Even people accustomed to dirty politics were shocked last week when Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich was arrested by the FBI on federal corruption charges. Blagojevich had been under investigation for years, he apparently knew he was under investigation, yet he tried to put President-Elect Barak Obama’s Illinois senate seat up for sale anyway.
How blatant was the governor? Jay Leno joked that he listed Obama’s seat on eBay.
On Tuesday, December 9, the day Governor Blagojevich was arrested, the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois issued a press release. It states:
A 76-page FBI affidavit alleges that Blagojevich was intercepted on court-authorized wiretaps during the last month conspiring to sell or trade Illinois’ U.S. Senate seat vacated by President-elect Barack Obama for financial and other personal benefits for himself and his wife. At various times, in exchange for the Senate appointment, Blagojevich discussed obtaining:
- a substantial salary for himself at a either a non-profit foundation or an organization affiliated with labor unions;
- placing his wife on paid corporate boards where he speculated she might garner as much as $150,000 a year;
- promises of campaign funds – including cash up front; and
- a cabinet post or ambassadorship for himself.
And how did the governor respond to the allegations? He proclaimed his innocence, showed up for work and defiantly rejected calls to resign.
Ran against corruption
Blagojevich was first elected governor in 2002 and reelected in 2006. He originally ran on an anti-corruption platform. Voters no longer believe the governor’s “always lawful” claim. His approval rating is now a paltry 13%.
In fact, back in February 2008, long before the governor was arrested, Chicago Magazine ran an article about him called Mr. Un-Popularity.
The article is a colorful, well-written description of Rod Blagojevich’s fall from grace. The story describes behavior that any Lovefraud reader would immediately recognize as sociopathic. For example:
- Blagojevich married the daughter of a powerful Chicago alderman, Richard Mell, who helped Blagojevich get elected. Once he was the governor, Blagojevich discarded Mell.
- Blagojevich feuded with practically every politician in the Illinois statehouse.
- Blagojevich spent much of his administration fending off accusations of ethical irregularities and outright corruption.
- Blagojevich never accepts blame for his or his administration’s mistakes.
- Blagojevich makes no apologies for his defiant style.
- When Blagojevich didn’t get his way, he “blew up like a 10-year-old” and threatened to run a senator out of the Statehouse.
- The criticism doesn’t faze the governor. In public, he’s easygoing, unshaken and self-assured.
Mr. Un-Popularity is an excellent description of what happens when sociopaths are elected to positions of power.
Explaining the behavior
The author of the article, David Bernstein, tries to explain the governor’s behavior. In fact, he even quotes several people who call Blagojevich a sociopath. But he does it in the context of amateur “armchair psychologists,” and follows up the term “sociopath” with “madman.” Here’s what he wrote:
The governor’s strange behavior has been fertile ground for local armchair psychologists. Last summer, the downstate newspaper the Peoria Journal Star declared that the governor was “going bonkers.” Privately, a few people who know the governor describe him as a “sociopath,” and they insist they’re not using hyperbole. State representative Joe Lyons, a fellow Democrat from Chicago, told reporters that Blagojevich was a “madman” and “insane.” “He shows absolutely no remorse,” says Jack Franks, the Democratic state representative. “I don’t think he gives a damn about anybody else’s feelings. He tries to demonize people who disagree with him; he’s got delusions of grandeur.”
The author also came up with other possible explanations for the governor’s behavior. They include:
- Blagojevich had some kind of personality change after he won the gubernatorial primary.
- Blagojevich grew up in Chicago politics, and wanted to be an autocrat like former Mayor Daley.
- Blagojevich was an introvert in an extravert’s business.
- Blagojevich was jealous of the success of former Illinois Senator Barak Obama.
- Blagojevich was feeling pressured by three years of federal probes into unethical behavior by his aides.
- Power changed Blagojevich for the worse.
Another missed opportunity
All of those reasons for the governor’s bad behavior are nonsense. Rod Blagojevich is a sociopath, and that explains everything. He is doing what sociopaths do.
Some of the people that Bernstein interviewed got it right and correctly pointed out the governor’s personality disorder. So here’s what happened. Either Bernstein, like most reporters, didn’t really understand the meaning of the term sociopath, and so did not know how to use the information. Or, if Bernstein did understand what it meant, the magazine’s editors and lawyers didn’t allow him to describe Blagojevich as a sociopath because of concerns about objective reporting or potential lawsuits.
Rod Blagojevich is a poster child for this personality disorder. His shocking behavior on a national stage could be an opportunity to educate the public about these predators. But it looks like the opportunity will be missed.