As a son of the South, I’m the first to admit we’ve had some governors who didn’t make us look too good in the eyes of the rest of the nation and, for that matter, the world.
That’s why, on behalf of devoted Southerners everywhere, I offer my sincere thanks to Gov. Rod Blagojevich for making some of our black sheep look like choirboys.
In case you’ve missed it, they arrested the Illinois governor on Tuesday and charged him with putting the Senate seat of President-elect Barack Obama up for sale to the highest bidder.
The people of Illinois have elected this guy, not once but twice, to be their chief executive. The federal government already had him under investigation for other stuff.
I’m not a graduate of the FBI academy or even one of those security schools that they advertise on TV in the middle of the night, but if the federal government has got their eye on you, they might be listening in on your telephones.
Guess what? They were.
“I’ve got this thing and it’s [expletive] golden, and, uh, uh, I’m just not giving it up for [expletive] nothing. I’m not gonna do it. And, and I can always use it. I can parachute me there,” said Blagojevich in a tapped phone call, according to the affidavit released by the U.S. Attorney in Chicago.
The thing he’s talking about is the Senate seat and, according to the arrest papers, it was for sale.
If this had happened in Mayberry, Barney Fife — without assistance of Andy — could have wrapped up the whole thing.
If this took place on Sesame Street, Elmo could have solved it with enough time left over to learn the entire alphabet and numbers 1 through 10.
I thank you, Gov. Blagojevich, on behalf of the late Eugene Talmadge, who was governor of our state on more than one occasion.
When ol’ Gene was commissioner of agriculture, he lost $11,000 of state money on a hog deal. Your Chicago boys said Georgia hogs weren’t worth as much as the Midwest ones because they were fattened up on peanuts instead of corn.
Talmadge spent $80,000 in state money buying up 82 train carloads of Georgia hogs and sending them to the Northeast. He didn’t get the price he had hoped for and took an $11,000 loss.
The legislature tried to accuse Talmadge of stealing.
But Talmadge, who was a fiery orator known for wearing red suspenders, took his case to the people.
“Yes, I stole,” cried Gene. “But I stole for you.”
The people must have bought the story because they turned around and elected him governor.
You just made guys like Gene Talmadge of Georgia, Huey “Kingfish” Long of Louisiana and Theodore “The Man” Bilbo of Mississippi look like a trio of mere mortals awaiting their rise to sainthood.
“The poor old dirt farmer ain’t got but three friends on this earth: God Almighty, Sears Roebuck and Gene Talmadge,” he used to say on the stump.
He also said, “I may surprise you, but I’ll never deceive you.”
Too bad the Illinois governor didn’t hear about that last one earlier and take it to heart.
Harris Blackwood is community editor of The Times. His columns appear Wednesdays and Sundays.