Category Archives: roland burris

OP ED: Burris burrows in … as well he should.

Many in the pundits in the press conjecture that Illinois Senator Roland Burris (pictured with Senate President Harry Reid) will have to resign as a result of the onslaught of negative publicity fomented by the press, itself. This media feeding frenzy has been given more heft than it deserves by a gaggle or self-serving politicians who either have an interest in replacing Burris with themselves of an ally, or merely see piling on as a hook to get their name and face in the press for another day. The psychology that is driving this hyper hype is the same that leads mobs of otherwise descent people to “take matters into their own hands” as an outcome of irrational hysteria.

So many of those calling for Burris’ resignation claim to respect him and consider him a friend. They cite his distinguished career. He is often described simply, but meaningfully, as “a good man.” Are we to conclude from this that the U.S. Senate is no place for “a good man?”

More specifically, all the jawboning and editorializing in the world cannot force the resignation. Only the U.S. Senate can expel a member, and it is more than likely that the collegial Upper Chamber lacks the authority or resolve to take such action in this case.

There are two major reasons that Burris should not resign. First, he has done nothing that warrants his stepping down. Yes, there have been inconsistencies in his testimonies and affidavits – nothing, according to prosecutors, that rises to the level of perjury. Despite media smears that have label Burris an egregious liar, his inconsistencies are not too far outside the range of anyone being asked questions in different ways on different occasions — and certainly nothing near the level of prevarication by those who now smugly demand his ouster. Unfortunately, such hypocrisy is pandemic in politics.

The second reason is that Burris needs to complete his current term to have any chance to reclaim his hitherto pristine reputation as public official. For some 30 years, Burris was praised by the political, civic and business communities as an outstanding public servant and honorable man – never even a hint of scandal (quite and accomplishment in Illinois). But even that history has been twisted, distorted and re-written by press and politicians to further demonize him. Once known for his friendly manner, accessibility and humility, Burrs is now labeled an arrogant hack.

If he were to resign today, he would slip into the shadow of public attention as the press created caricature. He would leave the public stage with the unfounded accusations of his detractors as his legacy.

Some say that the controversy leaves him powerless to perform his duties. How so? He still has all the powers of his office, his intellect and his skills. He can and will wheel and deal with the best of them. His colleagues are not likely to shun him for the benefit of the home town lynch mob – especially since they need his vote to stay close to that veto proof number and he still has the distinction and advantage of being the Senate’s token African American.

Once it is obvious that he will not resign, I suspect the media will cool down and shift lens and pens to some new political reality show – new indictments, new scandals, new investigations, the trial of Rod Blagojevich (or maybe just the antics of Rod Blagojevich). This will give Burris an opportunity to settle in as a hard working Senator for another 18 months – and longer if the public suddenly finds their incited anger turning to a sense of guilt.

People in the public eye are often advised to step down at the peak of the career to lock in their future reputation. Conversely, it is not advisable to step down at the nadir.

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REACT: Congratulations to SENATOR Roland Burris — a good man for the job

Today, Roland Burris was sworn in as the junior senator from Illinois, just as he predicted he would be. For the most part, his critics are fools, liars and hypocrites – or people with flagrant self interests.

First and foremost, we should recognize that in Burris the people of Illinois have an outstanding public servant as their new senator — not withstanding the unfair and scurrilous criticisms flung at him by pandering political leaders and a public press on a feeding frenzy,

Burris has been one of the most descent public officials in recent history. In an Illinois environment of pay-to-play, insider deals, bribery, vote fraud, cronyism, nepotism, abuse of office, etc., Burris has kept his integrity. He has been faithful to the calling of public service.

He was the first African-American to win statewide office. In sixteen years in office, eight as Comptroller and eight as Attorney General, he was not once the subject of scandal. Somehow his unsuccessful bids for later offices are held against him despite the fact that those campaigns were run with dignity, intelligence and integrity. Losing an election is no sin – and consider for one moment the caliber of those who beat him.

