Blagojevich, Nixon, and Clinton

What with the death of Mark “Deep Throat” Felt, the “Frost/Nixon” movie, and the tribulations of Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich, Richard Nixon is once again part of the national conversation. I won’t lie, this makes me happy because I wrote Nixon and His Men: The Road through Watergate, and my publisher and I like it when we’re able to move product. Let me stress, though, I’m happy that Nixon is in the news, not that Governor Blagojevich is in such hot water. His situation is sad at best, pathetic and disappointing at worst.

Two signs that these are not happy times for the governor: One, I wasn’t sure how to spell his name for this blog, so I went to google and typed “embattled Illinois governor,” and there were plenty of articles to choose from and they all seemed to be about Blagojevich. Two, I asked someone if he knew how to pronounce “Blagojevich.” The man replied, “No, but I can spell it, ‘C, R, double O, K.’”

A question people have is why—if Blagojevich is guilty—does he continue to hang on when it’s hopeless? What’s the point?  People asked the same about Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton. Of course Nixon eventually did resign, but Clinton survived. Clinton’s fate was remarkable considering that when his situation was at its worst, smart people in Washington were wondering when, not if, he was going to step down. And that’s one reason Blagojevich fights on—just because the so-called experts think his situation is hopeless doesn’t mean that’s really the case.  In the interest of fairness, one could also argue that maybe he is innocent, and he is inspired by virtue to continue his struggle.

Either way, there is a general truth with all three of these men, and with many other successful people besides. If they caved in to adversity, they never would have risen to the heights they did in the first place. Richard Nixon had interpersonal issues; Bill Clinton came from a dysfunctional home. Neither of them had much in the way of money or family connections. Who would’ve guessed they could be Presidents? Who would have guessed that Rod Blagojevich would’ve risen from wherever he came from to be the governor of a big state? They didn’t give up the dream when things seemed hopeless along the way.

These men aren’t quitters by nature. Nixon was eventually forced to quit, and who knows? By the time you read this perhaps Blagojevich will have given up the fight, too. But if you’re wondering why he didn’t do so sooner—why he just didn’t give in to common sense—it’s because really successful men don’t think like the rest of us commoners. Of course the downside to this mentality is sometimes it makes them reckless in their personal choices, and we are worse off as a nation. That’s why even really successful people should pray a lot.