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Democrats Must Not Get Into Blagojevich’s Game

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Posted on Jan 1, 2009

By E.J. Dionne, Jr.

    Political circuses just don’t get any better than this—unless you happen to care about a new administration taking power in the midst of national and international catastrophes.

    Gov. Rod Blagojevich knows how to make life hell for his enemies, who now encompass almost everyone in the Democratic Party, including President-elect Barack Obama. 

    Yet “almost everyone” is the operative phrase. Roland Burris, the veteran African-American politician, discovered an affection for the embattled governor after Blagojevich appointed him to Obama’s Senate seat on Tuesday.

    And even though the Senate’s Democratic leaders, with Obama’s support, said they would not seat any Blagojevich appointee, Burris refused to back down. “The appointment is legal,” Burris told CNN on Wednesday. That slogan lacks the power of, say, “Change We Can Believe In,” but it’s true.

    Rep. Bobby Rush entered the Racial Politics Hall of Fame on Tuesday when he asked reporters not to “hang or lynch the appointee as you try to castigate the appointer.” The Chicago Democrat, who only recently said that Blagojevich did not have the standing to fill the seat, raised the stakes Wednesday on CBS by suggesting that if Democratic senators rejected Burris, they would risk comparisons with George Wallace or Bull Connor.

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    Rush is the one politician who has actually defeated Obama—in a primary for Rush’s House seat in 2000—and clearly doesn’t mind making life difficult for a president-elect who once tried to deprive him of his job.

    By now, fulminating against Blagojevich is beside the point. Blagojevich is playing Chicago-style hardball at the highest level. His opponents need to reply in kind. 

    The problem for Democrats is that by leaving the Senate appointment in Blagojevich’s hands, the Illinois Legislature gave the governor an explosive device that he was prepared to use without regard to collateral damage.

    Even if Democrats in the Senate want to keep Burris out, a past Supreme Court decision suggests that Burris would have a fighting chance of holding his seat. And even if Blagojevich is impeached or convicted, the appointment still stands.

    This leaves Democrats with two choices: a negotiated settlement or full-scale warfare.

    The negotiated settlement would involve agreeing to seat Burris, in exchange for a promise from him not to seek election to the seat in 2010. The 71-year-old Burris, a former state attorney general who has lost several efforts to advance to higher office, could cap his career nicely. In principle, this would end Blagojevich’s relevance to national politics and get him out of Obama’s way.

    But Republicans would be merciless about the taint that would attach to Burris’ Senate vote and argue that the nation’s Democratic majority was hopelessly wrapped up in Chicago politics at its most corrupt.

    That’s why Democrats have opted for warfare. This will inevitably involve an increasingly tough offensive against Burris himself, a challenge to his judgment in accepting Blagojevich’s gift, and a willingness on the part of Democrats to live without one of Illinois’ Senate votes for a while.

    Ultimately, Democrats might have to accede to Republican demands for a special election to fill the seat, but we may be way past that now that Blagojevich has called the Legislature’s bluff.

    The effort to undercut Burris began quietly on Tuesday night when Rep. Danny K. Davis told Lynn Sweet of the Chicago Sun-Times that because of the “turmoil,” he had turned down an approach from Blagojevich’s office to be named to the seat. Under the circumstances, said Davis, an African-American, it “would be difficult to generate the trust level people would have to have in me.” Message to Burris: You were a fool to take this.

    Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White, one of the state’s most popular politicians and also an African-American, said he would not certify Burris’ appointment. It’s not clear White has the power to block Burris, but his statement underscored that the racial solidarity Rush, Burris and Blagojevich were relying on doesn’t exist.

    Barack Obama’s patented approach to problems—wait and think and see what develops before acting —is the Democrats’ best way out.

    Blagojevich had one powerful weapon, his ability to appoint a senator. Now that he’s used it, his arsenal is depleted. If Democrats face down Blagojevich by walking away from Burris, they deprive themselves of a Senate vote for a bit and may even face litigation. That’s still better than implicating themselves in Blagojevich’s game by making a deal.

    Treating this appointment as a circus act makes more sense than taking it seriously.

    E.J. Dionne’s e-mail address is postchat(at)aol.com.

    © 2009, Washington Post Writers Group


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By KDelphi, January 4, 2009 at 10:37 pm Link to this comment

I understand that Blog is nuts…but, if this is the one thing that Dems are going to “stand on principle” on, I wish that they would save it for something more important!

Harry Reid, today, was “fibbing” when he said that he had not told Blog to , who was it, try to appoint the three Af Ams he thought he had considered (probably becauase he questioned their electability-wrongly, I think—especially with Jackson)). I do not think that Reid is a bigot at all—but I am afraid that this will be on tape…and that, Blog, will pull out all punches, when he goes to trial.

Anyone sense any jealousy of Obanma there in Chicago??

Imagine that—“pay for play”—among Democrats , no less!

And from chicago!!

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By dihey, January 4, 2009 at 4:14 pm Link to this comment

Did Richardson suggest candidates to Blagojevich?

