Americans love a political scoundrel. And God knows we’ve seen a lot of them.

Mayor James Michael Curley ruled Boston from his prison cell. Wilbur Mills had his Ways and Means with stripper Fannie Fox. And James Traficant cried “Beam me up, Mr. Speaker” all the way to his federal prison cell.

But we’ve never seen any scoundrel quite like Rod Blagojevich.

On the first day of his impeachment trial in the Illinois state Senate, Blago was in New York City instead, making the rounds of all the network and cable TV shows. Where he not only proclaimed his innocence, but compared himself to Gary Cooper, Jimmy Stewart, Mother Teresa, Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King and Mahatma Gandhi. In a moment of humility, he left Jesus Christ off the list.

But, for all his brazen self-promotion, this must also be said: Blagojevich has not yet been convicted of any crime. Nonetheless, he will undoubtedly be convicted by the Illinois state Senate this week, without being allowed to respond to any of the charges made so publicly against him by U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald.

In other words, he will be impeached and convicted — not because he’s guilty of any crime, but simply because he’s unpopular. And that’s unfair for anybody, even Rod Blagojevich.

He may be a scoundrel, but until he’s actually found guilty of committing a crime, Blago deserves to remain in office.

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