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Tuesday, January 06, 2009

The next time there’s a competition for a license plate slogan for Illinois, surely Land of Crooks and Clowns would have to win hands down. How sad that at a time when we should be celebrating the elevation of our junior senator to the highest office in the land, we instead are hiding our heads in embarrassment at the antics of our crooked governor and an assorted collection of clowns.

Patrick Fitzgerald doesn’t escape unscathed from the mess we find ourselves in. In his rush to prevent Governor Rod Blagojevich from appointing someone to fill out the last two years of Barack Obama’s Senate term on a quid pro quo basis - in other words, from selling the office, presumably to the highest bidder - he laid the groundwork for Blago to do something just as bad - maybe worse - the appointment of a clown who was promptly joined by other clowns, playing a whole stack of racist cards where race was never an issue.

Maybe Roland Burris wasn’t always a clown. Maybe not in the days when he was a loyal soldier in the army of Chicago’s south side political boss William Dawson. Maybe not in the days when he was the first black politician to win state wide office and maybe not in the days when he held the offices of Comptroller for 12 years and Attorney General for 4 years. But since 1994, he has come close to rivaling Lar America First Daly in his quest to be elected. To any office. Whatever’s up for grabs. He’s run unsuccessfully for Mayor of Chicago and for the Senate seat that he could never come close to winning but may indeed now be his - and I don’t know how many times for Governor. During his fourteen year quest for more political glory - and perhaps for an increased pension , he was an amiable clown, irritating but not harmful. Now he is a harmful clown, caring nothing about the damage he is doing to the State of Illinois and to the incoming president - but only about himself and the prize handed to him on a stained platter that he could never win on his own merits. At a moment in time when an African American president elect has done more to heal racial divisions than perhaps anyone else in the history of this country, Burris supporters are wallowing in the gutter, defending his selection against those who are appalled by it by accusing them of racism.

South side Chicago Congressman Bobby Rush has nothing to do with the appointment of a replacement for Obama’s Senate seat, so why was he the third person at the microphone when Blagojevich made his announcement and introduced his selection - other than to introduce a racial divide that didn’t and doesn’t exist with comments about "hanging" and lynching" when referring to the expressed intention of Senate Democrats to bar Burris from being sworn in as the junior Senator from Illinois? The objection to his selection has nothing to do with race and everyone knows it. The objection was to anyone Blagojevich might have tried to appoint. Before finding a willing accomplice in arrogance and shamelessness in Burris, Blagojevich offered the seat to African American Congressman Danny Davis who wanted it - and, before Blago was arrested, had made it known that he wanted it. But he turned it down for the same reason that anyone with a modicum of integrity would turn it down - because the appointment would be tainted by it being made as a gesture of defiance, intended to disrupt - by a man under the shadow of a criminal indictment. Within a few weeks - perhaps even sooner, Blagojevich would have been forced to step down, either by being impeached or indicted - and a selection could then have been made by the current Lieutenant Governor, Pat Quinn - or perhaps by a special election. In either event, with Blagojevich no longer involved, the selection would not have been tainted - even in the unlikely event that it turned out to be Roland Burris.

But it seems the clown act of Burris and Bobby Rush was just the opening act in this disgusting affair. In what I perceive as a direct insult to the next President of the United State and everything he stands for and preached during his two year campaign for the presidency, a group of African American "activists" gathered in front of the broadcast media’s willing microphones to add their insistence that Burris be seated and threatening to work to defeat the re-election of Senator Dick Durbin and (African American) Secretary of State Jesse White if they didn’t support the Burris appointment. Would they have gathered together to make the same kind of statement if Blagojevich had found a non-African American candidate willing to go along with his campaign of defiance and disruption? Of course not . They and Bobby Rush and other Black "activists" are not concerned about Blagojevich’s legal right to make the appointment - only that there are objections by members of the Senate to the seating of his selection and only because the man selected happens to be an African American. The language, the demeanor, the defiant threats of these supporters of Burris are reminiscent of another age - and they are totally out of place in the current era.

I keep thinking back to Obama’s Philadelphia speech on racism and his reference to the angry words of his former pastor, Jeremiah Wright
The profound mistake of Reverend Wright's sermons is not that he spoke about racism in our society It's that he spoke as if our society was static; as if no progress has been made; as if this country - a country that has made it possible for one of his own members to run for the highest office in the land and build a coalition of white and black; Latino and Asian, rich and poor, young and old -- is still irrevocably bound to a tragic past.
It’s a tragedy that some of the people supporting the appointment of Roland Burris are couching their support in terms of racial divisiveness and that Burris himself does nothing to stop it.

Before Blagojevich’s arrest, just about everyone agreed that an important criteria for selecting someone to take Obama’s Senate seat was that the person selected would be someone who could run for reelection and win in 2010. In his defiant rejection of that criteria, Blagojevich has opened the door for a Republican to win when Obama’s term expires. It depends on who the Republicans nominate of course - but if it’s a respected Republican with the right credentials running against Burris - he or she will probably get my vote. I’d like to see Obama have a Senate as close as possible to being filibuster proof - but that’s not a sufficient reason to cast a vote for senator. The candidate has to win my vote and there’s nothing that Burris has done or said over the past fourteen years that has come close to convincing me that he’s the right person to represent Illinois in the United States Senate. And his conduct over the past few days have served only to confirm my feelings about the man.

Burris will probably be seated eventually. The law, as he has said repeatedly, is on his side. And I doubt that he would agree to a compromise that would remove the objections of the Senate Democrats and allow him to be sworn in without any further delay - that he not run for reelection when the Obama term expires. I predict that he will run and that he will lose - and that the election will be a setback to the improvement in race relations embodied in the election of Barack Obama. The likes of Bobby Rush, who has already termed today’s refusal to allow Burris entry to the Senate an act of racism , will make race a major issue two years from now with the same kind of inflammatory rhetoric.

You can add that to the crimes for which Blagojevich may well pay dearly in the future - but it will take more than putting him in jail for a few years to repair the damage that he has done..