Burris’ critics come in two varieties. The first group is composed of the revisionists, who once praised and endorsed him for public office in the past. On the basis of nothing more than their almost crazed desire to “get” Governor Rod Blagojevich (who certainly deserves to be “got,” and will be), they have turned on Burris like rabid dogs.

For the revisionists, the mere acceptance of a seat in the U.S. Senate wiped out a long, distinguished and honorable career in politics. In maligning Burris, they are re-writing history. Burris is retroactively declared to be a hack politician, an ego maniac, a scumbag of sorts.

What Burris did is not illegal. It is not immoral. It is not even the slightest disservice to the public. As a career politician, his interest and willingness to accept a historic senate seat is understandable. I suspect there are a lot of “good people” who would have done the same. I would have.

Then there are those who still say Burris is a “good man” … “qualified” … “competent” … but he should not have been seated due to the sins of the appointer. They say the appointment is “tainted.” There opposition has nothing to do with Burris as a person. It is that damn Blagojevich.

This is nothing less than guilt by association – and a hypocritical double standard, to boot. Many of the very same people who wrap Blago around Burris had, themselves, close working relationships with the Governor. Lt. Governor Pat Quinn was his running mate for re-election even as the feds were closing in. Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan was Blago’s campaign co-chairman. Much of the media that now demonizes Burris by the proxy of Blagojevich endorsed the Governor’s re-election on their editorial pages.

Taking it personal … I have known Roland for almost 30 years as a friend and as a member of the board of the City Club of Chicago, in the days I served as its executive director. Though I generally leaned Republican, he always had my support because of his competency and decency.

Though much has been made of his monumental grave marker, Roland has always been a humble and unpretentious man. I have never known him to use race to his advantage or as an excuse.No matter how he got there, or who appointed him, or the twisted logic that places the wrongs of the Governor on his shoulders, I know one thing for sure. Illinois has sent a good man to Washington, and I am confident that he will serve the people of Illinois with effectiveness, dedication and integrity.

LATE BREAKING: Bus runs over White line?

Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White (right) is a bitchn’ and a moanin’. Seems that U.S. Senate President Harry Reid & Co. now say that the only thing Roland Burris needs to do to be seated in the U.S. Senate is get White’s signature on the certification. A mere technicality.

No more talk of barring Burris because of his appointment by Governor Rod Blagojevich. Forget about the letter from half the Senate saying they will not seat the former Illinois Attorney General. No. No. No. Just sweet talk and a small bureaucratic requirement — a mere technicality.

In response, White is saying that Reid has thrown him under the bus, or down the stairs strapped to a wheel chair, depending on the quote you prefer. This is all “veeeelly interersting,” as comic Arte Johnson used to say.

White claims that his signature isn’t needed to seat Burris, even though not long ago he said he was stopping the Governor for filling the seat by … take a guess … by not signing the document. If White believes that, why did he refuse the sign the certification? Just some silly symbolic posturing?

Regardless of what White’s shifting opinion is at the moment, the U.S. Senate thinks his signature is required — and they sight a Nineteenth Century rule to back up their words.

But White has every reason to be a bit perturbed. He was encourged by Reid to refuse to sign the certification so that Reid could refuse to seat Burris. In fact, Reid called White personally to thank him for his support and courage. White gave Reid the shred of bureaucratic process — or lack there of — that gave an appearance of legitimacy to Reid’s flagrantly improper scheme to reject the legally appointed Burris.

Proving that in politics no favor goes unpunished, Reid now lays the blame for not seating Burris on White’s missing signature, while he plays host to the soon-to-be junior senator from Illinois.

For his part, Reid, who was rolled by Burris like a cheap cigarette, denies that he was out smarted by the Washington neophyte. He just needed a few minutes face time to assure himself that Burris did not have horns and a tail — and presumably that the former Illinois Attorney General did not talk like those uppity blacks who Reid (excuse the expression) black balled.

White is not alone on the far side of the limb that Reid & Co. are sawing off. Illinois Attorny General Lisa Madigan has offered an opinon that there is nothing in the law that requires White to obey … the law. Ya gotta love lawyers. Personally, I sort of think that the part of the oath that that says “uphold the law” could be releveant, but then, I’m not a lawyer.

