by Mark Rhoads
The legendary Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist Mike Royko died in 1997. Over his career, he worked for three different Chicago newspapers. I often miss his take on topics in the news today, but most of all in recent weeks because I think only Royko could have maximized the real entertainment value of the Blagojevich trial in a way that would do justice to the characters.
For example, many decades ago Mike ran his own contest to design a new city seal for Chicago. The winning entry came from a reader who drew a picture of an outstretched palm under the Latin inscription Ubi Est Mea? for Where’s Mine?
Mike had an imaginary friend, named Slats Grobnik, who was a surrogate for Chicago’s everyman. I can just imagine a conversation between Mike and Slats last week at the Billy Goat Tavern.
Mike: Hey Slats, you been reading about the Blagojevich trial?
Mike: Well, whadaya tink? Is Blago guilty?
Slats: Yeah, for lots of stuff, but not for selling the Obama seat.
Mike: How do ya figure?
Slats: A guy’s gotta make a living. He has a wife and kids to feed.
Mike: But what about his violation of the public trust?
Slats: The public what?
Mike: Don’t ya tink elected officials owe citizens honest and faithful service with no corruption?
Slats: In Illinois? I thought you come from Chicago.
Mike: Another beer?
Slats: OK, thanks.
Mike: So when you vote for a guy, you don’t expect him to be honest?
Slats: Naw, not really.
Mike: So why do ya vote for one guy instead of another?
Slats: I vote for Polish names first, then Ukranian, then Bohemian, maybe a stray Kraut.
Slats: But I draw the line at Mic and WASP names cuz they already got theirs and don’t need the money.
Mike: So the purpose of holding a public job is to sell the official perks for money?
Slats: Of course. Isn’t that why they run?
Mike: So you see nothin’ wrong with what Blago did?
Slats: Not much. I wouldn’t trust a pol who didn’t sell his perks for as much as he can get.
Mike: So will the verdict affect your vote in November?
Slats: Why should it? My pot hole got fixed, my garbage is collected. Our precinct captain is my cousin.
Mike: So you don’t think Republicans could straighten out the mess in Springfield?
Slats: What mess? Like Governor Quinn said, ‘that’s how it works.” The last Republican governor is in the slammer.
Mike: See ya later Slats, I got this one.
Slats: Thanks, Mike.
Mark Rhoads is a Northern Virginia businessman and satire writer who served as an Illinois State Senator (R-Cook County) from 1977 to 1983. He was an editorial writer for The Chicago Sun-Times (1984-1988).
In 1982, he taught at Harvard University as a Fellow of the Institute of Politics at the John F. Kennedy School of Government. He advises clients on government relations. Visit his website here.
Rhoads and Ken Feltman met when both worked on the successful Henry Hyde for Congress campaign in Cook County in 1974. Hyde came from behind to upset a popular Democratic candidate.