Roland Burris - Wrong AND Right
Tuesday, January 06, 2009 | Author: Mad Typist
Today, Rod Blagojevich's nominee to fill Barack Obama's empty Senate seat for the state of Illinois, Roland Burris, was denied entry to the Senate. MSNBC has an article up on the scene that occurred this morning when Burris tried to enter the Senate to be sworn in with the rest of the incoming freshmen Senators.

Burris maintains his right to the nomination.
Burris dismissed the Senate Democratic leadership's position that he cannot be seated because he was appointed by a governor accused in a criminal complaint of trying to benefit financially from his authority to fill the seat that Obama vacated after winning the presidential election.

Burris said his belief is that his appointment is constitutional and that "I have no knowledge of where a secretary of state has veto power over a governor carrying out his constitutional duties."

Now, there's been a lot of back and forth about whether Harry Reid and the rest of the Senate Democrats can legally block this appointment. Paul Levinson has a great post up arguing that Reid cannot circumvent the legal process - that Blagojevich has technically only been accused of a crime, not convicted:
This is why we have laws in this country - to regulate how we proceed, rather than proceeding on the basis of what we think we know to be true. Harry Reid may think that Blagojevich is guilty, and Reid may be right. But the law has no provision for the exercise of these unproven thoughts, and until these charges are considered by a grand jury, in a court of law, and/or by the state government of Illinois for possible impeachment and trial, Reid should stop obstructing the law.
This is a true statement in my mind, in that from a non-emotional, strict reading of the law we must assume that Blago is innocent at this time, and therefore still entitled to the privileges and powers of the office he was duly elected to.

However, if we use common sense here, we can also see that there's arguing the letter of the law (the examples above), and there's arguing the spirit of the law. And the fact is, no appointee from Blago was going to be respected, because it's clear from tapes released that Blago had little interest appointing the best possible representative for the state of Illinois. I mean, let's take a look at the tapes' content, shall we?
ROD BLAGOJEVICH later stated, “I’m going to keep this Senate option for me a real possibility, you know, and therefore I can drive a hard bargain. 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.” Later, ROD BLAGOJEVICH stated that the Senate seat “is a fucking valuable thing, you just don’t give it away for nothing.”

[....]

Later in the conversation, ROD BLAGOJEVICH stated that if he appoints Senate Candidate 4 to the Senate seat and, thereafter, it appears that ROD BLAGOJEVICH might get impeached, he could “count on [Senate Candidate 4], if things got hot, to give [the Senate seat] up and let me parachute over there.” HARRIS said, “you can count on [Senate Candidate 4] to do that.”
Okay, so it's not just a matter of a governor convicted of a crime in a general sense, like perjury or perhaps obstruction of justice. No, Blago is under investigation specifically because he was tainting the selection process. He pretty clearly, in the tapes that were released, states his intention to put his own self-interest before what's best for the state.

I find it hard to argue that Blago can accurately represent the will of the people of Illinois, when he had an approval rating of only 4% in October 2008, before the scandal even broke. Also, as stated above, it's clear that there were several highly qualified candidates that were up for the post that Blago simply wasn't going to give a fair shake to. So to argue that Burris was a fair selection, when others weren't even allowed to be in the mix is horsecrap. The American people clearly don't buy this either, as a large majority said that the Senate should NOT seat Burris or any other selection made by Blago.

What really confuses me is what Burris is going to get out of all this. The man is 71, so surely he can't think he's going to use this post to further some kind of political ambition, can he? What more power can you crave at that age? I'm not sure how long he thinks he can serve in that seat at his age (doesn't he want to retire at some point?), and he was unwilling to make a concilliatory gesture by stating he wouldn't seek re-election in 2 years.

You could suggest that perhaps he wants a legacy to leave behind, but creating a spectacle your first day and derailing important conversation about how to really fix this country doesn't seem like a great way to set a positive legacy narrative.
Burris's antics ensured that he'll be the story of the day. He'd apparently rather hog the spotlight than make room for the greater good. It's completely unacceptable behavior from anyone who claims to care about the party and progressive legislation.
You could suggest that perhaps his own ego leads him to feel that he truly is the best person by far to serve in the position. That level of hubris is a bit extreme - on the other hand, he did name his son Roland Jr. and his daughter Rolanda, plus he made an insane monument to himself so.....

TPM has an article further detailing why Burris seems confused about why people would want to challenge his appointment. Again, looking at the arguments I've made above, I can only come to 1 of 2 conclusions: either he's a liar, or he's a moron. And really, aren't Americans sick of having to make that choice, when deciding how to perceive their leadership? Either he was incredibly naive when accepting the appointment, or he was well aware of how Blago was making the selection sheerly out of spite, and Burris just didn't care as long as he got what he wanted. In either case, is that really the mark of a man who's going to be a great senator?

I think not. You can argue all day about the technicalities of why the Senate has to accept the nomination. In fact Burris will likely get the appointment, it seems, at this point. However, to argue that it's the "right" thing to have happen.... I'm not sold at all.
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