

Right? Kind of. One will certainly go to prison if one murders. One will not go to prison, though, if one thinks or fantasizes about murder. What the governor is leaving out though is that one commits a criminal offense when one talks about, and plans, a murder, even if the murder never comes to fruition. As long as there is strong evidence, which apparently the tapes provide, that the governor was talking with seriousness about a plan to sell a senate seat, then it is an offense.

That is from a purely legal standpoint; the governor may not be as guilty as he would be if he actually sold the senate seat, but he is still quite guilty.

Not only does the governor make a poor criminal lawyer, but he makes a bad moral philosopher. To say that one gets a moral free pass because they did not commit a crime, even though one thought and talked seriously about comitting the crime is to ignore the value of intent in blameworthiness. (If I thought about robbing the governor's house and talked seriously about it with others about doing it in "the future and down the road," but got caught before I could do it, would the governor be right - using his "logic" - to say that I am morally in-the-clear? I think he would, rightly, acknowledge that the act of thinking about, and talking about, a crime is itself worthy of moral condemnation.

Before we are through with the governor, he also says something rather revealing in the above-quoted snippet. He makes an unjustified distinction between selling a sensate seat as governor and selling a senate seat as (?!) a private citizen. The latter, he implies, would be not a crime at all. ("...[W] hat's wrong with... discussions about...what you might want to do once you're no longer governor?) Apparently there is nothing wrong with selling a senate seat "when you are no longer governor."

Needless to say, I hope this beast is impeached and goes to jail for a good long time. Clearly, he has jumped off the deep end and I hold no hope, nor desire, for his rehabilitation. The very fact that he was elected to office should make anyone who voted for him question their fitness to vote.

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