Madigan first tried to get the Supreme Court to declare the Governor incompetent to serve without a shred of medical evidence or legal authority. It was more than a stretch — but desperate times require desperate measures. Now she supports the Secretary of State not performing his legal duties.

One suspects that she would not undertaket these political suicide missions if the Governor didn’t just happen to be her daddy’s chief nemisis. As Speaker of the House, he is doing his own version of get-Blago-at-all-costs by establishing a impeachment committee composed of the Governor’s most ardent enemies.
At first, the game plan was to get Blago out before he could make a senate appointment. Now the game plan is to get him out before the Burris appointment sets like cement on a sunny day. They hope they can twist, bend and break the rules as a means of stopping Burris.
My bet is Burris wins with or without White’s signature.

LATE BREAKING: Burris seat shoved up Reid’s

If there is a shortage of eggs on the grocery shelf, blame Democrat Senate President Harry Reid. It appears he is going around with a LOT of egg on his face.

In a stark repudiation of his threats to block the seating of Roland Burris as the new junior senator from Illinois, the Senate Democrats decided that the law had more authority than their hapless leader.

This also marks a baby step set-back for President-elect Barack Obama, who originally knee-jerked in favor of Reid’s scheme. His former colleagues in the Senate politely demurred.

Whew. Finally … score one for the rule of law — at least in Washington.

Since the seating is still contingent on the signature of Illlinois Secretary of State Jesse White, the pressure is on him to obey the law and sign the certification, as he is obligated to do. He has no authority to use the technical need for a signature to essentially negate the Governor’s exslusive right to name a qualified person — and we the people should be sure that he does not usurp and assume such authority.

One hopes that the Illinois Attorney General, Lisa Madigan, will officially advise White of his involuntary legal duty, but nothing is certain. There are indications that she may try to provide specious legal cover for the Secretary of State in the same way she took a sham case to the Illinois Supreme Court to have the Governor declared incompetent to serve.

OBSERVATION: Obama bombed on Burris

Belatedly, President-elect Barack Obama has fallen silent on the issue of Roland Burris as his successor in the U.S. Senate. Had he thought things through a bit more clearly in the first instance, he could have left the issue to Governor Rod Blagojevich, Secretary of State Jesse White and Senate President Harry Reid. Or, he could have given the appointment a pass. Instead, he bought into the specious argument that while Burris is a good man and very well qualified, the perceived sins of his sponsor fatally tainted the appointment. Obama ignored both the law and common sense.

This puts the first half African-American President in sync with the legally dubious and arguably racist posture of Reid. Suddenly, Obama is a partisan in a strategy that risks reducing black membership in the World’s Most Exclusive Club to zero.

Obama was a follower when he should have been a leader. Had he accepted the appointment as legal and Burris as qualified, there would have been a junior Illinois senator sworn in with the class of ’09. He also would have prevented Reid from looking arrogant, stupid and racist.

Now, the drama will continue on the edge of the national spotlight, casting a discernible shadow across the historic inauguration festivities. Oh, the irony of it all.

>RECOMMENDATION: The GOP should let Blago remain in office

>Most likely, Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich will be impeached before all the evidence is considered and testimony taken. The Illinois House, under the leadership of Speaker Michael (I gotta make my daughter governor) Madigan is a hanging jury. Like any kangaroo court, the verdict was predetermined before the articles of impeachment were even drawn up. The impeachment panel is a means to an end, not a deliberative body.

This means that it will be up to the Illinois Senate to hold a mock trial – at which there will be no rules of evidence – and vote conviction or acquittal. This requires a two-third vote of the membership – and that means a few Republican votes will be required to remove the Governor from office.

The fact that it appears that the GOP senators will follow the lead of the Democrat majority is testimony to their lack of appreciation for the democratic process, their disregard for any presumption of innocence, their non-existent party discipline and their abysmal lack of political savvy.