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By maezeppa, January 3, 2009 at 10:33 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

What’s done is done.  Democrats should seat Burris and get on with it.  So what if Republicans call names?  There’s no appeasing those people and there never will be.

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By P. T., January 2, 2009 at 6:35 pm Link to this comment

The Democrats don’t need to have standing.  They would not be the plaintiff, it they don’t seat Burris.  They don’t need to initiate the legal action.  They just need to not seat him.

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By dihey, January 2, 2009 at 5:48 pm Link to this comment

P.T.
I am sorry for you but “The Democrats” cannot drag out the Burris case because “The Democrats” have no standing in our courts.

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By dihey, January 2, 2009 at 5:46 pm Link to this comment

It is only a few days ago that I warned: the Burris case will be peanuts compared to Franken/Coleman when it hits the Senate floor. I was prescient (but will not run for the US Presidency for that reason). The Republicans have now threatened to hold up Franken’s seating until Coleman’s cases have marched trough the courts up to the U.S. Supreme Court. The fact that the Republicans will be one seat short for a while does not hurt them as much as it hurts the Democrats who need 60 votes to stop filibustering.
Whatever you may think of Burris’ motives, his acceptance has the great merit that some court, hopefully the U.S. Supreme Court must now rule whether the Senate can refuse to seat a qualified person lawfully elected or appointed and who is not indicted for a felony.

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By JNagarya, January 2, 2009 at 5:08 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Neither should Democrats join the rabid far-right, and the media, in screaming “SCANDAL!” about a person who HAS NOT been found GUILTY.  He has simply been ALLEGED to have committed an ALLEGED crime—and the more the “evidence” is shown the thinner it looks.

In short: he is INNOCENT UNLESS and UNTIL PROVEN otherwise.

Leave the anti-rule of law foamings at the mouth to the lunatic fringe, and an irresponsible media.  To the America-haters.

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By P. T., January 2, 2009 at 4:56 pm Link to this comment

Burris is the kind of guy that gives opportunism a bad name.

If necessary, the Democrats should just drag the thing out in litigation for a couple years.  By then, it will be time for the election.

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By dihey, January 2, 2009 at 4:38 pm Link to this comment

1. The only difference between Blagojevich and a U.S. Senator is that the former asked for payment up front when he hung the sign “Senate Seat For Sale” on his office door whereas the latter expect visits from their big donors asking for “help” after the elections and the sign is off their doors. Yet these same “For Sale” Senators now lead a pandemic of moral indignation against Blago. Hypocrites to the max.

2. Whether Mr. Burris will be seated in the Senate will ultimately not be decided by Mr. White nor by the Democratic Caucus of the U.S. Senate but-as it should be in our country-a court of law. That court has to consider only two questions, namely is Burris qualified and was he legally appointed? There is not a chance in hell that the answers will be no. Therefore it is White and the Democratic Caucus who hold up the seating of the second Senator from Illinois and not Mr. Blagojevich.

3. It absolutely does not matter what I, silly Mr. Dionne, Mr. White or the Democratic Senators think or believe in this case. What matters is the law of our land. The Supreme Court has already spoken in the case of Adam Clayton Powell. The rule was: seat him pronto!

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By Lisa Monti, January 2, 2009 at 4:27 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Dear Dems, Ej, Dionne et.al.,

Seat Roland Burris!!!!!

I want to urge the Senate to move off of this tangent and seat Roland Burris so that things can move ahead in the legislative body.

The Democratic leadership of the Senate is acting extra-legally, grasping at straws as it were, if it moves to bar Burris from being seated and will most likely lose this battle in court. 
Take a page from Obama’s playbook and relax - letting him be seated will not expose Dems to any legitimate criticisms about corruption - (certainly not from the corruption-laden other side of the aisle!) that could not be put to rest easily.
One might say, for instance, that the people of Illinois remain underrepresented in the Senate while you make this “stand” of yours, and the country is deprived of the Democratic majority that we worked toward. Not to mention that the Gov.‘s issues should not impact their electoral rights and that we should not be held hostage to the time it takes to get internal Illinois politics straightened out - if that’s even possible.
Blag has dug his heels in, he isnt budging, he’s won this round of chicken - move on everybody he’s gonna take this as far as he can, the Senate cant afford to wait for this process to end.
What concerns me the most is that what Dems are doing by blocking Burris is so typical of Dems who handicap their own exercise of the power we give them (with our votes) by worrying too much about perception and not enough about wielding said power. Think Al Gore 2000!!!! - what would the world be like today if he had fought as hard as Al Franken is fighting for our votes to be counted???

