I see that the editors of the Sun-Times understand the sorrow that I expressed when I learned of Jesse Jackson, Jr.’s plea deal:
The name alone guaranteed him a safe seat in Congress for life, a staging point from which to run for mayor of Chicago or the U.S. Senate.
In 1997, Newsweek wondered if he would be the first black president.
And what a terrific congressman Jesse Jackson Jr. promised to be. From the day he was elected in 1995 from the Second District, he was a star. He made a point of never missing a floor vote. He got a plum seat on the Appropriations Committee. Had he done nothing but stay in Congress, he could have built seniority, broadened his influence and one day run the show.
And make no mistake, Jackson Jr. had the chops to do it. He was smart and charismatic. He worked hard. He was his father’s son, yes, but much more. He had his own ideas, his own notions and ways.
And then he threw it all away. Starting in 2008, Jackson Jr. all but disappeared from public view, ducking the rumors and allegations that he had schemed to buy a Senate seat from Gov. Rod Blagojevich.
It really is the stuff of Greek tragedy. This is hubris at work, plain for all to see and in our own times.
As Lord Acton said, “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men.” He wasn’t the first to express such a sentiment—the idea goes back at least a century farther with similar statements having been made by William Pitt the Elder more than a century before. And yet we continue to insist that power be further aggregated rather than dispersed.