Bill Cutshall’s Weblog

January 12, 2009

OJ and Illinois Hate Consequences

As much as the whole Rod Blagoyevich circus dismays me, there is another more concerning undertone to the situation developing.  As Americans we live according to a set of rules.  Lots of sets of rules, actually.  Some are regional, some are contextual, and they are all subject to change in conditions where we find common agreement that it is warranted.  Just like steel, flexibility is one of the things that makes America strong rather than brittle.

What dismays me is the seeming growth of the idea that it is acceptable to ignore current rules and laws if adherence to them creates an unpopular or uncomfortable situation.  The Bush administration took a lot of flack, and rightfully so, over warrantless wiretapping of US citizens.  Their justification was that it was necessary to keep us safe and, without getting into the truth of that statement, it sufficed for them to change one of the most sacred rules of our society without appropriate debate.

When Rod Blagoyevich appointed Roland Burris to fill Barak Obama’s vacant senate seat, the national cringe registered on the Richter scale.  The idea that someone could be involved in a blatantly criminal dereliction of duty and then thumb his nose at Washington without consequence was distasteful and embarrassing.  America isn’t supposed to be like that.  Injustice isn’t supposed to survive past the constraints of the one hour docudrama.  Legislators lined up to tell the nation why the tainted Blagoyevich couldn’t appoint anyone to the Senatorial post but in the end the rules in place not only didn’t prevent him from doing it, they apparently required it.

As compelling as the evidence seems to be, Rod Blagoyevich has not yet been convicted of a crime.  Until the completion of the impeachment process, he is still the duly elected Governor of the state of Illinois and thus allowed and compelled by the laws of the state to make a senatorial appointment.  Those laws intended to assure that Illinois is equally represented in the national governing body surely never foresaw the cloud of controversy surrounding the process but incomplete as they are, they are still the law of the land.  As a properly chosen representative of the people of the state of Illinois, the senate has no authority to determine the fitness of Roland Burris to represent his constituents.  In short, there is no way that anyone other than the citizens of Illinois could change the embarrassing situation they find themselves in and there simply wasn’t time to act.

The thought that Governor Blagoyevich might be able to flaunt the system’s impotence was apparently intolerable enough that, in the absence of existing loopholes, one was created.  The Secretary of State of Illinois, Jesse White, has the responsibility to certify Illinois state governmental activity.  In the case of the Governor’s appointment of Roland Burris, it is the Illinois Secretary of State’s responsibility to certify that the person making the appointment is, in fact, the current governor.  By failing to perform his duty, Jesse White created a loophole big enough for the US Senate to grab onto.  They refused to seat Roland Burris because his paperwork wasn’t in order.

To his credit, Jesse White was standing up for what he believed was right.  He was doing what he believed to be in the best interests of the state of Illinois and the nation as a whole.  The state supreme court later ruled that he did not, in fact, have to sign the documents.  I wouldn’t be surprised to find that the entire population of the state supported both decisions.  In order to avoid an uncomfortable and embarrassing situation, the state essentially revised their laws post-facto.

The mentality that a big enough loophole empowers a small group of people to revise the rules post-facto to fit a desired outcome is what freed O.J. Simpson.  This short-term focus on circumventing the rules in the name of justice has unintended long-term consequences.  By supporting the Secretary of State’s refusal to certify the Governor’s apparently lawful appointment, Illinois has effectively just created a state official with legislative veto power.

Unintended consequences like this are the reason why changes to our system need to occur in a deliberated manner.  Every time a South-American leader throws out the constitution of their country because it didn’t suit him I am thankful to live in the country I do.  Every time we subvert and ignore our laws to change the consequences of something that has already happened we sink a little closer to lawlessness.  As a nation that repects our laws we will have times when our comfort will be compromised and we will have to endure embarrasment while we repair the rule system that keep our society together but that is the nature of consequences.  As a nation, however, we seem to be so allergic to consequences that we will sell our souls, our ideals, and our futures to avoid them and in that I find concern for us all.

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1 Comment »

  1. Ah, the rule of law, we have missed it for a while now….

    Comment by David L — January 12, 2009 @ 2:25 pm | Reply


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