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Will Dems Spike Burris to Spite Blagojevich

Thomas F. Roeser 31 December 2008 3 Comments

Roland Burris’ appointment to the U.S. senate by Gov. Blagojevich seriously complicates an already jumbled political atmosphere for Illinois Democratic leaders.

The best description of Burris is that he’s a black Alan Dixon. Listen, that’s not a bad referral. I very much liked Dixon and like Burris. Dixon was a thoroughly honorable moderate senator…a friend of mine…who was the only senator who had served the state in all three branches: judicial, legislative and executive. He was far from aloof. Like Burris, Dixon, an inveterate glad-hander and non-confrontational regular Democrat who served as senator from 1980-93 and was known as “Al the Pal,” was sunny dispositioned and reasonable.

Like Dixon, Burris is personally honest and has charted a moderate course in Democratic politics. He is a young looking 71, was the first black to be elected statewide in Illinois. He served as comptroller from 1979 to 1991 and attorney general 1991 to 1995. He has not always been successful in politics but was never defeated by a Republican. He lost the Dem gubernatorial nominations in 1994, 1998 and 2002, the last time to Rod Blagojevich. He ran for mayor of Chicago against Richard M. Daley and got walloped in 1995. Why he did it only a Burris intimate could know. He ran…even in a hopeless contest…because that’s what he wants to do in life.

Normally…if it were not Blagojevich making the appointment…Burris would be an acceptable Senator from the standpoint of all the factions in the Democratic party. He was born in Centralia and has wide acquaintances in downstate Illinois. He is not brilliant but dependable, no genius certainly nor particularly interested in philosophy…but entirely a-piece in a senate with very human traits. When you get beyond the professional affability you see a huge, almost uncontrollable egomania…something Alan Dixon never had. He and his adoring wife are in love with the same man: Roland Burris. Years ago, he told a friend of mine quite seriously that “my destiny is to be governor of Illinois.” He wasn’t kidding. He sees himself in other things as Destiny’s Tot.

That’s why I think…although he denies it…if he does somehow get to the senate, Roland Burris will flatly run for election. This stuff he has been saying that he will only serve until the next election is balderdash. No one can believe this if you really know Roland Burris. He’ll run. That’s what Roland Burris does.

An Anomaly in Politics.

He is supremely interested…even at 71…in self-advancement in politics. Yet for all of that, he has never identified himself with issues seriously. Whenever he ran for governor in the Democratic primary, he glossed over issues: concentrating only on clichés. He stays away from ideology and from substantive issue discussion. Almost as if issues didn’t matter. Running mattered. That’s what Roland Burris is. A candidate. He runs. That’s what he does. For what office, against whom doesn’t matter. Philosophy doesn’t matter. There’s always a chance…slim though it may be…that he can win. Publicity as a candidate completes his view of himself. That’s why last night he made a round of TV stations…starting with Channel 2. It signified: Roland is Back. That’s what he does.

Although he ran against Daley for mayor, there was never a rupture in their relationship. He has been a successful lobbyist and has contributed funds to Blagojevich, yes, but also to Obama and to Joe Biden. For blacks who want to continue their view of racial progress, he has been a trailblazer. For all other races and nationalities, he is a known quantity. He has said he would not run for the seat at the next election.

Harry Reid has said Burris is unacceptable because he has been appointed by Blagojevich…and Jesse White, the Illinois secretary of state, maintains he won’t certify him. I think this is petty and stupid, taking out on a reasonably honest official the earmarks of vendetta that the Democrats have been known for. The fairly modest campaign funding he gave Blagojevich is not in any sense a payment for the appointment. But Democrats are convinced they want to drive a stake through Blagojevich’s heart if they have to wound an honorable public official of their own party to do it. But to kill off Roland Burris in order to get even with Blago is a fool’s errand. They may kill Blago and Burris but will seriously wound themselves and place them even further in doubt as a responsible vehicle for government.

Legislative Dems Can Blame Themselves.

Blago must hate the Democratic party because he has really stuck it to his party this time. But one thing he got right. He had long stated that he would name a senator before the end of the calendar year. Because the legislative Democrats…with few exceptions… were so piggish about trying to force a Democrat to succeed Obama, they vetoed the idea of a special election. Only Jack Franks and a few other Dems were smart enough to welcome a special election. Pat Quinn, that pillar of Jello, first said he wanted a special election, then an appointment, then an appointment followed by a special election, then a special election. Now an appointment and special election basis his comments last night. He has become an unintended fop, a fool. Thus the Dems have themselves to blame for the governor embarrassing them…forcing them to oppose a black-and a well-qualified black-for the senate.

While all Senate Dems have said they would reject anyone Blago names, in the case of Burris it’s going to be difficult. Burris has no disqualification in his makeup. Thus there is a very real question as to whether that body can legally deny a well qualified individual to their membership simply and purely because the members dislike a sitting governor who at the time he made the appointment still controlled all his legal faculties. Denying Burris may become a question that goes to the Supreme Court. The Court might turn down the question since it impacts on the procedures of another branch-but just might rule that unless you can prove the lack of fitness for a legally appointed senator, that body has no right to deny him.

Bobby Rush was the first to play the race card…saying the Senate is 100% white and the Dems are going to veto a well-qualified black. That really hurts. The party that has invented racial quotas and political correctness now is hung up on its own hypocrisy.

By his appointment of Burris, Blagojevich has certifiably proved that once and for all it’s time to throw off discordant one-party Democratic rule in Illinois-because these guys simply cannot govern. So filled with hatred for Blago, they will refuse a qualified black man for no other reason than Blago named him.

That won’t carry water.


Tom Roeser is the Chairman of the Chicago Daily Observer Editorial Board


  • Bill Baar (author) said:

    Wise thing would be for Democrats to accept Burris’s appointment and move on… The Guv used his shot and hit the target square on, but now would be the time to bind the wound and move on with impeachment.

    I think that’s what they’ll do, but on the otherhand it was getting timid about a special election, and hesitating to pull the Guv’s authority to appoint; and then timidness about calling witnesses resulting in this thin impeachment hearing, that got them to this point.

    Blagojevich might be able to pull-off a complete victory prevailing over Democrats fearfull of where he could take the impeachment.

  • Steve (author) said:

    Good perspective. However, sticking to the principle of not seating Burris as steaming from alleged corruption, despite his blackness and qualification, would bode well for the Democratic Party.

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