Why would I want a corrupt Governor to remain in office until trial and conviction? Because that is the only way all the facts will come out quickly, with both U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald and the Illinois legislature under intense pressure to press the case to a public trial. A quick resignation and plea deal will keep most of the evidence secret and will allow business as usual to continue.
We need to know before the next election cycle who paid whom, who scratched whose political back, and who looked the other way to advance their careers. It goes far beyond the sale of a Senate seat, although that is bad enough. Gov. Blagojevich is the tip of the corrupt iceberg. We need to see what is below the surface, and only a full blown public trial will suffice.
Recent history proves the benefit of a public trial. In Providence, Rhode Island, longtime Mayor Vincent "Buddy" Cianci was prosecuted on 27 counts of fraud while still in office. Ultimately, Buddy was convicted of only one count of operating a criminal enterprise (that being City Hall!), but the trial exposed the seedy underside of Providence politics. Videotapes of bribes being paid to City Hall officials shocked a public complacent about corruption. Providence is better off for that public trial, and the disgust it created in the public.
The scene of Buddy arriving at Court the celebrity Mayor, but leaving after sentencing a common criminal, is etched in the public memory and served as a warning to others:
One sign that the changeover had begun was Cianci's mode of transportation. Driven to the courthouse in a black city-owned Lincoln Town Car with license plate number 1, Cianci was chauffeured back to his home at the Biltmore hotel in a beat-up Nissan Maxima belonging to a staffer and driven by a retired Providence police officer.
So too this country will be better off with a quick but full blown public trial of Gov. Blagojevich, whether that trial is in criminal court or a legislative impeachment proceeding, or both. Let the sun shine on the full extent of corruption in Illinois, let politicians take the witness stand, let documents be introduced in evidence, let the whole world see the full extent of the corruption. We need to see the videotapes and listen to the audiotapes.
Yes, a full blown trial of a sitting Governor will be disruptive, but Illinois and the nation will be better for the experience.