Simon SaysSimon Says NPR's Scott Simon Shares His Take On Events Large And Small

Bench Seats For Illinois Political Theater

A lot of people, including me, have had some wicked fun with the Blagoya-gate scandal in recent weeks.

But speaking as a Chicagoan, this notion that people in Illinois actually enjoy political corruption is a vicious stereotype.

Illinois is the heartland. It is the most American of states. When I was a boy, growing up in Chicago, we had a roadside stand in front of my beloved alma mater, Al Capone Jr. High School, named for an esteemed local philanthropist.

We sold lemonade, chocolate chip cookies, zoning permits and seats on the Chicago City Council.

All these snide jokes you hear on these late night comedy shows done out of New York! I think I sense a little envy.

The governor of New York got arrested for buying companionship.

The governor of Illinois got arrested for trying to sell a U.S. Senate seat.

Really now: Which governor shows more "can-do" attitude?

The governor of Illinois doesn't need to buy companionship. The FBI has him under surveillance 24 hours a day.

New Yorkers like to think of themselves as cosmopolitan and sophisticated. Someone who wants to be senator from New York knows that they have to have the highest possible qualifications and experience.

Like editing an anthology of children's poetry.

I mean, no one in New York could ever buy a Senate seat with just their name, wealth, or connections — could they?

Now take Illinois' former governor, George Ryan. There's a man of convictions. Eighteen, to be exact, for racketeering and fraud.

When he was in office, Gov. Ryan declared a moratorium on the death penalty, saying it was a just and moral thing to do.

It was also far-sighted. By the time he got to prison, Ryan had already made friends.

I hope no one thinks that I'm mocking my home state. We've just had an election that's been historic and important to millions of people, and I don't mind saying that I'm proud that the name of Illinois is now uttered with respect and affection around the world.

I truly believe that people who learn politics in my home state have gone to the best possible and practical Academy of Fine Political Arts; and I think Chicago is a place of singular ingenuity, diversity and character, with the best music, food and most laughs of any place on earth.

So if you thought I was making fun of my home state — as Gov. Blagojevich might put it: Pardon me. Please. Bleeping pardon me.

In Illinois, we don't dismiss governors selling favors, or public officials getting tailored for prison jump suits, with a single, tired, overworked cliché like corruption.

In our little village of Chicago, we call it something else: Tradition.

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Simon SaysSimon Says NPR's Scott Simon Shares His Take On Events Large And Small