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Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Nothing wrong in Illinois?

Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich claims that he has done nothing wrong and, therefore, has no reason to resign. What he really means is that he has been arrested, charged and released on [fairly modest] bail, but has not yet been convicted of any crime. Given the presumption of innocence in American criminal law, that is true but falls far short of being the whole truth: the evidence of wrongdoing, so far, appears overwhelming.

There are many things that are, or were, perfectly legal but, nonetheless, wrong. Slavery, racial segregation, denial of women's right to vote are major examples from the past. A modern legal, but wrong, curiosity is the denial of voting representation in the United States Senate and House of Representatives to some four hundred and fifty thousand citizens who reside in the District of Columbia. It is not hard, either, to think of things that were illegal but right: the Boston Tea Party, America's unilateral Declaration of Independence and, not least, Rosa Parks's famous refusal to give up her seat on a bus.

Those who remember President Clinton's most memorable phrase, "it depends what the definition of 'is' is", will continue to be appalled to learn of yet another gross pollution of our language by those who possess law degrees.

It is no surprise, at least to this writer, that [soon to be former?] Governor Blagojevich is an attorney. He is, also, a member in good standing of the ignominious company of Senators Ted Stevens and Larry Craig who both, notwithstanding their convictions - one by a jury and the other as a result of a guilty plea, still maintain that they did nothing wrong. They, too, declined to do the right thing by resigning from the United States Senate.

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