Thursday, December 11, 2008

Corruption: Governor Blagojevich and Governor Hubert "Happy" Hopper

Governor Hubert Hopper & Mr. Smith Goes To Washington
Governor Hubert" Happy" Hopper isn't a real governor...but his character certainly plays off certain challenges that must exist for governors who are placed in the powerful position of naming a Senator.

In the classic 1939 film, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, the basic premise of the film relies on a corrupt leadership in unnamed state (that for all purposes, might as well be Illinois). The corrupt governor is in a position to chose a Senate replacement for the deceased and loved senator Sam Foley. His political boss Jim Taylor (Edward Arnold) has a corrupt plan in place...and has the perfect man handpicked for a dam-building graft scheme.

Governor Hopper is torn on what to do and eventually deviates with his own plan (or a plan led by the fate of a coin) and chooses an unknown man who he expects will fall in line with the also-corrupt senator from their Illinois-esque state, Senator Joseph Paine (Claude Rains).

Of course...mayhem ensues, plans get foiled, and there are various surprises along the way and in the senate chambers.

Governor Rod Blagojevich & Reality
The reality of stories, especially to the extreme of what has come over the past couple of days, and truly sounds like the stuff of fiction, not reality.

It's too bad that conversations the past couple of days have discussed which state of the union is most corrupt. People can name examples out of New York, Alaska, and Louisiana and the stories, and list go on and on. For a country that prides itself in it's liberties and democratic process it really is disheartening to know what secrets, conspiracies and agendas are kept behind closed doors.

I do not excuse Blagojevich one bit for the mockery he has made of the democratic process. At the same time, to have the authority to chose a US Senator (including the option of "promoting" yourself) seems like a lot of power to be had for one person, and the outside influences and voices that might lead to any given choice is certainly exhaustive to imagine. I would hope that this situation would be the catalyst to create better protocol.

It bothers me when people try to suggest that the moral character of a political candidate is not important or essential, because when it comes down to it, it seems to me, that character is one of the most important characters of a good leader. In a position of power a persons honesty and integrity is really put to the test, and if there are cracks in their character to begin with, then I can only see that spelling disaster.

Jefferson Smith and ???
I would hardly argue that America needs a true Jefferson Smith (Jimmy Stuarts, boy ranger leader with no experience who goes to be a US Senator) in leadership. I think America needs people that are smart, creative, reconcilers, and true leaders in positions of power. But I think that in a world of 30 second smear ads and car bumper stickers even these character traits are hard to evaluate. But even harder is to evaluate a person's honesty and integrity.

Frankly, I don't think the political process is built in such a way that people with strong character can really get elected in our current political arena. Is this pessimistic, fatalistic, and the hopeless? I hope it's not true. But I find myself increasingly disappointed by the Blagojevich's, and all those around him who are aware of what's going on, and refuse to blow the whistle.

1 comment:

Will said...

Wow, you're exactly right! I hadn't thought about the connection to Mr. Smith, even though I just saw this again last month.

Thanks for these sorts of posts. I love how you make connections between movies and current events.