The demise of Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich was puzzling because of the combination of arrogance and social disconnect he showed in refusing to even show up for his impeachment trial.
That changed Thursday when he went to the state Senate to make closing arguments. The reasons to appear at that time are obvious: he didn’t have to face any direct questions from the prosecutor. Instead, he was able to launch into another “me vs. the world” diatribe similar to the ones he made on his numerous interviews while the meat of the trial was taking place earlier this week.
Matthew 7:3-5 comes to mind here with the impeachment proceedings Blagojevich termed a farce being the “speck in the eye” compared with the “plank” of his distorted view.
Impeachment proceedings are nothing new in American history; it’s not as if it was a procedure invented to go after Blagojevich. Presidents Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton were both acquitted at their trials despite brutal political adversaries. In this case Blagojevich’s biggest challenger was himself.
The ex-governor’s approach, tinged with Nixonian paranoia, was also bewildering in how far it was from easily understood social norms. If you don’t show up for your own trial, you’re almost certainly guaranteed of being convicted.
If his talk show tour was indeed an attempt to taint the potential jury pool in his criminal trial, it further points out how far Blagojevich had removed himself from responsible behavior. Of course, trying to force the firing of members of the Chicago Tribune‘s editorial board and allegedly putting a “for sale” sign on President Obama’s Senate seat fly in the face of responsibility.
In terms of social awkwardness, it was almost like watching an 8th grade boy ask a girl out for a first date. Except in this case there were no sweaty palms, staggered speech, or here in the 21st century, mangled text message. Instead it was an incredible level of misplaced bravado and an inability to see the forest for the trees.
The lessons for Christians here are clear. The precepts of humility and obedience to authority that guided Jesus are completely missing. It also poses a question of the abuse of power on a more personal level.
You don’t have to be a public official to take the power you may have–as a spouse, parent, manager or leader–and twist it upside down and backward. Unintended consequences often flow from poor behavior. In this case, Blagojevich’s abrasive leadership style became an all-to-public display of what can happen when all your attention is self-directed.