It is not a crime not to admit your crimes. It is not a crime not to beg for mercy. Yet until the day that Rod Blagojevich was sentenced to prison for 14 years he had done neither of these things and the press had hammered him for it. The last-minute conversion mattered to Judge James Zagel, who said he gave the former governor credit for facing up to his sins.
Far down the tracks, farther than he might ever travel, atonement and redemption await Blagojevich. Well, it is pretty to think so. And because at the last moment he reached the way station of repentance, Zagel apparently extended him a dollop of mercy. The state had asked for a sentence of at least 15 years.
Should we care if Blagojevich remains blind to his own corruption and goes to his grave thinking himself an exemplary public servant? No one believes his sight was miraculously restored — yet we reward the hypocrisy of him saying it has been. Oscar Wilde called hypocrisy the tribute vice pays to virtue. When paid not to virtue but to power, the tribute looks more like something extorted.
Is it because prison is supposed to break people that we think it’s a fair deal to shorten their sentence if they show us they’re already broken? They show us they’re broken when they grovel.
“Betraying the public trust” is certainly reason enough to punish Blagojevich, though the language is heavily perfumed. I’d say he screwed the enablers who twice put him in office. I suppose “The people got what they deserved” spoken on his own behalf wouldn’t sway a judge.