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Brett Ashley McKenzie Headshot

Mr. Burris Goes to Washington

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Perhaps it is because the founding fathers of Illinois could not yet fathom corruption of this nature that they did not offer an alternative solution for filling a vacant Senate seat when they ratified our state's first constitution in 1818. Certainly, it would seem placing the governance of such affairs in the hands of a governor, whose sole duty is to serve the people, was sensible.

Certainly, if they could have imagined a situation where the sole responsibility would fall to a governor caught bartering congressional seats for personal gain yet defiantly refusing to step aside, they would've put in place some other measure, some alternative solution.

Governor Blagojevich -- deluded and defiant -- has wronged his state by refusing to step aside, and now he has wronged his country by putting the United States Senate in a frazzled state at a time where they need to be focusing their attention on our economic crisis. The Senate needs all hands on deck, and now it's quite possible that one pair of hands will get tossed overboard when the ship sets sail.

Blagojevich was wrong to make the appointment, and Roland Burris was wrong to accept it. For while he has served his state admirably, and Mr. Burris himself is not tainted, this appointment is. And in his haste to appear self-assured and confident -- no doubt what he correctly feels is needed in this new role -- he comes across as too eager, too pleased to accept a tainted job offer from a tainted man. Where others had the moral wherewithal to turn down the Senate seat, this appointee carries the same sense of defiance and entitlement as the appointer.

"I am the junior senator from Illinois," Burris repeated to a crowd of journalists at Midway Airport Monday. He appeared testy, his efforts at easy sarcasm with the media falling as flat as they did in his initial press conference a little over a week ago. Though Mr. Burris may go to Washington, he is not a senator until he is sworn in, and though he boasts his friendships with Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White and Senator Dick Durbin, it appears unlikely he will be joining the freshmen senators being seated this week.

Burris has won over Governor Blagojevich and Congressman Bobby Rush and perhaps a few others. But he has not won this seat. Perhaps most importantly of all, in a time when Illinois voters are clamoring for more ethics in government, Burris has not taken a strong enough stand, abandoning his initial calls for Blagojevich's resignation in favor of the less assertive "innocent until proven guilty."

Mr. Burris goes to Washington despite pleas from his new president-elect -- the man whose seat he seeks to claim -- and fellow Illinois Democrats, despite pleas from the Democratic Senate leadership and without the requisite certification of his Secretary of State. Mr. Burris goes to Washington at the behest of a scandal-plagued governor, and it is likely he will be unable to shake off the taint whether he stays there or returns, no closer to the Senate seat than he is at this moment.