Roland Burris made history in Illinois almost thirty years ago by becoming state comptroller, effectively, the first black to even attain state-wide office in Illinois. After three terms as comptroller he also served as Attorney General for one-term. Indeed as the news trickled in yesterday about his appointment people brought up his failures in attaining high office in Illinois especially three attempts for the Governorship, one at the expense of the man who's appointing him to the US Senate, and one failed attempt at Chicago's Mayoralty.
I personally believe that Burris, a resident of the 6th Ward, is an honest man who may very well serve well in the US Senate. If times were different and less controversial I'm not sure I could raise any objections to it. Besides I don't think that Mr. Burris actually bought this seat, it certainly wouldn't look good on him anyway.
While I can heed the calls of both Gov. Blagojevich and Rep. Bobby Rush to separate "the appointer from the appointee" it's still problematic in that this appointment is just a way for Governor Blagojevich to prove something. Some will say this is his way of thumbing his nose at those people who believe he should step aside as well as those who seeks to remove him. He might be trying to prove that he's still the Governor and still relevant. Of course this power play illustrates that he isn't ready to go yet, even if his continued presence as Governor is proving more harmful to Illinois than just resigning.
Let's talk about the race angle.
Throughout the existence of the US Senate, a black face there has been exceptionally rare. From Hiram Revels thru to Edward Brooke and then to Barack Obama. As a matter of fact the President-elect sat in the sit that was formerly head by Carol Moseley Braun who herself was the first black woman to hold a US Senate seat.
That being said there were those who attacked the comments of Rod Blagojevich and Rep. Bobby Rush, who approached the podium during said press conference, to highlight the need for a Black US Senator. The term lynching was used and that was evidence to some that this was blatant race-baiting.
Mostly I'm on the fence on this issue. If this person was right for the US Senate it wouldn't matter much to me if this person was black. Of course that's not to say Burris isn't right for this appointment, I just don't like how his appointment has come about. Appointing by a Governor who was arrested for attempting to sell that US Senate seat to the highest bidder.
Basically I view yesterday's news like this.
Basically this is the same old game he played last year. Unwilling to just sign a sales-tax increase for public transit at around this time last year, he was very willing to use his amedatory veto (AV) to change legislation that allows for not only this tax increase but also create a new entitlement. That entitlement being allowing free-transit rides for senior citizens. That is without a doubt the most blatant and cyncial move I have ever seen and certainly it wouldn't look good for the General Assembly to oppose this and possibly face a two-front revolt by both senior citizens and transit riders.
It is in that vein that I can view Blagojevich's decision to appoint Burris to the US Senate. Let's note that the Governor sighted the unwillingness to tackle legislation for a special election to fill Obama's vacated Senate seat in the wake of the Governor's arrest to make this appointment. The General Assembly left the door open and the Governor went right thru it. Even with the threat by the IL Secretary of State Jesse White, who is black himself, and Sen. Harry Reid to not accept the choice of this Governor.
That being said the Governor might very well hope that his choice will be grudgingly accepted. The one base the Governor was said to have been able to depend upon was the black base. Perhaps black voters want to see a black US Senator enough to force White or Sen. Reid to accept this appointment and allow Burris to be seated. Even if they didn't entirely like who appointed an otherwise honest public servant.
That makes this even more cynical. In some sick way Blagojevich wants to see what happens if Burris' appointment will run into opposition. That or watch them get hurt by their own opposition to the appointment of Roland Burris to the US Senate. All I can say is that we'll have to see how this will play out, but this really looks like a game of poker and brinksmanship. That's the type of game the Governor seems to like to play.
Capitol Fax covered the press conference yesterday.
An AP Video on the Burris Senate appointment.
Chicago Argus on the Burris Senate appointment.
Morning Blago bits from Marathon Pundit