Four years in a government-issued uniform and without your family can make a person do odd things. Just look at Rod Blagojevich, imprisoned for trying to sell President Obama's former Senate seat.
Ruminating in federal prison apparently left Illinois' former governor thinking it would be dandy to ask Mr. Obama — yep, same Obama — to commute his 14-year sentence before the president leaves office in January.
If stir crazy is that bad, perhaps social justice supporters have a point about making sure sentences are appropriate for the crime. The Blagojevich case, the Chicago Tribune wrote, is "regarded as one of the most shocking instances of corruption in U.S. history." For that, 14 years seems just to us, but not to No. 40892-424.
Illinois has a long history of sullied politicians, before and after Blagojevich. But even with that history, it's hard to tell, even at this date, what (or if) the former governor was thinking when he offered to fill the Senate seat with a person named by the highest bidder. "I've got this thing, and it's ... golden," he was recorded saying an FBI wiretap.
Now, the public has a golden opportunity to see a convicted felon — a former elected official — serve a prison sentence in its entirety. Blagojevich as governor, interestingly, had one of the state's lowest numbers of commutations or pardons, addressing only 25 percent of the requests that came across his desk in six years. The Chicago Tribune reported that Obama's focus on commutations has been on drug cases and that he, too, has granted only a small percentage.
Many (us included) think Blagojevich's request should be ignored by the president — and any future president, for that matter. The former governor is supposed to stay imprisoned until 2024, his punishment for conviction of an original 18 counts of corruption. Five counts later were dismissed but the 14-year sentence remained in place.
In recent decades, high-profile presidential pardons/commutations have included names such as Jimmy Hoffa (Richard Nixon); Nixon (Gerald Ford); Peter Yarrow (Jimmy Carter); George Steinbrenner (Ronald Reagan); Caspar Weinberger (George H.W. Bush); and Patty Hearst (Bill Clinton). While the final decision on a pardon/commutation for a federal offense rests solely with the president, we see no overriding reason for Rod Blagojevich to serve a shorter term.
Blagojevich was trained as a lawyer and once served as a prosecutor. He was a state lawmaker, a U.S. congressman and was governor. He, more than most, should have realized the illegality of his actions. He, more than most, succumbed to the greed of politics, position, power and money.
Maybe, in 10 years, he'll have learned his lesson.