Friday, September 16, 2005

Hey! He's not carnival personnel.

I have an idea for a campaign poster when our governor seeks reelection. A picture of Blagojevich, his head titled rakishly to the side, a barely perceptible smile across his barely perceptible lips. In his hand, a highball glass displayed prominently near his cheek. And splashed atop his photo this simple message: “Be Somebody.” Oh yeah, and don’t forget to put one of those little bamboo umbrellas in his drink. Because while the governor may declare his admiration for Elvis, he actually shares more in common with another poor white boy from Mississippi, Navin R. Johnson.

In the movie “The Jerk”, Steve Martin’s character, Navin, finds himself instantly wealthy and the center of attention only to squander it all away in an attempt to make people like him. The governor seems to find himself heading down the same path, only his dwindling fortune isn’t the profits from a revolutionary advancement in eye care, the opti-grab, it’s the state's coffers.

A report in the SJ-R today tells of the governor getting caught up in the love at an event where he had announced that the state would double funding for HIV/AIDS awareness. Staggering back to the microphone a la James Brown, the governor impulsively decadrupled the largess by pledging another $2 million the state doesn’t have. Or perhaps it wasn’t so impulsive.

The governor also made the front page today with news that he may be the focus of a federal investigation that is looking into a kickback scheme involving the state’s pension fund. Could it be that his spontaneous generosity was a cloying act meant only as a diversion, a $2 million PR campaign to lessen the blow of a potential scandal while recasting his lot with his political base.

No, that’s far too cynical and not at all in keeping with the Navin Johnson analogy that I put forth to start this post. Navin was an innocent, a kind-hearted simpleton that stumbled into a world he thought was calling out to him, only to be crushed by the shallow and rapacious people who awaited.

And we can, if we try, view the governor in this light as well.

A young Serbian-American of average intelligence who struggles through law school, he is abetted by his dream of becoming president. He marries and becomes the puppet of his Machiavellian father-in-law who projects him into governorship where he falls under the influence of political opportunists who persuade him to toss aside his patriarchal ties. Today, it’s all he can do to keep up with the maddening pace of endless news conferences and photo ops, trying to find favor with the electorate through a free flow of state funds in an effort to keep his acceptance numbers up. At this rate, before the next election he’ll be shuffling down the street with his pants around his ankles, a lamp in one hand and a chair and a paddle game in the other.

But perhaps this is too harsh a read.

Obviously, stomping out AIDS is a much more worthy cause than eliminating cat juggling, the injustice that Navin was convinced to finance the fight against by Father Carlos Las Vegas De Cordova. But is it any more worthy a cause than eliminating any other deadly disease? If the governor meets with juvenile cancer victims next week, how can he fail to be moved by the same spirit of concern and significantly up the state’s contribution to cancer treatment and research? But if he does, the state will find itself in an even bigger hole. If he doesn’t, then maybe yesterday's act was just grandstanding after all.

Some would argue that even if the governor isn’t The Jerk, he still might qualify as a jerk. I can’t get a good enough read of him as a person to make that judgment, but he certainly seems incompetent as the state’s top administrator. It’s my hope that when the new phone books arrive next year, there’s a different occupant listed for the mansion.

1 comment:

Ex Newfie said...

The reason we can't get a read on the man is because he is smoke and mirrors with no soul. I don't think there is a real Rod Blagojevich. He's a figment of his own imagination.