anuary 3, 2009
BY CAROL MARIN Sun-Times Columnist
Barack Obama jogged only slightly ahead of Rod Blagojevich across the news landscape of the past month, the glistening horizon of a new Camelot ahead, perhaps, but the jagged outline of the clouted city not far behind.
Obama and Blago are more than the yin and yang of Illinois politics. They represent, a la Jerry Seinfeld, the ultimate Bizarro plotline.
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Sun-Times columnist Carol Marin
Bizarro is the alter ego of Superman, a concept the Seinfeld crew borrowed from DC Comics and incorporated into a 1996 episode. If you never saw it, it goes like this: For every apathetic Jerry, nudgy George and raucous Kramer there is, in the Bizarro world, the polar opposite: an empathetic Jerry, an urbane George and a genteel Kramer.
Or, put another way, for every Barack Obama in a Sox cap, T-shirt and sweat pants, there's a Rod Blagojevich in a blow-dried pompadour and Spandex.
You might expect the former would trump the latter in competition for our attention. A sleek superstar president-elect vs. a soon-to-be indicted and impeached governor accused of shamelessly selling Obama's vacant Senate seat.
But no. We're besotted by both.
Look no further than the vaunted New York Times. Ninety-one stories in the last 30 days incorporate the names of both men. And though there are 10 times more Obama pieces to be found inside a month's worth of coverage, the Elvis of Illinois, Rod Blagojevich, made his way to the front pages of the New York Times -- the Main section, the Arts section, the Week in Review -- a full 15 times across December into early January.
The profane, swaggering Blagojevich is irresistible.
"Political circuses just don't get any better than this," writes the Washington Post's E.J. Dionne Jr., ruefully adding " -- unless you happen to care about a new administration taking power in the midst of national and international catastrophes."
Like maybe the economy, Israel and Pakistan?
Hey, Pakistan had just as many Page One stories as Rockin' Rod. Fifteen. That's how you know Pakistan must be a big story. too.
Time to track down our better angels if they haven't already left the building.
Yes, he is vain and remorseless. And yes, in appointing Roland Burris, a bloviating, self-aggrandizing Machine politician to fill Obama's Senate seat, the governor spits in the eye of his own Democratic Party and the public at large. But lest we forget, fellow voters and party leaders, he got a majority of our votes and the support of the big boys: Daley, Durbin, Madigan, Jones and, yes, Obama.
Even in his second race in 2006, when everyone but cave dwellers knew the feds were all over him.
Let's all stand up and take a bow.
As ferociously as we march like villagers with torches against Blagojevich, we have been, in the true spirit of the Bizarro universe, the polar opposite with the president-elect. Deferential, eager to please, prepared to keep a careful distance.
The Obama news conferences tell that story, making one yearn for the return of the always-irritating Sam Donaldson to awaken the slumbering press to the notion that decorum isn't all it's cracked up to be.
The press corps, most of us, don't even bother raising our hands any more to ask questions because Obama always has before him a list of correspondents who've been advised they will be called upon that day.
We reporters have earned our own membership in the Bizarro universe.
Who are we, after all? The ones rapid-firing at Rod Blagojevich with tough questions until we drive him from the room? Or the Miss Manners crowd, silent until called upon, quietly accepting that only a handful of questions will be taken at a time?
The Obama honeymoon might not be exactly the polar opposite of Blagojevich's hell.
But, for the moment, it will do.