It's Illinois: 'Hellhole' for many reasons

By Ed Murnane | Dec 14, 2008

The most disturbing aspect of Tuesday's stunning arrest of Governor Rod Blagojevich is that many Illinois residents -- perhaps most -- were not shocked. Perhaps the timing caught some off guard and perhaps the stupidity of the governor was a surprise but most Illinois residents, or at least those who pay attention to what is going on, were not shocked.

Even more than his Republican predecessor, Blagojevich has demonstrated an arrogance and sense of self-importance that is terribly off-putting to Midwesterners.

Most Illinoisans don't like arrogance, and they don't like people who think they're more important than they really are.

And Illinoisans don't like stupid people, either. And the combination of these traits of Rod Blagojevich is one of the reasons his approval rating is about 15 percent in a state that seems to be as solidly Democrat as any.

(Note: "Stupid" is a harsh word, and perhaps those who have not paid attention to the Blagojevich misdeeds may think it's disrespectful.
But consider this: There have been credible reports that Blagojevich was being "overheard" by the Feds, as recently as last week. And the specific charges against him Tuesday were based on "overheard" conversations within the past few days and weeks -- even after published reports of electronic monitoring. So "stupid" may be harsh, but it's also true.)

Blagojevich's fate won't be known for some time and his arrogance will keep him from resigning. Impeachment is a real possibility right now as legislators in both parties would like to get rid of him.

So he'll be gone, probably to jail at some point, but there are at least two scars that will not disappear quickly.

One is on the President-elect, who had to answer reporters' questions about the Blagojevich arrest Tuesday and who will likely always be associated with the Illinois scandals: first his connections with Tony Rezko and now his unwilling participation in an attempt by a greedy Illinois governor to raffle off Barack Obama's seat in the United States Senate.

The second scar will be on the next Illinois Senator. Whoever it is -- and we're not really sure how the new Senator will be selected -- will be identified as the Senator who replaced Barack Obama and who was unwillingly tied to an Illinois scandal.

These are not pleasant footnotes for either the new President or new Senator.

But this is what Illinois seems to have become. A friend in Vermont left a voice message Tuesday: "You guys are looking more like Louisiana every day."

This week, the American Tort Reform Association will announce its annual "Judicial Hellholes" list -- the states and/or jurisdictions that are deemed to have the worst judicial environments. Illinois has been pretty visible, making the list with at least one jurisdiction every year. For several years, Madison County was near the top, often accompanied by neighboring St. Clair County.

And Cook County, home of Rod Blagojevich and three of the seven members of the Illinois Supreme Court and possibly the largest judicial district in the nation, has been a member of the elite "judicial hellholes" club for several years now.

One thing is certain as we await the list, Illinois deserves to be represented, if for no other reason than because of what our Illinois Supreme Court did recently by handing down a ruling enabling trial lawyers to go after the "deepest pockets" in personal injury cases -- regardless of degree of fault. The three Cook County Supreme Court justices voted with the trial lawyers.

So if Cook County is on the list, it's justified, and if the entire state is on the list, it's justified also. We are looking more like Louisiana or Mississippi every day.

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