I was taught that we have free speech in the United States. That we can say whatever we believe as long as it’s not irresponsible, like falsely shouting “Fire!” in a crowded theater.
But free speech does, in fact, come with a price. Sometimes when someone speaks his or her mind, particularly if he or she is a public figure, the speaker has to endure criticism. That’s particularly true if what was uttered is something the majority of people consider offensive, prejudiced, radical, unpatriotic, inappropriate, politically incorrect or just plain stupid.
That stupid part brings us to Rod Blagojevich.
The former Illinois governor, who faces federal corruption charges and may well end up in prison after his day in court, had already been the subject of ridicule and jokes for his behavior when he said something controversial during an interview. In a just-released Esquire magazine piece, Blago said he was “blacker than Barack Obama.”
The lengthy, candid interview can be found at http://www.esquire.com/features/people-who-matter-2010/rod-blagojevich-interview-0210. It gives you a pretty good insight into Blago. But beware: Many of Blago’s words are crude, more along the line of what you’d expect to hear from a thug in a back alley, not the former chief executive of Illinois, particularly one who’s trying to polish his image before his trial.
There’s plenty of material in the interview that will likely cause people to heap additional criticism on Blagojevich, but here’s what Roddo says about President Obama that’s causing the big stir:
“It’s such a cynical business, and most of the people in the business are full of s— and phonies, but I was real, man — and am real. This guy, he was catapulted in on hope and change, what we hope the guy is. What the f—? Everything he’s saying’s on the teleprompter. I’m blacker than Barack Obama. I shined shoes. I grew up in a five-room apartment. My father had a little laundromat in a black community not far from where we lived. I saw it all growing up.”
Blagojevich was apologizing for that paragraph on Monday (Jan. 11).
“What I said was stupid, stupid, stupid,” Blagojevich said. “I deeply apologize for the way that was said and having said it. Obviously, I am not blacker than President Obama.”
In a couple of minutes of saying he was sorry, Blago used the word stupid a dozen and a half times.
As I see it, Blagojevich had a right to say what he did in the Esquire interview. But I think he ultimately summed up his words in the interview quite accurately. They were, indeed, stupid.
Copyright 2010 by Phil Roberts, Creative Enterprises. This piece was submitted as a column to The North Scott Press, Eldridge, Iowa.