The Key West Mystique

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Newt Gingrich, Rod Blagojevich: What do these guys have in common — besides the hair?

By Linda Grist Cunningham, editor and proprietor

Linda Grist Cunningham is editor and proprietor of Key West Island News and KeyWestWatch Media LLC. She and her husband, a park ranger at Fort Zach, live in Key West with their Cat 5s.

01/23/2012

Illinois voters ought to be able to tell the nation a couple of things about governance by charisma, ego and brilliance run amok. After all, we danced with Rod Blagojevich for a lot of years before the ex-governor flamed out while selling Barack Obama’s U.S. Senate seat.

None was better than Blago in front of an audience. Witness him at Rockford Register Star Editorial Boards, which I did many times. Having a governor in for an edit board always draws a full house. Even Pat Quinn gets a decent showing. Having Blago meant standing room only.

He could sing, weave tall tales, spin a vision for the state with which few would argue. He could remember what seemed like everything, from names and titles to questions asked the last visit. Veteran board members gave it up and sat back to watch the show.

It’s hard not to channel Blago while watching the Newt Show. The brilliance is similar; ditto the vision thing. So are the abilities to absorb complex information and re-purpose it to strategic ideas that make — at the moment — perfect sense. There’s the chuckling and eye contacting; the remembering of things.

Blago is the more charming of the two, and there are other differences, including the great hair color.

I never saw Blago lose his temper the way that Newt does publicly, though there are plenty of reports that he did. Blago didn’t walk about actively hating the news media; he used his not inconsiderable skills to manipulate it to his advantage.

Illinois’ ex-governor rode that hubris right off the ranch. Given enough time, Newt Gingrich will follow. It won’t of course, be the first time for Newt; his former Congressional seatmates will be more than happy to explain the 1990s back story.

Gaad, how we Americans love these charismatic politicians. Let’s hope we don’t have to learn on a national stage — as did Illinois on its state stage — that governance by brilliance-run-amok ought be a non-starter.

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Linda Grist Cunningham

Linda Grist Cunningham is editor and proprietor of Key West Island News and KeyWestWatch Media LLC. She and her husband, a park ranger at Fort Zach, live in Key West with their Cat 5s.

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