Saturday, December 13, 2008

What The Blagojevich Scandal Says About Us

Nate Silver has a nice dissection of the Patrick Fitzgerald tapes, explaining why it is that Obama and his transition team would have been very unlikely to know that Blagojevich was putting the Senate seat on the market.
One needs to remember that the bulk of the criminal complaint against Blagojevich consists of somewhat delusional, masturbatory and half-baked schemes1 discussed between Blagojevich and his advisers. On the other hand, there are relatively few conversations between Blagojevich and representatives of any of the various Senate candidates, and when such conversations do occur, Blagojevich proceeds at least somewhat more cautiously.
Which is what you'd expect. Trying to shake down multiple candidates for the appointment isn't a workable strategy. If you try to extort money from someone, they turn you down, and you end up giving the appointment to somebody else who pays up, the person you denied the appointment is going to (1) be unhappy that they didn't get the job and (2) have some serious dirt on you.

I liked this comment from emailer and commenter Rousseau:
I actually find this whole affair pretty supportive of our democracy. Blago is governor of a large state and willing to sell it to the highest bidder... and he can do so little. He's reduced to fantasizing with his advisors about selling one federal position for another, and makes pretty much 0 progress there. The news coverage so far has completely underplayed how resistant every single federal politician was to his ideas.
Possibly excepting Jesse Jackson Jr., that's right. This isn't because our politicians are wonderful people, but because the anti-corruption norms embedded in the system are strong enough that you just can't go around trying to sell offices. People won't stand for it, partly because they know other people won't stand for it. And so we don't turn into rural India, where my cousin applied for a job where one of the requirements turned out to be "marry the boss' weird-looking daughter." (My cousin didn't marry the daughter and didn't get the job.)

1 Describing Blagojevich's plans to get big money and politically advance himself by selling the Senate Seat as "delusional, masturbatory, and half-baked" reminds me too much of a certain scene in American Pie.
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