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Posted by on Jan 5, 2009 in Politics | 6 comments

The Optics of Roland Burris

BurrisSenate.jpgWatching Morning Joe today, Scarborough’s guest came up with the perfect description of exactly how bad Roland Burris’ arrival in Washington will be for Harry Reid and the United States Senate. No matter how many times Reid and his colleagues insist that this isn’t about Burris, no matter how often they chatter on about how it is the process and the Governor that are the problem, no matter how frequently they insist that they hold no malice toward Burris but they are protecting the integrity of the chamber, it all comes down to one image which the media will play over and over again. Harry Reid will lead 98 white people, standing in the doorway and trying to keep out the one black guy trying to get in. As the Morning Joe analyst put it,

“The optics of this are just terrible.”

Some of the residents of Burris’ home state of Illinois seem to be squirming in embarrassment over the entire spectacle. This is exemplified in today’s column from John Kass, himself an Illinois native.

Roland “Tombstone” Burris goes to Washington this week as part of the Illinois political freak show, and many of us back home will watch it and feel like cringing, at least at the beginning.

Who among us could not wince at the prospect of Tombstone standing before news cameras, his head bobbing, smiling amiably, chattering nonsensically as is his way, insisting he feels no shame. All he wants is to become a United States senator, and he kissed a tainted hand to get there.

As a very young man, I remember finding myself moving into my very first apartment and having little to no money for any extravagances. I wound up furnishing my new home by hook or by crook, often cruising the streets on the night before trash pick-up day, looking to see if anyone had put any bits of old or broken furniture out on curb which I might be able to pick up, repair and put to use. I also vividly recall a sense of shame, wondering if any of my friends might see me picking through the trash that others had discarded. Today, as the next Congress prepares to begin their term, I wonder if Roland Burris is feeling something similar?

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  • DLS

    I believe the Dems are foolish to oppose the seating of Burris, not because of any racial angle, but because they look petty and silly. Was this not the same body that engaged in silly stunts before, such as with the treatment of Packwood? And can’t the seat be contested in an election later, anyway? Was this appointment not a legal act by the governor, no matter what people may think of him (and other Dems)?

    Is this another Dem “symbolic” ethics-related publicity stunt? (I guess Pelosi and the House Dems need to be matched in the Senate.)

  • Dave_Schuler

    I should have added this to my predictions for 2009: Roland Burris will be seated as temporary Illinois senator. It makes a nice matching set with my other prediction that unless he resigns (which I think is highly unlikely) Rod Blagojevich will serve out his term as governor of Illinois.

  • for once I agree with DLS. This is a stupid move on the Dems’ part. They should just admit that like it or not, the governor, ‘tainted’ as he is by *alleged* illegal acts (innocent til proven guilty, right?), he is entitled by law to make the appointment. Then let Burris face the voters in 2 years.

    • The point made by GreenDreams also has an additional benefit for all concerned. If seated, Burris can just take the temperature of the polls in Illinois in early 2010 and if it doesn’t look like he could carry the state (or even the primaries) he can always “gracefully retire” saying that he’s now 73 and needs to get back to his family but was glad to serve by filling in. That way he still gets to put “U.S. Senator” on his tombstone. If his numbers look good, he could also take a shot at a full term if interested.

  • JDRhoades

    Reid knows he doesn’t have a legal leg to stand on. Powell v. McCormack is still the law of the land. Reid’s waiting for the courts to take him off the hook.

  • elrod

    Reid wants to bottle this up in the Rules Committee for 90 days. During that time Blago will be removed and the new Governor, Pat Quinn, can appoint somebody else. Then Reid can accept Quinn’s pick as legitimate and have the Rules Committee say that the State of Illinois essentially undid its Burris pick.

    At least that’s what Reid hopes to do here.

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