It's not often in politics that an impeachment acts as a simple solution. But thanks to the master class in bribery blunders given to us by Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, we have the rarest of occurrences: an impeachment not only makes sense, it's the easy way out.
Earlier today, Illinois's senior (and lone remaining) senator, Dick Durbin, called on the state legislature to change state law so as to create a special election to determine who will take Barack Obama's seat on Capitol Hill. Right now, Blago still has the power to appoint whomever he wants. And he won't resign. So the thinking is, Illinois will just change the law, the people will decide who replaces Obama, and we'll all move on, right?
One little problem: the COST. Illinois is a state with a $2 billion deficit, and it's estimated that a special election would cost roughly $50 million. The state itself wouldn't pay for the special election (that honor falls to the counties themselves), but still: $50 million is an enormous amount of money. How happy will Illinois taxpayers be after their governor not only tried to sell one of their U.S. Senate seats, but cost them $50 million in the process?
Instead of reconvening on Monday to change state law, the Illinois legislature should reconvene to bring up articles of impeachment against Blagojevich. It's not like it would take very long to come up with a list of impeachable offenses - and they're not even in session right now anyway. Yes, there would be a trial. Yes, impeaching a sitting governor is slightly more complicated than "well, what you did was illegal, in fact it was REALLY illegal, so out you go." But the evidence incriminating Blago is overwhelming, and, considering the governor's approval rating is somewhere between the single- or low double-digits, it seems politically suicidal for any Illinois legislator to not vote for impeachment.
An impeachment trial would theoretically take time - but so would organizing a special election. And an impeachment trial wouldn't cost $50 million. But the other benefit of moving to impeach Blagojevich - besides saving the money - would be that maybe, just maybe, it would compel him to resign. He may not want to now, but if he's going to be impeached anyway, he might be forced to pull a Nixon and save the little face he has left by leaving. Then the lieutenant governor would assume the top role in Springfield and appoint Illinois's next U.S. senator. Problem solved, piggy bank in tact (minus that $2 billion hole).
It's an unprecedented game of political musical chairs - no matter what they decide to do. Let's just hope Illinois gives this guy what he deserves and save its beleaguered taxpayers $50 million in the process.