Blago Offers Life Lessons

School days are hectic enough around my house without a distraction as powerful as the TV. It’s all we can do to make lunches, review the day’s plans and find the homework that never seems to make it into the backpack the night before.

The last thing we need on a school day is Illinois Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich to throw off our routine. But I confess I wish I’d had the TV on [last] Tuesday when the embattled governor talked about his “Capra-esque” existence and why, for the sake of his young daughters, he launched a media blitz to salvage his reputation.

Mr. Blagojevich told the morning crew at CBS that taking his case to the court of public opinion was not an effort to soften the potential jury pool for his federal trial, a conclusion he called “cynical.” Rather, he said it was a last-ditch attempt to get the Illinois state Senate to change its rules and allow him to air his audiotapes and summon specific witnesses to his defense at his impeachment trial.

Unfortunately, the Illinois Senate was actually holding its impeachment trial while the governor made the rounds on the morning-news circuit, so I guess they were too busy to watch TV. (Or maybe they were just trying to find last night’s homework.)

In any case, Mr. Blagojevich was just doing what any decent public relations firm would suggest during a crisis: He was using the media in an effort to manage and manipulate public opinion.

To think that my “no TV on school days” rule caused me to miss such a powerful teachable moment. I’m pretty sure, though, that I’d have made everyone late since there was so much material in the governor’s five-minute CBS interview.

I’m not one to waste a good parental lecture, and since I didn’t get to give it on Tuesday morning, I’ll do it here. (Feel free to repeat it to your own children, by all means.)

Ahem … here goes:

“Kids, I have no doubt that Governor Blagojevich wants to redeem himself in the eyes of his family, but let this be a lesson to you: Actions have consequences. If this governor had conducted himself in a manner that was truly beyond reproach, I can’t imagine that he would be sitting on such a heap of trouble. And while our system affords him the presumption of innocence until proven guilty, he does not have a right to be well-regarded in the eyes of the public or even in the eyes of his own children. Someday, you may be in a position of leadership, and if you are, you should keep this in mind: You can’t tell people to respect your integrity. If they have to be told, you don’t have it.”

Come to think of it, we parents could be really eloquent if we could plan our teachable moments in advance.

Mr. Blagojevich is just one of a long string of politicians and celebrities who seem to realize too late that family honor is worth protecting. Somewhere in Illinois are two little girls who must grapple with an unsavory conundrum: How to love and respect a daddy who may not be the man you thought he was.

Unfortunately, Mr. Blagojevich’s crisis-management folks can’t undo the mess this man has created for the people who love him most. Only genuine accountability and a sincere apology will do that, and sadly, that doesn’t seem to be the Capra-style ending this governor is seeking.

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