THE BLOG

For Burris, It's Hail Mary Time

03/26/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

It's time for a fourth-quarter Hail Mary attempt by Sen. Roland Burris.

The reality is plain to see, as is his likely only alternative.

The reality is crumbling support and his laughingstock caricature amid a constant recalibration of claims as to dealings with former Gov. Rod Blagojevich and aides. One can safely assume that what he told federal agents in Chicago on Saturday was that, yes, he lobbied hard for Barack Obama's Senate seat; was solicited for campaign cash by the governor's brother; and did make moves to possibly hold a fundraiser for the governor at the very time he was groveling for the Senate spot.

He almost surely told the agents that what he did, especially in testimony before an Illinois legislative panel, was deceptive. But it wasn't perjury, no way. If anything, his were errors of omission, not commission.

So very quickly he's come to resemble a typical, corner-cutting, word-parsing sneak, just like Alex Rodriguez and many others in our public life. And this is not long after he resembled a tough-minded, stand-up guy, refusing to bow to initial demands of the U.S. Senate establishment (Majority Leader Harry Reid and top lieutenant Dick Durbin of, yes, Illinois), which quickly caved when, among others, African-American colleagues starting raising eyebrows.

Of course, his seemingly impressive defiance came at a time one assumed the facts were as he'd detailed. We assumed he'd had as little discussion with the Blagojevich camp as, one assumes, Jennifer Aniston had with Angelina Jolie at the post-Oscars parties Sunday. Since the law was totally on the then-governor's side, Reid, Durbin et al. were flailing at political windmills even as a smirking Blago picked a man of truly modest professional achievement.

So what should Burris, far more the Democratic lifer-hack than an evildoer, actually do?

It's time for an A-Rod-like press conference but with some substantive answers and a set of assurances about his political future. Don't be self-deluded by the probability that the U.S. Senate's ethics panel, or either the U.S. Attorney in Chicago or the Illinois legislature, may not have cause for action. Don't be the strict constructionist.

You go in front of the cameras and admit that, yes, in your self-aggrandizing, ego-driven pursuit of the Senate seat, you'd been too slick by half. Again, you didn't commit perjury. But you weren't fully forthcoming and you hereby apologize profusely (you need not try to effect the now-pro forma teary-eyed bit; something A-Rod totally blew).

Then you make clear that you will not, under any circumstance, run for a full term in 2010. You are hereby a lame duck. You are formalizing the de facto status you've unintentionally attained with your notorious bumbling of the past two weeks.

You're already dead meat when it comes to a Democratic Senate primary---and will have possibly emboldened the heretofore dilapidated state Republican Party---so just try to spin this as some high-minded move amid all the controversy. And leave no ambiguity about the primary. This would permit other Democrats, mostly elected officials who bashed Blago, to start hitting up their friends and others for money, while either hoping their phones aren't wiretapped or scheduling more meetings in parking lots, like Tony Soprano and his real-life ilk.

Since money is at the heart of the Blago mess, and your own odorous situation, you should make some pledge concerning all that. Perhaps say that you won't have a thing to do with any fundraising prior to the end of your Senate term. You won't raise a dime, giving you more time to focus on your purported heart's desire, the "people's business," blah, blah, blah.

When it comes to dialing for or otherwise seeking dollars, claim a new purity so sweeping it might make Sen. Russ Feingold of Wisconsin look like a tawdry Chicago alderman (the 30th current or former such species in 36 years was sentenced to prison for corruption last week).

Say all that, then cross your fingers and hope a few folks relent from the cascading calls for resignation. If a few do, then finish an honorable man's Senate term by being honest for about two years. It could actually feel liberating.

Further, you will still be able to chisel "United States Senator" on that tacky mausoleum of yours. Fifty years down the road, nobody will probably know the difference between you, Paul Douglas, Paul Simon or other senators who actually represented the state with true integrity.