Illinois Governor Wanders Into the Crosshairs

I remember back when I was learning attack planning and tactics during Navy flight school.  One of the key concepts was “time on target.”

That is, when there were going to be a whole lot of airplanes coming in to deliver payload, you had to get the timing down just right.

There were going to be different airplanes at different course headings and speeds, flying at different altitudes and slightly different times.  All arriving at certain “release points” in the sky so that the packages of death and destruction would rain down exactly upon the surprised heads of the intended victims.  You had to time things perfectly.  You did not want straggler aircraft arriving late over the target, only to get shot down by an alerted air defense system.

Isn’t timing quite something?

Now suppose you’re a politician with roots deep in the traditional machines of Cook County, Illinois.   And suppose you just waged and won a remarkable campaign for President of the United States.  What has to happen?

Let’s think this through.  OK, back in your early days you rubbed elbows with some people who might not pass the scrupulous muster of your present company.  That’s life, y’know?  You had to do it.  So there might be some skeletons in your boudour.  It’s a hazard of the job.

There might even be this off-the-wall guy who’s the state governor.  He’s a nobody who came from nowhere.  But he got elected to a couple of good political jobs and now he’s somebody.  Yeah, some people say that he’s a pretty seedy fellow.  Some people even say he’s as crooked as a barrel of snakes.  But when you’re in that political biz around Chicago you can’t exactly choose your associates.  The voters do that for you.  So way back when, you had to deal with hizzonner because that’s how you got things done.  It’s not like you’re blood brothers or something.

Still…  This governor guy is just going to blow up on you one of these days.  And worse, he has the power to pick your successor as Senator from Illinois.  With the whole world watching.  Ugh.  Here’s a loose cannon, just rolling around and smashing things up.  Sooner or later, this guy is going to cook up a scandal that will just plain be distracting and embarassing.  So do you wait?  Or does something have to happen?  Well, it’s time that we clean up the house a bit.

What has to happen?  Gets back to that “time on target” idea.  Should you just wait around and let a scandal explode at a time and in a manner you cannot control?  Or do you pre-empt the problem?  What do you do?

Well, it’s a month or so post-election.  That “Yes We Can” euphoria is over.  It’a a month or so pre-inauguration.  That “We’re Gonna Change the World” buzz has not yet kicked into gear.  You’re in the middle of assembling your “team of rivals” for the cabinet.  It’s going well.  You have most of your main opponents in the primaries safely onboard the ship now, with plum jobs and a secure place in history for the next few years.  You are managing the news media, who in any event are distracted by the economic stories, the bailouts, and the upcoming Christmas break.  It’s going to get slow in the news cycle for the next couple of weeks.

Time on target?  It’s time.  So one morning at 6:45 an FBI agent knocks o
n the door of the governor’s home.  “Governor, I’m a special agent with the FBI and I’m here to place you under arrest.”  And so it goes.

Time on target?  Yes, there’s a quick surge of news interest.  But it won’t last too long.  The evidence is too hot.  The governor is toast, and everyone knows it.  Nobody will lie down in front of the train for this guy.  He’s been delivered to the hands of justice.  And he’s going to get justice, good and hard.

Time on target?  Indeed, within a few hours some of the damage control is hitting the wires.  It’s along the lines that “The governor may be suffering from mental illness.  How else to explain his reprehensible conduct?  Poor man.  He’s sick.  He needs professional help.  Let’s not embarass him any more than necessary.  He has a family.”

Time on target?  Who is going to pick the next Illinois Senator?  Won’t be this governor-guy.  He’s radioactive.  He’ll resign soon, after he gets lawyered up.  And when he resigns, the Lieutenant Governor will step up to the plate.  But the Looie Guv is just an interim guy.  He’s a substitute in the lineup.  He’s junior varsity.  Not ready for prime time.  So he’ll do what we need him to do.  If we just want a seat-warmer for a year or so, that’s who he’ll select — a distinguished public servant with no plans to raise funds and campaign in 2010.  Or maybe the smoke will clear faster than we think.  Maybe we’ll be able to put in the person we wanted all along.  As long as there’s not too much blood on the saddle.

It’s all about timing.

Bryon King

December 12, 2008