Could Blagojevich and Burris Learn a Thing or Two from George Washington Plunkitt?

This post was written by Dr. Art Pitz on February 23, 2009
Posted Under: Heroes and Villains

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With all of the changing stories mixed with denials of malfeasance being issued by Blagojevich and Burris, lets bring back the likes of Tammany Hall’s George Washington Plunkitt! It would be refreshing to have direct honesty and the full story from Day One.

Tammany Hall's George Washington Plunkitt (public domain photo)

Have you heard of Plunkitt (1842-1924)? He served as a state Senator in New York for many years and was a powerful politician. He was interviewed at length by a journalist named William Riordon who published a book, Plunkitt of Tammany Hall: A series of very plain talks on very practical politics, filled with those interviews in 1905. Heres a sample quote from that book:

Everybody is talkin’ these days about Tammany men growin’ rich on graft, but nobody thinks of drawin’ the distinction between hones graft and dishonest graft. There’s all the difference in the world between the two. Yes, many of our men have grown rich in politics. I have myself. I’ve made a big fortune out of the game, and I’m gettin’ richer every day, but I’ve not gone in fo dishonest graft–blackmailin’ gamblers, saloon-keepers, disorderly people, etc.–and neither has any of the men who have made big fortunes in politics. 

There’s an honest graft, and I’m an example of how it works. I might sum up the whole thing by sayin’: “I seen my opportunities and I took’em.”

Just let me explain by examples. My party’s in power in the city, and it’s goin’ to undertake a lot of public improvements. Well, I’m tipped off, say, that they’re going to lay out a new park at a certain place.

I see my opportunity and I take it. I go to that place and I buy up all the land I can in the neighborhood. Then the board of this or that makes its plan public, and there is a rush to get my land, which nobody cared particular for before.

Ain’t it perfectly honest to charge a good price and make a profit on my investment and foresight? Of course, it is. Well, that’s honest graft. (from http://www.nytimes.com/2005/08/28/nyregion/thecity/28plun.html?pagewanted=1)

Now, isnt that to be commended in comparison with what weve had in recent times? In my mind, it sure compares favorably with how President Clinton dodged the reality of his relationship with Intern Monica Lewinsky. It also looks quite good in comparison with how Blagojevich and Burris have handled their travails.

Dr. Art Pitz
The Professor’s House

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