What's All This Then?

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Monday, January 12, 2009

This is the man who wants to serve out the remaining two years of Barack Obama’s Senate term. Or at least a manifestation of his enormous ego. His mausoleum - a work in progress listing all of his accomplishments, to which he proposes to add - Senator from Illinois. He may have been the only politician in Illinois who would have accepted the offer of now impeached Governor Rod Blahojevich to fill Obama’s seat. Testifying before the Illinois House Impeachment Committee last Thursday, he said he had spoken to thousands of people across the country about accepting the appointment - presumably people who encouraged him to go full speed ahead - but couldn’t name a single one of those thousands.

This debacle has produced the second disappointing action of President elect Obama. First he leaned on Senators to take Joe Lieberman back into the Democratic club - and now he’s done the same thing to force Majority Leader Harry Reid and Majority Whip Dick Durbin to reverse their previously stated vow not to seat anyone appointed by Blagojevich. You have to wonder how some of these elected officials are able to stand up on the floor of the senate without the help of a backbone. I support Obama and wish him well in his Presidency - but I also support the idea of the equal branches of government - and I see little demonstration of that equality in the senate since the election was decided.

I’ve seen only a few news clips of Burris’s appearance before the impeachment committee. I know they asked him if there was any quid pro quo involved in his acceptance of Blago’s offer and of course he said no. What else would anyone expect him to say? It was a silly question. Questions that should have been asked - and I doubt that they were because surely they would have been included in news reports - are these.

Q: What is the dollar value of contracts you or companies or other organizations with whom you are associated have received from the State of Illinois since Rod Blagojevich has been governor?

Q: How much have you donated to Rod Blagojevich political funds since he has been Governor and how much have you raised for him through fund raisers?

Q: Could you provide the following information - the amounts of each state contract awarded to you or companies with whom you are or were associated and the dates of those awards - and the amounts of donations made by you to Rod Blagojevich and fund raisers held by you for Rod Blagojevich and the dates of those donations and fund raisers.?

Q: How much did you donate to Rod Blgojevich’s political funds before he was Governor?

Q: To what other Illinois politicians have you donated and in what amounts?

Truthful answers to these questions would most likely confirm what appears to have been a past quid pro quo arrangement - a play to pay if you will. Burris got major contracts from the state. Burris made major contributions to Blagojevich. And even more information is beginning to trickle out about past associations of these two egomaniacs.

As of this date, the Illinois Supreme Court has refused to force Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White to sign any certification of the Burris appointment and White continues to refuse to do so - so if Durbin, Reid et al were to suddenly display even a slim stiffening of the spine, there would still be a chance to delay swearing him in long enough for the impeached Governor to be tried, found guilty and removed from office, automatically elevating Lieutenant Governor Pat Quinn to the office of Governor and allowing him to name a replacement for the Obama seat. What a battle royal that would set off - the humungous ego of Roland Burris versus the moral rectitude of an unsullied appointment. But the rumblings we are hearing out of Washington are that it’s not going to happen. He’ll be sworn in, demonstrating once again that you can never assume that anything a politician says is necessarily true. And that includes name, rank and serial number.

What has disturbed me the most since this fiasco began is the injection of race into the discussion - first with (how the hell did he ever become a Congressman) Bobby Rush, comparing images of Burris being barred from entering the Senate floor with Bull Connor setting dogs on civil rights demonstrators in Birmingham, Alabama. As Jon Stewart asked on the Daily Show last week - Is this guy nuts or what? And to think that the people of his district rejected a challenger for his seat named Barack Obama and overwhelmingly reelected the former Black Panther gang member. You have to wonder if there’s some sort of toxin floating in the Illinois air.

But it isn’t just Rush or Chicago area black "activists" who are making the fiasco a racial issue. The Congressional Black Caucus jumped into the fray with an expression of support for Burris - and it was pretty clear why. Burris is black. Members of the caucus are black - and so they spoke as a group in support of a fellow black. I’m disturbed by the obvious racial motivation of this group’s action - but I’m also disturbed at the very existence of a "black caucus" at a moment in history when an African American is about to assume the presidency. Are the needs and problems of African American voters so dissimilar from those of the rest of us that the 40 or so black members of Congress have to have their own sub group and to speak with one voice on issue like this one? What’s next? Do we think that here’s a need for a Jewish Caucus? There may be issues that are more important to Jewish voters than non-Jewish voters. Should House and Senate Jewish members form a caucus to address those issues and to speak with one voice? And women. There are lots of women issues. Shouldn’t we have a Woman Caucus? And of course a Gay Caucus. There’s a group that really has special issues.

But there is only the Black Caucus as a sub group of Members of Congress - and their very existence and their public stand on the issue of Roland Burris seems as out of place at this moment in time as Aunt Jemimah decorated napkins at the Obamas inaugural dinner.

On several occasions Mr. Burris has tried to separate his appointment to the senate from the Blagojevich circus. The appointment is perfectly legal he says, over and over again. The Blagojevich problem has nothing to do with me, he says. And "am I tainted" he asks rhetorically, expecting no one to give him the answer the question deserves. But here it is. Yes Mr. Burris. You are tainted. You’re tainted by your acceptance of a tainted offer by a tainted governor - an offer that no one else who might have been legitimately under consideration to fill out the balance of Barack Obama’s term would have accepted. But your ego and your ambition got in the way of reason and morality. And that’s want should be etched on your tombstone at the bottom of the list of your "achievements."

The tainted Senator from Illinois!!