Reading Rod Blagojevich

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I just got my copy of “The Governor,” the new memoir by disgraced Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich. Some of the headlines have been pointed to elsewhere, including Blagojevich’s claim that White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel tried lay the groundwork for a return to his House seat after two years as Obama’s Chief of Staff.

But by far my favorite part of the book so far is the characteristic humility and personal responsibility Blagojevich demonstrates in explaining his obvious failings. To wit:

Maybe I have read too many history books over the years. I read about too many great men in history who I wanted to be like. Men with high ideals who stood up and sacrificed for principle. Those were my role models. That’s who I wanted to be. I saw myself as Teddy Roosevelt.

He, um, could be on to something. But it only gets better. It turns out the history books, in the end, failed him.

Maybe my head was so filled with wanting to be like Teddy Roosevelt and great men like him that I failed to see that some people around me were not motivated by the same things. That they had their own agendas. And were pursuing their own self-interest. The history books I read growing up and still read today don’t spend a lot of time talking about the nuts and bolts of running a big government.

I can only assume that Blagojevich’s extensive reading of history passed over Teddy Roosevelt’s 1897 book, “American Ideals and Other Essays, Social and Political,” in which Roosevelt recorded this widely quoted thought:

The worst lesson that can be taught to a man is to rely upon others and to whine over his sufferings. If an American is to amount to anything he must rely upon himself, and not upon the State; he must take pride in his own work, instead of sitting idle to envy the luck of others; he must face life with resolute courage, win victory if he can, and accept defeat if he must, without seeking to place on his fellow-men a responsibility which is not their.

Two peas in a pod, indeed.

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