Patrick don't preach
I have no sympathy for busted Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, and I admire super-prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald's filing in the Scooter Libby perjury case made me rethink my original opinion that the outing of Valerie Plame shouldn't lead to anyone being sent up the river.
But why can't Fitzgerald let his legal work speak for itself? At his news conference on Tuesday he literally exceeded his brief, not only summarizing the criminal complaint but also holding forth rather priggishly about what the governor's arrest meant for Illinois.
According to Fitzgerald, the charges against Blagojevich represented “a truly new low,” and “would make Lincoln roll over in his grave.” The governor had gone on a "political corruption crime spree."
I was reminded of the first President Bush as channeled by Dana Carvey: "It's bad. Bad!" (Speaking of priggishness, Fitzgerald seemed to be as offended by Blagojevich's vulgar language as he was by the governor's actions.)
To be fair, Fitzgerald isn't the first prosecutor to embroider on his indictments verbally or otherwise. Lots of lawyer-politicians have used the U.S. attorney position as a stepping stone to higher office (remember Rudy Giuliani?) and that requires maintaining a high profile.
Fitzgerald seems bereft of electoral ambitions, but in a way that makes his preaching all the more annoying. The late Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist once took exception to a tendentious opinion by Justice William Brennan in a flag-burning case, accusing Brennan of engaging in a "patronizing civics lecture." If Rehnquist is aware of Fitzgerald's sermonizing, he's spinning in his grave.
* Photo of Patrick J. Fitzgerald by Tannen Maury / EPA