December 21, 2008

"Trust me; I'm not in jail yet."

Governor Blagojevich of Illinois is quoted in the Star Tribune (12/20/08, A-10) saying, “Afford me the same rights that you and your children have: the presumption of innocence.� The context: he wants to remain in office until he is tried and convicted. He surely has the right not to be taken to some small windowless cell for an indeterminate time. He has the right not to be tortured and abused. He has the right to face the normal court system, not some special court constructed to ensure an easy conviction and to make appeal impossible. Those are important rights, as we have come to realize in the last few years. But he has no claim to remain in office. The standard is, at least: “Can he do the job adequately?� For a job that can only be done by someone who has the trust and respect of many people, the widespread suspicion of serious wrongdoing disqualifies him, just by itself. Leave aside the question of guilt.

There may be jobs in the world that only a few people can do, so that those who control access to those offices have to tolerate all sorts of odd behavior, to get the talent required. A new governor is not in that position. Many people can do the job. Many people are eager to do the job.

Blagojevich’s statement is an example of a statement that cannot be allowed to stand as reasonable discourse; otherwise, our talk about very important matters will be poisoned. There is nothing more important in human life than the logic of “giving someone the benefit of the doubt,� because any complex social system runs on trust. If we lose our way with respect to this topic, we lose our way practically in many areas of life.

Posted by shea0017 at December 21, 2008 9:32 AM