If the Republican leaders had half the testicular virility of the Governor and the political chutzpah of the Democrats in general, they would either abstain or vote against the conviction of the Governor.

On the merits, Governor Blagojevich was duly elected by the people of Illinois. He has been indicted but not convicted of any crime. The legislature would have to both disregard the vote of the people and the highly vaunted presumption of innocence to remove him from office.

What if the Governor is ultimately deemed innocent of all charges? Will he be unimpeached and returned to office? Would his removal by political adversaries be deemed a coup rather than an impeachment? Could he sue for damages?

Since he is indicted, and a judicial process will now move forward, I would rely on a jury of his peers to resolve the question of criminal conduct, and not subject the issue to unconsidered evidence, amateur judgment and political opinion.

I would also remind the public that the leaders of the lynch mob** are the very same people who endorsed his re-election. In fact, the leader of the impeachment effort was his campaign co-chairman.

The Republicans should have no part in this political chicanery.

Okay. Then there is the “other” reason to vote against conviction. It leaves the Governor and the Democrats – friend and foe alike – to hang out to dry for the next two years, or at least until U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald actually convicts the Governor of at least one felony.

The opposition party could be on the verge of total implosion, and the Republicans seem to be on the verge of bailing them out – a move befitting the often designated stupid party.

Now, I know some say it would be irresponsible not to remove Blago so that peace and tranquility can be restored to the governmental process in Illinois. This just means business as usual.

If the Illinois Senate fails to convict the Governor, and the lynch mob sees that their prey has eluded the noose, things will calm down. The critical business of the state will move forward out of necessity. However, the process is likely to be more controversial, more transparent, more open to public sentiment, more bipartisan and more democratic. The idea that democracy is best served by public serenity is bogus. Heated public debated is more beneficial than quiet back room deals.

When I was growing up in Chicago, we used to say that there was no disservice to the public when Mafia members killed each other. Likewise, there is no disservice to good government to have the pre-eminent Democrat party break down into tribal warfare.

Yeah! I think Blago is probably guilty – “probably,” I say. And yeah! I am not a fan of his politics and philosophy. And yeah! I think he is not sharpest knife in the drawer. But I think justice and politics are better served by letting him continue to fill the office to which he was elected by the people (at the recommendation of all those now trying to remove him) until such time as a jury of his peers finds him guilty of the crimes for which he is only accused.

I have to confess … I have a third reason to keep Blago in office. Good theater. This is a political demolition derby. It is awesome. It is spectacular. For the first time in ages, I can’t wait for the next news update. Political conversations and the proverbial grapevine are a twitter with news, speculation, opinions and predictions. I mean … what is more fun than watching arrogant people run around like fools.

Think about this. If they had booted Blago out of office in December, he never could have appointed Roland Burris to the vacant Senate seat. In doing so, the Governor has at once sent a good man to Washington and exposed the hypocrisy and racism of such national Democrats as Senate President Harry Reid. Now Rules Committee Chair Diane Feinstein, who will handle any Senate inquiry into l’affaire Burris, is saying to seat Burris. This gets more delicious by the minute.

For once, I hope the Republicans can be as shrewd and crafty as the Democrats. Hmmmmm. Probably not. Oh well! It was fun while it lasted.

** Yes. I referred to the Democrat leaders as a “lynch mob.” Whether Blagojevich is guilty as hell, or not, is irrelevant to the conduct of his political adversaries. Lynch mobs did not always hang innocent people, but they always circumvented the all important process of justice.

>OBSERVATION: Reid the racist.

>Staff and supporters are trying to rescue Senate President Harry Reid from his racist gaffe — pressuring Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich to appoint a white person to the Senate over the more logical choices of such African-Americans as Congressmen Danny Davis or Jesse Jackons, or former Illinois Senate President Emil Jones, and now Roland Burris. As the spin goes, old Harry is only interested in getting a candidate who is electable in two years. It is not about race, they say. Given who is about to move into the White House, I guess I would sing the same tune, too, if I were in Reid’s choir.

