OK, so let’s define “drug problem.”
If you are former Bears wide receiver Sam Hurd, and stand accused of trying to become the cocaine king of greater Chicago, you clearly have a drug problem.
If you are the despicable, deposed and deviant former Illinois Gov. “Hot” Rod Blagojevich, you say you have a drug problem.
Hurd, who tried to buy as much as 10 kilograms of cocaine and an additional 1,000 pounds of marijuana from undercover agents last week, appears destined for federal prison. Blagojevich is headed for federal prison. Blagojevich will get there first. Given the sentencing parameters for the crimes federal agents say he committed, Hurd will be clogging up our penal system for a longer stretch of time.
Hurd had it made. He was an overachieving high school player who grew into an elite college player at Northern Illinois, and became one in that microscopic segment of our population who actually made it to the NFL. He not only achieved that level of play, but has played five years in the league. He had plenty of money. His contract would have paid him $4.15 million over the next three years. And, undoubtedly, he had access to all of the trappings that come along with being a man in his 20s with millions.
Blagojevich, too, had it made. He was an overachieving son of an immigrant steelworker father from Serbia. He worked as a child as a shoeshine boy and pizza delivery guy to pay his way through college and then law school. He won a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives and then two terms as governor of Illinois. He jetted across the state in a private plane, lived the high life in a beautiful home in Ravenswood Manor on the city’s near northwest side, and appeared destined for a charmed, high-profile life.
What we’re left to wonder with Hurd is why someone like him, who seemingly has it made, who was paid $1.3 million as a bonus on top of a salary that will average $850,000 over the next three seasons, would need more. Only Hurd could answer that, and perhaps that will be relevant to his case.
What we’re left to wonder with Blagojevich is why he might not see what he had as being worthwhile or important work. Early in his career as governor, he was eyed as potential presidential material. He was on a trajectory that appeared only limited by his ambition. There was no reason to treat the governor’s mansion as if it were his own playpen or to conduct himself in the governor’s chair like a common, back-alley pimp.
Hurd may do 40 years and pay a $5 million fine. Blagojevich, who now says he drinks to fall asleep, still faces 12 years in the joint. (Let me tell you something, my man, if you are from greater Chicago and you don’t drink yourself to sleep, you may need counseling.)
As for us, do we think we are so different? OK, so maybe we don’t aspire to become drug kingpins or to someday sell off a seat in the U.S. Senate. But when is enough enough?
When do we look at what we have and who we are and find it acceptable?
It was Albert Einstein who noted that there are three great forces that rule the world: stupidity, fear and greed.
Oddly, they sometimes conspire and fall outside of that sequence.
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Republican debates: At the onset of the Republican debates, I offered an early advantage to uh, well, what was that guy’s name again? Oh, yeah, Texas Gov. Rick Perry.
Well, forget about that.
But as I continue to watch the candidates hammer and chisel away at their opponents and see stock rise (Herman Cain) and fall (Herman Cain) and see them stammer like a barroom prophet (Perry) and oscillate sideways (Mitt Romney) and hang around like the guest who won’t leave the party (Ron Paul) and fade into oblivion (Michele Bachmann, Rick Santorum and John Huntsman), what we’re left to consider is why in a nation of more than 307 million there aren’t more ideal candidates for president.
Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, chewed up and spat out a decade ago, has emerged as a no-nonsense straight-talker with an encyclopedic knowledge of all things Washington. Ignore that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac allegation, he says. He wouldn’t allow a pittance sum of $1.6 million to cloud his judgment. Who would?
But if he can shed that albatross, Gingrich just might come through this process, which begins to take some kind of actual shape on Jan. 3 with the Iowa caucuses. However, Gingrich was at his best on the dais, beneath the spotlights on the debate stage. That is where he shines brightest, and it should be no real surprise to anyone who has watched him work a room that he has emerged as someone to watch.
A caucus, of course, is something of a gathering of friends and neighbors by precinct during which candidates are discussed and a single candidate who best represents the interests of the whole is determined. It’s something that is possible in Iowa, where the people are nice to a fault, but try it in Illinois, and the process would require the installation of automated teller machines in the corners of church basements.
So it will be with great expectations we wait for Iowa to pick its front-runner. In 2008, Iowans picked Barack Obama and Mike Huckabee. One of those men became president. The other became a Fox News analyst. Feel free to trip on over to the Google Machine to see which was which.
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For what it’s worth: I’m thinking that Romney emerges from this pack, eventually. I’m disappointed that Perry, who has some actual executive experience, albeit in the Republic of Texas, has performed with the aplomb of a fraternity pledge thus far. Foolishly, I thought he was a reasonable preseason pick. But had you been playing Fantasy Election with your friends, you would have dropped Perry from your lineup before the bye week.
If Romney gets crushed in New Hampshire on Jan. 10, all bets are off. But now that the candidates have completed the preliminary debate process in time to resume the tried and true process of gouging their opponents from afar, Romney may be the political operative best equipped to navigate through the fray.
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Map-tastic: It’s not as if it had a snowball’s chance of being overturned, so it came as little surprise last week that the Democrats’ congressional map was upheld. Federal judges called Franken-map a “blatant political move,” in their joint statement Thursday, but ruled that it was not illegal.
Political, but not illegal? In Illinois? We saw this coming.
It’s perfectly reasonable for a congressional district to be shaped like a “C,” and to wind its way through Lake, McHenry and Cook counties. But my favorite part of the new 6th District that I am referencing is that it looks exactly like the head of a Rock ’Em Sock ’Em robot clamping its jaw on the 8th District.
If you live in the 6th District – I’m looking at you, southeastern McHenry County – you’ll have your pick next November of Republican incumbent Peter Roskum or one of three Democrat challengers: Leslie Coolidge, Geoffrey Petzel or Maureen Yates.
If you live in the 8th, in the teeth of the 6th District and just outside the county line, you’ll have your choice of incumbent Republican Joe Walsh, who needs no introduction, or a field of Democrats that likely will ultimately be winnowed to Iraq War veteran Tammy Duckworth or former Deputy State Treasurer Raja Krishnamoorthi. That race will be worth watching, regardless of where you hang your hat.
If you live in the 14th, which encompasses the balance of McHenry County, you are looking at a showdown between incumbent Republican Randy Hultgren and Democrat Dennis Anderson or Frank McClatchey.
Our Election Central page at NWHerald.com will help you stay up to date with the news from these races. Bookmark NWHerald.com/election and follow all of the local and national races through the big dance next November.
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And finally … : It is the week before Christmas. That’s right, fellow procrastinators, you still have a full six days to make the magic happen.
• Chris Krug is executive editor of the Northwest Herald. Contact Chris by calling 815-459-4122, or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @ChrisKrug at Twitter.com.