It is not a crime to smoke cigarettes at home — not yet, anyway. Nor is it a crime to be in debt. But a dozen states have laws a judge hearing a divorce case can use to deny custody to the smoking parent. And recently, aggressive creditors are getting judges to jail those who fall behind on their debts, a whiff of Dickens’ workhouse in the 21st century.
The lesson being: Once your life gets under law’s microscope, all sorts of various bad behaviors, like smoking and falling behind on your obligations, which are not crimes, suddenly draw punishments anyway.
That’s what I keep thinking, following the Rod Blagojevich trial. You hear the testimony and, sure, Blago’s grubbing for money. He’s badgering his brother to raise cash. He’s wondering aloud what favors he can trade for which goodies.
Isn’t that how politics works? How many politicians get the big yearly check from the National Rifle Association and then vote the straight NRA line? I guess we’re supposed to believe the polite fiction that it’s the other way around — the politician votes his conscience and then the NRA — or MoveOn.org or any other group — flutters its hands to heaven and says, “Hallelujah, a kindred spirit — we must support this guy!”
That may happen occasionally. But generally, the checks arrive, the votes flow.
Don’t get me wrong — I thought Blagojevich was a weasel five years ago. If pure brazen self-absorption and utter lack of civic concern were crimes, then we could lock up Blago and toss the key away.
But they’re not crimes, not yet. I keep waiting for the big crime to show up in the testimony– and maybe it will, some obvious quid-pro-quo for Obama’s old Senate seat, the “OK, you give me $10 million and you’re a senator” moment. But I haven’t heard it yet. My gut tells me that Blago’s crime is going to boil down to the same crime Miriam Santos was convicted of — the crime of saying on tape what many others say unrecorded.
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