02/17/2009 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Do the Right Thing

The Senate is doing the right thing by seating Burris, now Burris should do the right thing and pledge to resign if Blagojevich is convicted.

Now that Senate Democrats have retreated and agreed to seat Governor Blagojevich's brash appointment of Roland Burris to Illinois's vacant Senate seat, it is time for Mr. Burris do the right thing by the people of Illinois: Mr. Burris should pledge to immediately resign the seat should Governor Blagojevich be convicted.

Governor Blagojevich appointed Mr. Burris from his own, strange, gubernatorial netherworld in which he has legal authority but no moral, ethical or popular authority. Mr. Burris and his supporters have been quick to point out that the appointment was legal while blithely ignoring this reality. And while many Illinois state leaders reluctantly agreed to the legality of the appointment while expressing distaste at the prospect of a junior Senator appointed by a Governor accused of trying to sell that very seat to the highest bidder, they have not yet addressed the fact that should Blagojevich be convicted, any legitimacy Mr. Burris can claim evaporates on the spot. In the interest of the people of Illinois, they should ask Mr. Burris to pledge to resign if the Governor is convicted.

It's time for Roland Burris to acknowledge that Blagojevich may very well be guilty as sin and if so, Mr. Burris has been appointed by a criminal. Blagojevich is, of course, innocent until proven guilty. But if he is found guilty, that guilt is retroactive. Should Blagojevich be convicted in the Illinois State Senate and found to be unfit as a governor, that would mean he would have been unfit at the time he appointed Burris to the United States Senate. Burris needs to recognize this unavoidable fact and publicly vow to the people of Illinois that he will resign if Blagojevich is convicted by the Illinois State Senate or found guilty of the criminal charge brought by U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald.

It's the right thing to do. The people of Illinois should have two Senators represent them in Washington, but they should not be saddled with the choice made by a governor forced from office in a disgraceful, influence-peddling scandal, should that occur.

And even if Blagojevich is convicted in the near future and Mr. Burris does the right thing and resigns after only a short time in the Senate, he can still add "United States Senator" to the accomplishments on his mausoleum.