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Column: Blagojevich should get a fair trial

Marcus Bowen

Jan. 26, 2009

This week marks the beginning of the end for Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich. The Illinois Senate began Blagojevich's impeachment trial Monday. Without permitting the governor to act in his own defense, the Senate removed him from office and subsequently banned him from ever seeking elected office in the State of Illinois. In Monday's trial, the Senate betrayed the people of Illinois and miscarried justice by prohibiting the governor from acting in his own defense. He was denied any opportunity to call witnesses, question witnesses or even challenge charges leveled against him.

Martin Niemöller, a German pastor, wrote the following poem to describe his feelings the in the aftermath of World War II:

"First they came for the Jews and I did not speak out because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for the Communists and I did not speak out because I was not a Communist.

Then they came for the trade unionists and I did not speak out because I was not a trade unionist.

Then they came for me and there was no one left to speak out for me."

Niemöller narrowly survived the year he spent in a concentration camp before allied liberation. His words call every human being to stand up against injustice. Niemöller reminds us that injustice can only happen when good men do nothing. I cannot stand aside as Blagojevich is afforded no opportunity to challenge the charges leveled against him. I am disappointed the Illinois State Senate did not give this man a fair trial. If he truly deserves to be removed from office, the Senate should do so in a fair and open process. I do not argue that the tainted governor is innocent, but that the process should be fair.

Every man deserves the opportunity to defend himself. Every citizen deserves fairness and openness.

In recent weeks, Blagojevich has become a lightning rod of national media attention. During the time since federal prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald filed a criminal complaint Dec. 9, Democrats and Republicans alike have taken advantage of this situation, exploiting it for their own political gain. Illinois Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn, Attorney General Lisa Madigan and Secretary of State Jesse White have all shown themselves to be shrewd politicians, not public servants. Over the past six weeks, the conduct of these three politicians has been disgusting. They have betrayed the people of Illinois. They seek to honor not their offices, but their own political agendas. Not a single statewide elected official has shown the courage or strength of conviction to point out the injustices of the impeachment trial.

As a Republican, I'm not normally in the practice of defending Democrat politicians against corruption allegations. In this case, I could not stand aside. When it seems nearly every politician has thrown this man under the bus, someone needs to stand up. From Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to President Barack Obama, not a single leader has had the moral courage to stand up and question the injustice of this impeachment process. This process is unjust, the trial was unfair and the conclusions lack legitimacy.

Injustice only happens when good men do nothing. If I cannot stand up when I see injustice happening to others, how can I expect others to stand up when injustice happens to me?

Marcus Bowen is a former vice president of the MU College Republicans and currently serves on the Jackson County Republican Party. He can be reached at mbowen@themaneater.com.

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