"I think I'm a great governor."
This announcement to the press came from now-embattled Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich on Aug. 27, 2008, during the Democratic National Convention ("2-Minute Bio on Rod Blagojevich," Time).
On Dec. 9, Governor Blagojevich was arrested on a litany of corruption charges, including allegations so brazenly disgraceful that a hardened mobster might blush with shame. Yet Mr. Blagojevich has shown no signs of anything approaching shame.
A recent article in Time titled "Governor Gone Wild" chronicles the long list of alleged crimes, such as "conspiring to solicit bribes from the next President of the United States."
According to Illinois law, the governor has the sole authority to appoint a replacement to the U.S. Senate seat left vacant by President-elect Barack Obama. Mr. Blagojevich described this power as "golden," saying that he had no intention of "giving it up for…nothing."
According to FBI investigators, Mr. Obama's suggestion for the appointment was rebuffed because, in the words of the governor, he would not get "anything except appreciation."
Irony of ethics reform
The irony of this sordid situation is that the governor "took office vowing to bring ethics reform to Illinois" ("The Chicago Way," Economist.com, Dec. 10, 2008). His 2002 campaign promised a change in direction from the previous governor, George Ryan, who was himself plagued by corruption scandals.
As The Economist wryly noted, "If convicted of wrongdoing…Mr. Blagojevich would have the honor of being the most despicable politician in Illinois's recent history. This is no small feat in a state where three of the past seven governors have gone to jail."
Governor Blagojevich would have done well to consider that the Bible warns against corruption. God looks very unfavorably upon those who use positions of authority and power for personal gain. This self-serving behavior invariably leads to the downfall of the perpetrator.
A bad name in the Bible
Consider the story of Gehazi, the servant of the prophet Elisha (see 2 Kings 5:1-27). Naaman, a powerful commander in the Syrian army, was sent to Elisha to be healed of leprosy—a terrible disease for which there was no cure. After being healed, Namaan tried to pay Elisha for his services, but the prophet said "As the Lord lives, before whom I stand, I will receive nothing" (verse 16).
Gehazi saw an opportunity. Out of Elisha's sight, he pursued Naaman and asked for what amounted to a kickback—a quantity of silver and some fine clothing. Not surprisingly, Elisha knew what Gehazi had done. The prophet confronted him and said, "Is it time to receive money and to receive clothing…? Therefore the leprosy of Namaan shall cling to you and your descendants forever" (verses 26-27).
As a prophet of God, Elisha was in a position of power and authority. He understood that he was placed in that position to serve, not to get wealthy by taking bribes and selling favors.
Gehazi learned that lesson the hard way, much as it now seems Governor Blagojevich is learning it. Rather than the physical disease of leprosy, the blight of a tarnished reputation will cling to him forever, and his political career will almost certainly end in disgrace.
Good names rule
For vertical thinkers, these sad examples show the wisdom of God—"A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches, loving favor rather than silver and gold" (Proverbs 22:1).
For another aspect of building a good personal reputation, read "Just What Do You Mean—Fun?" VT