Throughout his many years in public office, Roland Burris has served the state well and he has done so with integrity. When Congressman Bobby Rush stepped to the podium Tuesday during a news conference announcing the appointment of Burris to the Senate by Gov. Rod Blagojevich, he implored the news media to not judge Burris by the allegations made against Blagojevich.
He had a point. Burris should not be tainted by the charges against Blagojevich. Burris is accused of no wrongdoing. What does, however, taint Burris, is the crass opportunism and tone deafness he displayed in accepting Blagojevich’s offer.
Burris should have told Blagojevich thanks, but no thanks. He should have put the interests of the state he served as Comptroller from 1979 to 1992 and as attorney general from 1991 to 1995 ahead of his political self-interest. But Burris didn’t. And that appalling lack of judgment does taint him.
The press conference at which the appointment was announced will be difficult to parody on Saturday Night Live. It was parody. Blagojevich’s confused looks. Burris desperately searching for Rush in the audience as a hostile news media let loose with a flurry of questions and shouts. Rush strolling to the podium and rambling on about race and the fact Burris is black and suggesting that fact should trump any outrage over the appointment.
The use of race by Rush and Burris is dangerous and destructive. Rush’s argument essentially is that the ends justify the means: As long as an African-American is appointed, then it's OK. Even if the African-American in question is being used by an allegedly corrupt white politician as a pawn.
Well, it's not OK and it was insulting to suggest that Illinois residents should not be enraged by Blagojevich’s ongoing comedy routine. Worse, however, is that Burris has set himself up for the ultimate humiliation if the Senate does not seat him. It would be a horrible counterpoint to the inauguration of president-elect Barack Obama and it would, unfortunately, become our lasting image of Burris.
Another obstacle to the appointment is Secretary of State Jesse White, who said he will not certify the appointment. White, who is an African-American, deserves credit for taking such an immediate and strong stand in the face of such despicable race baiting.
As for Blagojevich, you can almost see the wheels turning beneath his coifed hair. Surely he thinks that he is clever as he attempts to build a defense: “I’ll appoint an honorable man. Yeah. That’s it. See, the process was clean, I did nothing wrong.”
Blagojevich said he had to make the appointment now because he was required to do so as governor and the Legislature has not approved a special election. So? He was required to make the appointment back in November, too, and he didn’t. Why didn’t he? Oh yeah, it’s because he allegedly was trying to sell the Senate seat and he couldn’t find a buyer. The truth is that this became urgent because the Legislature is making a beeline toward impeachment.
If Blagojevich was concerned about representation in the Senate for Illinois residents, he would have stepped aside and allowed Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn to govern and make the appointment. If Blagojevich cared at all about this state, or for that matter the country, he would have stopped behaving like a clown long ago.
Also, if appointing an African-American was so important to Blagojevich and if Burris was such a great choice, why didn’t his name surface as a serious contender earlier in the process?
We expect to see this sort of behavior from the governor. But we are saddened and disappointed to see Burris and Rush participate in Blagojevich's manipulative machinations.
Needless to say, we do not support this appointment.