The spin is all balderdash, however. Reid’s stark contrast between black and white is too distinct and uncompromised to be a matter of “electability.” They say Reid would be happy to support a qualified black candidate, just that there is no such thing — at least in Illinois. Reid does not think blacks are generally electable … period.

How can Reid think that no black candidate is electable from a state that has twice elected black senators, a black secretary of state, a black mayor of Chicago and, in Roland Burris himself, both comptroller and attorney general? In each instance, the racist political subculture claimed the candidate was unelectable for only one reason … color of skin. Reid is proffering the same opinion for the same reasons.

>REACT: Kick Reid out of the Senate.

>I could not believe my eyes as I read the latest audacious comment from the power-crazed, arrogant and slightly nutty Democrat leader of the U.S. Senate, the not-so-honorable Harry Reid.

In referring to the chaos he generated by summarily rejecting the duly and legally appointed replacement for President-elect Barack Obama, Reid opened the door to seating appointee Roland Burris by saying … here goes … saying “there’s always room to negotiate”.

WHAT???

That’s right! The one time trial lawyer (<– Maybe this explains a few things.) said he is willing to “negotiate” the seating of Burris. So … the sanctimonious hypocrite refused to obey the law so he could “negotiate” something for himself. Isn’t that what caused the whole problem in the first place?

What are Reid’s terms? That Burris surrender his legal right to run for re-election — denying the people of Illinois the ultimate decision? Does Burris have to agree to some sort of personal loyalty to Reid on key issues? Does he have to help raise money for the Democrat’s campaign committee? Just what is there to negotiate?

First there is the refusal to seat the new Illinois senator. Then Reid is found rejecting all the other likely black candidates in a behind-the-scenes chat with none other than the toxic Governor Rod Blagojevich. Now he wants to “negotiate” a deal if Burris has any chance of winning his approval.

Perhaps it is Reid who should be booted from the Senate.

>REACT: Reid is okay with all white senate.

>“How dare he.” That was what I said in a previous blog about the Democrat’s Senate President Harry Reid. My scold was because of his arrogant refusal to seat ANY U.S. senator from Illinois because the appointing governor, Rod Blagojevich, is allegedly a crook. Upon the appointment of former Illinois Attorney General Roland Burris, a worthy choice, Reid promised to use the Capitol Hill police to bar the appointee.

Weeeeell. Now it is a double “how dare he.” Seems that Reid actually phoned up the alleged crooked Governor to offer his recommendations for the seat. While he found Tammy Duckworth (the wounded war hero, who lost a congressional election to Rep. Peter Roskum) and Attorney General Lisa Madigan both “acceptable,” he begged Blago not to appoint Congressmen Danny Davis or Jesse Jackson, nor former Illinois Senate President Emil Jones.

Interestingly, both acceptable candidates are white, and all the unacceptable candidates, including the appointee, are black. Apparently Reid misplaced his invitation to the post racial party hosted by Barack Obama.

If Reid was a Republican, I can only image the national media fury he would have caused for thumbing his nose (Well, I guess he is not exactly thumbing his nose in the photo, eh?) at all those African-American candidates.

>OBSERVATION: Sitting in judgment in the Senate.

>Ok, so the Governor has suffered scandals that clearly bring into question his honesty and integrity – although not convicted of anything, as of yet. The person he would designate to fill the vacant seat in the United States Senate is a scandal-free well known political figure – albeit some say not qualified to hold the office. In such a situation, should the appointee be denied the seat because the person with the appointive power is tainted? Leaders in the Senate seem to think so.

Should the senators simply choose to ignore the law and block the doors of the chamber to prevent the newly appointed senator from entering? I say no.

If it is the legal right of New York Governor David Paterson to make the appointment, then I think Caroline Kennedy has every legal right to serve – regardless of my personal opinion of the appointee. Its a no brainer.

AND … THEREFORE … ERGO … THUS …

The same is true for Roland Burris – who, on his worst day, has more integrity than quite a number of sitting senators who are addressed as “the honorable” and commonly characterized as serving “with distinction.”