(en route to Georgia for the holidays) The effort to impeach Gov. Blagojevich seems to have stalled, on the ground that the legislature cannot find him guilty of corruption without a lengthy trial–complete with an elaborate defense–that might undermine the federal prosecution.
I’d make this simpler. I’d move to impeach and remove Gov. Blagojevich without presuming or showing that he’s guilty of the charges in the indictment. I’d impeach him because he’s been indicted and he cannot perform the state’s business in that condition. A governor could be falsely indicted–he could be completely innocent. However, if the indictment concerns a felony that relates to his position, he should probably resign to concentrate on fighting the charges and to save the state from being led by a criminal defendant. That might not be the best decision in every conceivable situation–for instance, a prosecutor might bring transparently baseless felony charges just to force a resignation. But it seems within the competence of the legislature to decide that this particular indictment is plausible and that Blagejovich cannot serve. That sounds like grounds for impeachment to me, and it should take just a couple of hours to do the deed.
Two obvious objections arise. (1) The impeachment could deprive an innocent man of his rights. I reply: No one has a right to be governor. That is a privilege. One should only hold the office if doing so is good for the people of the state. Even if Blagojevich is innocent, it is not good for Illinois for him to serve. (2) A politically motivated legislature could remove a governor simply because they didn’t like him. I reply: that would be wrong, and the people should punish such a legislature at the next election. But it’s not the situation here. The legislature deeply disliked Blagojevich months ago, but they didn’t think about impeaching him. They should impeach him now because any person indicted for felonies that directly relate to his public duties cannot credibly perform those duties. It’s time to get this over with.
(By the way, Kenneth Starr never indicted Bill Clinton.)