In a wild press conference where Gov. Rod Blagojevich introduced Roland Burris as the Senate-appointee to replace Barack Obama, congressman Bobby Rush came to the lectern and firmly offered a racial basis for seeing through the appointment.
Noting that without Obama there would be no African-American members of the Senate, Rush, a former Black Panther, warned the press not to "hang or lynch" Burris by associating him with the ethics scandals plaguing the governor.
"I would ask you the not hang or lynch the appointee as you castigate the appointer and separate the appointee from the appointer," said Rush. "Roland Burris is worthy and he is the only one who can stand in the gap during this time and gather the confidence, re-establishing confidence of the people of the state of Illinois."
Rush went on to essentially challenge the United State Senate to not seat Burris -- a course of action that the Democratic Caucus has said it will pursue.
"There are no African-Americans in the Senate, and I don't think that anyone, any U.S. Senator who is sitting right now would want to go on record to deny one African-American from being seated in the U.S. Senate. I don't think they want to go on record doing that.
Rush promised to take his case to the Congressional Black Caucus, and he said he intended to lobby Senators as well -- including his Illinois colleague, Dick Durbin.
"Let me remind you that the state of Illinois and the people of the state of Illinois in their collective wisdom have sent two African-Americans to the U.S. Senate," Rush said. "That makes a difference. This is not just a state of Illinois matter ... but indeed, by this decision, it has tremendous national importance."
The remarks capped an incredibly dramatic press conference in which Burris and Blagojevich struck a tone of defiance, insisting that the Senate seat should be awarded to the former Illinois Attorney General despite charges that Blagojevich was trying to sell the seat to the highest bidder. The legal dynamics of the affair were already highly charged. A firm dose of racial politics injected into the proceedings seems likely to make the situtation even more contentious.
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