State & Local Politics

Rod Blagojevich — America’s First Political Reality TV Star

Do you love the first few episodes of “America Idol,” when the deluded try to convince the world they’re next great American singer? Are you a fan of “The Real World” or “Big Brother” or “Dancing with the Stars,” where people will do anything short of murder to ensure that their 15 minutes of fame is extended to 17 or 18? Maybe you love to watch the emotional travails of the vain and vacuous as showcased by the “Real Housewives of Orange County” (or New York, or Atlanta)? Well, I’ve never been a big fan of so-called reality TV — until now. Let me introduce America to our newest reality TV star — Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D).

“Blago TV” (and every reality TV star needs a great nickname — think Sanjaya — and how can you beat “Blago”?) is a masterful concoction of all the things that America loves about reality TV stars — two parts crazy, one part funny (though not ha-ha funny), with just a little splash of “koo-koo-for-Cocoa-Puffs-I-can’t-take-my-eyes-off-this-car accident” seasoning. And, for those of us who love politics or need a little distraction from our dire economic reality — how can you beat Blago reality TV?

Think about it for a second.

Just imagine you are the governor of Illinois and you’ve been accused of widespread corruption, of attempting to sell the Senate seat formerly held by the current president; you decide to stick it to Democrats by appointing someone to fill the seat you allegedly were trying to sell (even though you said you wouldn’t); you’ve been impeached and are likely to be removed from office in the coming weeks, and, by the way, your lawyer has resigned because you don’t listen; at some point very soon you are going to be formally indicted, and, given the evidence being reported, it’s fair to guess that you are on one super-fast track to Orange Jumpsuit Land, so what do you do, hotshot, what do you do?

If any of you said, “Resign from office to save your state, your family, your party and yourself an unparalleled level of embarrassment” — you would be wrong. The right answer is … media tour.

I mean, when a reality TV star is cornered, they don’t give up, they fight back. And Blago is fighting back hard. Where better to fight back then on “The View” (soon to be followed with a quick sit-down with Dr. Phil and then a two-minute sidebar with “Entertainment Tonight”)?

Seriously, if you put aside Blago’s random analogies to cowboys and horse-stealing (yee-haw,) or his poetry references to Kipling or Tennyson (I wonder if poetry sales are skyrocketing — we can call it the Blago TV effect), or even his beyond-delusional comparisons to human-rights heroes Nelson Mandela, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Mahatma Gandhi, you just can beat the fact that in a time when we face a litany of serious crises at home and abroad, Blago’s narcissistic media tour is there to help distract a nation (or at least us political junkies).

In fairness, while Blago has been pressed hard for answers in many of these interviews, real answers were not forthcoming — reality stars don’t do “truth.”

Don’t ask Blago for specifics or for explanations to the litany of accusations. Political reality TV stars don’t need to explain their actions — they’re above such trite things.

Don’t expect real honesty or self-flagellation about the terrible mistakes Blago may have made — political reality TV stars don’t need to speak truthfully.

Don’t expect quiet introspection or self-sacrifice — political reality TV stars don’t give up their 15 minutes of fame until you pry it out of their cold, dead hands.

To use a cowboy reference (sorry about this), Blago reminds me of the movie “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” (where Blago is either Butch or the Sundance Kid — just pick whoever had the fuller head of hair), where even when those rogue criminals were surrounded, they charged headfirst into a tide of bullets. Only problem is, much like Butch or Sundance, I’m pretty sure it isn’t going to end well for Blago, either.

More seriously, I can only hope that no politician — of any stripe — who ever finds him- or herself in these terrible straits takes any communications cues from Gov. Blagojevich. Word of advice — sometimes it’s better to stay quiet or put out a simple statement asking for time to deal with these “serious allegations.”

The reality is that Gov. Blagojevich is a communications disaster that will become a one-man case study for communications professionals on what not to do and how not to do it (this honor was formally held by Gov. Sarah Palin).

And maybe that is what is most troubling about Blago. At a time when we face a series of crises that were fed by similar levels of delusions and narcissism, you would hope that an elected leader would now, more than ever, decide to do the right thing and put the country and the people he serves before himself (I know — how naïve).

Unfortunately, Gov. Blago isn’t one of those leaders. And, ironically, that may best explain both why he is in this mess and why he won’t be governor of Illinois for much longer. But, what the hell, he always has a bright future as the host of America’s next great reality TV show.

Tags Entertainment Government of Illinois Human Interest Illinois Next Magazine Person Career Person Location Reality television Rod Blagojevich Rod Blagojevich Video game censorship

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