THE BLOG
03/18/2010 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Why Roland Burris Matters to Barack Obama, Right Now

Okay, all you Barack Obama partisans who can't stand the thought that Roland Burris, of all people, sits in our president's former U.S. Senate seat.

And, hold-on, all you Democratic Party cheerleaders, who think there was a great, Democratic Party leadership victory for the American people Saturday night; sadly, there wasn't.

Stand still, and stand it. Bear with me. The Saturday night victory that wasn't could turn into the victory that was -- and is. And none other than Roland Burris could help us win it.

Follow me, here, 'cause I know this sounds utterly implausible.

On various occasions during the last several months, America's only African-American U.S. Senator has said something along these lines:

Chicago Sun-Times, Nov. 2...

[U.S.] Sen. Roland Burris told a cheering crowd of medical students and others at Cook County Hospital today that he will not compromise on his demand that any health care plan have a public option.

"Now is not the time to back down. Now is the time to act with conviction," Burris said.

"I will not vote for any reform legislation that fails to include a strong public option. I will not vote for it."

I imagine you're wondering right about now, who cares what Senator Burris said to a group of medical students, or to any group other than, say, a group of doctors who might be able to help him retire his campaign debt, get rid of his legal bills, and then retire him permanently from the public scene to the contemplation of that tombstone of his.

I imagine you're wondering what in the world is Roland Burris's relevance to anything, much less, as the New York Times would have it, to the "...signature issue of [Barack Obama's] presidency;" that would be health care, in case you're wondering.

Well, care, people.

Roland Burris is very, very relevant right about now. Why? Because now is his chance to cease to be a buffoon, to seize the time and help us, to become a statesman, and make history that we need made.

And not that we really care, but Roland will then be able to write an epitaph on that vaunted tombstone of his that actually matters. And, Roland, take note here: You'll need no other epitaph, for, by doing this, you will have saved the lives of millions of American women.

And, Roland, the politics of this one are fabulous: The Senate Democrats need 60 votes for just about everything about this health care bill. Upshot: They need you, Roland.

And you, unlike your colleagues, don't need to be re-elected; you desperately want to be seen as a great man, but your time is running out to achieve that one; and you, in your heart of hearts, really, really want to show the people of Illinois that they have another worthy senator, sitting in Barack Obama's old seat.

So, dear readers, take a look at what the House of Representatives did in this Saturday night's massacre: They codified an American health care system (what an oxymoron that is) in which women's very lives are subject to the whims of weak-kneed, sexist, soulless, woman-hating politicians, who don't believe the Supreme Court really meant it, when it said there is a right to privacy under the Constitution that guarantees the right to obtain an abortion.

For, after all, this is the true intent of the Stupak Amendment: to make legal abortion unattainable. Apparently, Rep. Stupak, along with his Republican and Democratic pals, including two of Roland's Illinois Democratic colleagues -- more on these poster children for the wall of shame later -- doesn't care whether American women live or die.

Roland, now that that nefarious deed is done and attention has turned to the Senate, the Senate desperately needs a reminder, along the lines of what you said to those medical students last week: "Now is the time to act with conviction."

Then, what's desperately needed is a Senator who stands up and says something like the following, (and here's my point: you could be that Senator).

Roland: Here's part of that speech I've gone-ahead and written for you:

Colleagues: Yes, we need a health care bill with a public option, in order to provide a mechanism for insuring the millions of Americans who are uninsured, along with those who can't access the private market.

But we only need a public option if it is truly neutral and doesn't impose ideology on health care.

We only need a public option if it provides women's reproductive health care on exactly the same terms as all other health care is provided.

Colleagues, a public option that would offer -- as a substitute for this fair and equal access -- an opportunity to buy a rider to cover the cost of an abortion, is no option at all, no option of any kind.

For, after all, who plans to have an abortion? For, after all, is there any other legal medical procedure for which such a plan would ever be proposed? For, after all, isn't this writing into law the notion that women deserve it. It's their fault if they become pregnant and don't want (or can't) carry the baby to term.

Colleagues, this is the worst form of discrimination. We can't abide it, and say that we hold our Constitution dear.

Colleagues: Remember this: The rich will always be able to buy a safe, if not a legal, abortion. The poor won't.

Do we want then, as a consequence -- by the force of our actions -- to condone a return to back-alley butchery because poor women, or women who didn't expect to become pregnant, (and, thus, didn't buy a rider to cover an abortion procedure; how stupid a concept is this), seek help anywhere they can?

Colleagues, I say to you that, if we do this, we will have blood on our hands.

Colleagues: Bear-this-in-mind: The Stupak Amendment is the worst form of chicanery. For it strains credulity to believe that someone who opposes government control of health care would author or vote for this bill, when the bill's effect is just the opposite. Truly, Mr. Stupak had something else in mind.

And, colleagues, worst yet: If Rep. Stupak and his co-conspirators think that we, the U.S. Senate, will reject any public option that limits abortion coverage, he still wins (for the votes aren't there for that one). What's that old expression: Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me. Well, if we do this, that "me" will be the whole U.S. Congress.

My dear colleagues: This isn't what we were elected to do. This isn't policy-making. This is hypocrisy of the most blatant and dangerous sort. This is politics of the worst sort: mean-spirited, morally indefensible, and built on the backs of the defenseless.

My dear colleagues, let us, instead, lead the way today, just as the Congress and states did when the 14th Amendment, the one that helped free the slaves and stated the right to privacy, came-into-being, and as the Supreme Court did, when it recognized in Roe v. Wade that this century-old American constitutional right includes the right to terminate a pregnancy.

By the way, when you're done with all this, Roland, please ask Rep. Stupak whether he wants the government in the examining room the next time he sees his urologist. I can't wait for that answer.