Despite being named to the Senate seat by one of the dirtiest politicians at the moment (if not dirtiest), Roland W. Burris continues to jump over hurdles of logic by departing for Washington this afternoon for what the New York Times is predicting will be a "public showdown on Capitol Hill." I don't think there's any need to go into the details of embattled Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich's "pay-to-play" scandal but suffice it to say that Blagojevich was essentially selling the Senate seat left vacant by President-elect Barack Obama to the highest bidder. The Department of Justice came in, declared that they had miles of tape with Blagojevich on it saying how "fuckin' valuable" the seat was and that he's not going to give it up for free. Blagojevich went on to nominate Burris, despite the imminent impeachment proceedings and his tainted reputation. Even more stupidly, Burris accepted the nomination as if nothing were wrong and now has the gumption (thanks Brusty) to be surprised when people say he should not be seated.
To begin with, can we just take a moment to realize the absolute absurdity of what is going on here? Shouldn't it be common sense that Blagojevich should not be allowed to seat a senator, at least not until this whole "pay me to seat you as senator" thing works itself out (or he is impeached, whichever comes first). And then, to accept a nomination from Blagojevich - are you serious? If I were Burris, I wouldn't accept a dogcatcher nod from Blago. But to take it to this level of histrionics and drama is just childish and embarrassing. Yet, we know Burris has no shame in the first place because he accepted the nomination from Blagojevich (so maybe we should not be so surprised). What is shocking is that Burris seems to think he is on a mission from God: "We are hoping and praying that they will not be able to deny what the Lord has ordained." Using a defense that old European monarchs used to rule absolutely (and undemocratically) is not the way I would have gone with that one.
But one thing that caught my eye - and really pissed me off - was those who come out and say, "If you don't back Burris, it smacks of racism." It's not that I don't back Burris (though accepting this nomination certainly calls into question his ethics and judgment); he could well be qualified. It's that Blagojevich nominated him. I don't care if you put a white guy there, or a golden retriever - whoever it is should not be seated. It's funny that those in New Covenant Missionary Baptist Church - who have formed a group that the Times says is more focused on Burris and his race than the corrupt Blagojevich - are more concerned about getting a black man in the Senate than an uncorrupted choice. It is here that I want to pose this question: should former Detroit mayor Kwame Kilpatrick be put in the seat over a non-black man, simply because of the color of his skin? Is race so blinding to some people that it clouds good judgement and clean politics? I agree that the nationally elected officials of this country do not accurately reflect the landscape of the American population (especially in the Senate), but I certainly would not want to sacrifice dignity and respect by allowing a scumbag like Blagojevich to nominate someone in order to get a minority senator in the Capitol.
You want racism in politics? How about "Barack the Magic Negro"? The song was on a CD distributed by Chip Saltsman, one of the men vying for the Republican National Committee chairmanship. While the RNC's current chairman, Mike Duncan, condemned the song as highly inappropriate, Saltsman defended the song, along with his former boss Mike Huckabee (Saltsman ran Huckabee's failed campaign for the Republican nomination in 2008). So while folks like Representative Robert Rush (D - 1st District IL) wants to say that the the Senate is "the last bastion of racial plantation politics in America," he seems to have been silent on the issue of blatant racism earlier in the month (that is, no news about him coming out about it or putting out a statement on his website). It seems Rush should pick and choose his battles, and Burris is not one of them.
So to sum up: everyone involved in this matter should shut up and go home. Burris has no place in the Senate as long as Blagojevich put him there, Blagojevich needs to be impeached so he can stop wreaking havoc in the state of Illinois, and those who want to cry racism at logic and anti-corruption need to re-assess the situation. Just like a woman who cries rape who really wasn't raped, those who cry racism when none exists just denigrate the seriousness of the charge. Then when a truly racist incident occurs (something, maybe, like calling the president-elect a "magic negro") no one wants to hear about it because the racism charge was used to allow a corrupt governor to seat a Senator. In the end, everyone involved in this is simply childish. It just shows the selfishness of those involved, for if Burris really wanted to serve the state of Illinois and his country, he would have avoided all of this by saying no to a governor who is recorded on tape trying to sell the Senate seat. Peace.
Photos - Roland Burris at Midway Airport before heading to Washington (New York Times)