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Wednesday, May 6, 2009

The Curious Case of Roland Burris

As everyone knows by now Roland Burris was chosen to fill Barack Obama's U.S. Senate seat by the Governor of Illinois. Normally, such an appointment would not raise any eyebrows except that the Unites States Attorney's office released information to include recorded conversation that show the Governor, Rod Blagojevich attempting to sell the Senate seat to the highest bidder before he appointed Mr. Burris.

Apparently it is the opinion of the United States Attorney that the framers of the constitution might have frowned upon someone purchasing a Senate seat and that the actions of the Governor were corrupt and a violation of law. There is little dispute that Blagojevich is a crook and the victim of too many Soprano episodes. But what of Mr. Burris?

The Democrats were initially united in deciding that the Governor would not be permitted to appoint a Senator given the situation. The President-elect himself was on board with this idea and the Illinois legislature went to work to attempt to remove Governor Blagojevich who refused to resign. Then Blagojevich defiantly appointed Burris who accepted with a smile and headed to D.C. Mr. Burris apparently missed the memo that said Thou shall not accept an appointment from a disgraced, corrupt, pending indictment Governor who tried to sell the very Senate you are accepting. Notably, other Illinois politicians were approached by the Governor about accepting the seat and declined presumably because it did not make sense to go about business as usual with a Governor who although not convicted, had clearly committed a heinous crime. What does it say about the integrity of a man who accepts appointment of a Senate seat while the integrity of others caused them to decline the same appointment? Mr. Burris appears to be an opportunist who was not going to allow integrity, morality or principle stand in his way when it came to becoming a U.S. Senator. In fact it could be that Mr. Burris lacks all the attributes mentioned which would seem to be a serious omission in the character of a U.S. Senator.

What made the situation even worse is when Bobby Rush, a U.S. congressman from Chicago and an African American began to throw racism around as the reason behind people's hesitancy in accepting Mr. Burris. This red herring was also used by a CNN TV personality. I am unclear how Mr. Rush was able to make this accusation with a straight face. Apparently he too was willing to compromise his integrity to get his candidate appointed while setting back legitimate claims of racism in the process. Notably, Mr. Burris stopped short of making a claim of racism himself.

Although Mr. Burris was initially rejected by the U.S. Senate he has now been seated while those who declined Mr. Blagojevich's offer will not be. By illustrating his lack of character from the outset perhaps Mr. Burris is hoping to spare the people of Illinois from being surprised in the future. For a political party working to effectuate a sharp departure from the corruption of the Bush years this hardly seems like a good start. Meanwhile, Mr. Burris remains inexplicably unembarrassed and unashamed of how he has arrived.



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