Now that Gov. Dead Meat has been arrested at his home and charged with selling Illinois by the pound – and Barack Obama’s U.S. Senate seat by the slice – let’s just savor the aroma.

I love the smell of meat over coals in the morning.

It smells like … victory.

At a news conference in the federal building in Chicago, authorities were asked about Illinois corruption.

“If it isn’t the most corrupt state in the United States, it’s certainly one hell of a competitor,” said Robert Grant, special agent in charge of the FBI’s Chicago office.

Grant had the privilege of standing outside Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s home about 6 a.m. Tuesday and calling the sleepy governor to say federal agents were outside, waiting to arrest him quietly.

“I could tell I woke him up,” Grant said. “And the first thing he said was, ‘Is this a joke?”‘

No, but standing before a federal judge wearing jogging pants, sneakers and a powder blue fleece sort of made the governor of Illinois look like a jester. Or a joker.

Political corruption in the state that has made corruption an art form isn’t funny, like a clown. The joke is on all of us, everyone who lives in Illinois. Because Blagojevich was elected governor on the reform ticket, promising to clean up the state and end business as usual.

The governor is now alleged to have tried to sell Obama’s Senate seat to the highest bidder, used his leverage in attempts to oust Tribune editorial writers who didn’t play ball, and schemed to shake down the chief executive officer of Children’s Memorial Hospital for campaign cash in exchange for a state grant.

So though Illinois isn’t surprised – this is after all the home of the Chicago Way – the national media must be shocked.

They’ve been clinging to the ridiculous notion that Chicago is Camelot for months now, cleaving to the idea with the willfulness of stubborn children. It must help them see Obama as some pristine creature, perhaps a gentle faun of a magic forest, unstained by our grubby politics, a bedtime story for grown-ups who insist upon fairy tales.

Even national pundits with tingles running up their legs can’t ignore the tape recordings in which Blagojevich speculated how he’d get the gold for picking Obama’s successor.

“I’m going to keep this Senate option for me a real possibility, you know, and therefore I can drive a hard bargain,” Blagojevich allegedly said on tape. “You hear what I’m saying? And if I don’t get what I want, and I’m not satisfied with it, then I’ll just take the Senate seat myself.”

Obama’s Senate seat, Blagojevich allegedly said, “is a (expletive) valuable thing. You don’t just give it away for nothing.”

Then, on Nov. 5, he allegedly said, “I’ve got this thing, and it’s (expletive) golden and, uh, I’m just not going to give it up for (expletive) nothing. I’m not gonna do it. And I can always use it, I can parachute me there.”

Parachute me? If a jury hears that tape, it’s (expletive) over.

John Kass is a columnist for The Chicago Tribune.

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