Governor Rod Blagojevich made one thing perfectly clear Tuesday: he is still the governor. He played a brilliant game of checkmate politics. He made a gangster move. He appointed the perfect candidate to the vacant Senate seat and leveraged his political capital to the hilt.
The world may not understand it, it may even seem bizarre that he would have the audacity to appoint, but we who live in Illinois got it. And most of all, the politicians got it. I am the Governor of the State of Illinois, confirmed Mr. Blagojevich.
In appointing Roland Burris, Blagojevich has fulfilled his constitutional duty as governor. He is perfectly within his rights and legal boundaries. He has also jammed the political process and moved the radar from personality politics to process politics. Roland Burris is the perfect candidate. He is stellar. He is a statesman. He is politically correct and he is even historically correct, as a forerunner to our new president.
Burris' political career is well documented. He hails from downstate Illinois and has served as Comptroller of the State of Illinois for three terms. He was the first African American to be elected to a statewide office in the State of Illinois. He has served as Attorney General of Illinois, making him the second African American in the country elected as a state Attorney General. Burris has served as Vice-chairman of the Democratic National Committee and as the Executive Director of Operation PUSH. Prior to his stellar career in politics, Burris was the Vice President of Continental Illinois National Bank, working the Trust Tax Department and Commercial Lending.
Burris is a professional politician. He has been a candidate for governor three times and lost each race, thus he knows both sides of the ropes. Burris was on no one's list for the Senate appointment, the possibility of him assuming the seat merely a faint rumor.
The Senate Democrats have proclaimed they will not accept anyone Gov. Blagojevich selects and Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White says he will not certify Blagojevich's pick. Is this legal? Is it politically correct?
The legal process is threatened. The governor has performed his duty. He has not been convicted. He still holds the constitutional power. He followed the law. The candidate is not tainted and neither is the process. The governor has been accused of attempting to sell the Senate seat, among other charges. But what has been demonstrated is that the feds may have made their move too soon.
If Roland Burris is not seated in the U.S. Senate, the process is violated. He will probably take the matter to the Supreme Court. He is the perfect one to do that, being a lawyer and steeped in the Democratic Party and its bylaws.
Precedent has been established with the case of Powell v. McCormack. Adam Clayton Powell, Jr., a senior member of the U.S. House of Representatives, was reelected in 1966 while embroiled in a misappropriation of funds scandal. In January 1967, House Speaker John William McCormack asked Rep. Powell to abstain from taking the oath of office. Powell took the case to court and was reelected in 1968 and seated again in Congress. This current situation is similar.
The people of Illinois deserve two Senate seats. By filling the vacancy at this time, Burris will have seniority over the incoming freshman Senators. If the seat is not filled, it means that at this crucial historical hour, where we are at war and in an economic depression, we would not have full representation on the Senate floor. We would miss a vote. This equates to taxation without representation.
The Senate's refusal to seat squeaky-clean Burris will become a clear-cut case of racism. If seated, Burris will be the only active African American Senator in the United States, as was the case with Barack Obama and Carol Moseley Braun. The stakes are high.
This is not local Illinois politics, it plays on a national stage. President-elect Obama issued a statement in support of Senate Democrats. He should know better, being a constitutional and civil rights lawyer. He should stay out of it because it is not in his hands.
A black president deserves at least one black senator from his home state. This is a historic situation and I bet on the B guys, to win. Blagojevich, at the end of the day, has done no more than engage in horse trading, fund raising and let's make a deal politics. So what else is new?
The case is being tried in the court of public opinion and it has legs, but in the world of legalese, this case will probably fall flat on its face. We have heard about the tapes, but we have not heard both sides of the tapes. Meanwhile, let's seat Roland Burris.
By the way, Happy New Year. 2008 has been a blast.