As an Illinois native I recognize that Blagojovich is undoubtedly a “piece of work”; a product of a culture of machine politics with a loud mouth and a brash style, he’s obviously an undisciplined sort of a man and his statements around the appointment to Obama’s vacant senate seat - “what can I get from this appointment process?” - were stupid if not criminal - and they deserve to be investigated - but this is a state matter, he has not been found guilty of anything yet and there is no reason that Roland Burris or the people of Illinois should suffer because of Blagojovich’s possible criminality - which again - has not been proven yet.
First, could there be any “funny business” in this appointment with so much scrutiny on it?
Second, a special election is costly and those funds could be much better spent on programs for the poorest people of Illinois - feeding the hungry perhaps?
Third, either waiting for someone new to occupy the Gov.‘s seat in Illinois or holding a special election is too timeconsuming; we want, no WE NEED a Senate with our elected Democrats ready to cast votes immediately. The people of Illinois have already spoken once, electing a Democrat and someone of color - so Roland Burris satisfies these concerns as well in terms of a replacement.
Not to mention the real possibility of losing the seat to Republicans simply becasue of the Blag scandal - Illinois is fickle, dont give Republicans there the chance for a “do over” that they dont deserve!!!!
As far as Mr. Burris’s character is concerned, he has already been elected to public office in Illinois several times and comported himself honorably, no mena feat it would appear.

SO Senators!!! regardless of legitimate feelings of distrust for the Gov. of Illinois - in terms of this appointment - table them - they are not germain. Everyone who’s been interviewed has stated plainly that “this is not a reflection on Roland Burris himself, but about Gov. Blag” - if that’s true then do not hold up the business of the Senate in this extremely crucial historical moment for what amounts to a technicality.

Please - we can’t afford to be getting caught up in this now - back away from the precipice!!!!!

LM

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By Spike, January 2, 2009 at 2:42 pm Link to this comment

How crooked would a politician have be to not fit in nicely in Washington?

Lice in government are still just lice.

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By P. T., January 2, 2009 at 12:10 pm Link to this comment

Bobby Rush has a soft spot for public servants caught up in scandals.

Jeffrey M. Rush, former head of security at the Illinois Department of Corrections facility in Aurora, pleaded guilty to having sexual relations with female inmates.

Rush, son of U.S. Member of Congress Bobby Rush, was sentenced to 180 days at Kane County jail and three years’ probation.

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By mike kohr, January 2, 2009 at 11:34 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

ILLINOIS, -The Land of Larceny-   

                                                   

I suspect that much of the country is watching the roiling, boiling, criminal malfeasance of our latest Governor, Rod Blagojevich (D) with disbelief. The only disbelief Illinois residents experienced was that Hot Rod had actually ACCELERATED his greedy piggery after being placed under investigation and under the spotlight over three years ago by no less than Federal Prosecutor exemplar, Peter Fitzgerald.

We have a long bipartisan history of corruption in our statehouse and governor’s mansion (not that Blagojevich actually spent much time there). Blago will likely be our second consecutive governor sent to prison, following grumpy George Ryan ® to the big house. A conviction of Blagojevich will result in Illinois having the distinction of four of the last eight of our governors convicted of corruption. A fifth Illinois Governor, William Strattan ® escaped conviction after indictment and trial.

Illinois politics reads like a list of comic book crooks like Secretary of State Paul Powell whose Springfield apartment was found to contain shoe boxes, stuffed with over $800.000.00 in cash, discovered after he suddenly died in office. Then there’s Ryan’s cast of henchmen like Rodger (The Hog) Stanley, or the puffy paramour, Scott Fawell. Fawell, a ganja smoking, prostitute frequenting, Caribbean bon viant, was persuaded to drop a dime on his former boss to save his fiancée from prison time.

The last gubernatorial opponant to run against Blagojevich, Judy Barr Topinka,  was up to her eyeballs in a political cesspool filled to overflowing by Republican patronage chief Big Bill Cellini. The biggest stinker, in that particular cesspool, was the taxpayer funded sweetheart deal to refurbish the Abraham Lincoln Hotel in downtown Springfield. A state funded loan was herded through the legislature that only required that the insider developers pay back the loan in the rare years the white elephant actually manages to squeak out a profit. These are not terms generally available on the open market. In spite of these generous conditions, Topinka had at one point pushed legislation to absolve 75% of the loan’s principle of this boondoggle, leaving the taxpayers of Illinois holding the bag.

In a more personal example of how things work in Illinois, I had. in the early 1990’s turned over internal United Parcel Service company documents in a class action lawsuit that was brought against the corporation because of tactics that forced many of its employees to work through their “unpaid,” lunch hour, a direct violation of the “Fair Labor Standards Practice Act.”

These documents established that UPS was not only aware of the practice but were actually tracking the percentage of drivers that were forced to work thru all or part of their lunch-time. UPS, upon learning of the uncovering of this document, responded by dispatching a lobbyist to Springfield and succeeded in having the law modified to exempt them -and only them- from legal culpability in this matter. Incredibly, in a separate vote, UPS came within one vote of getting a “retroactive exemption,” for their violation of this law.

Attorney David Mark of Seattle, Washington, phoned me and sputtered in amazement that he was flabbergasted at how politics worked in Illinois. Attorney Mark told me it was like being witness to a scene out of the “Wild West,” and that the UPS lobbyist was all but handing money out on the floor of the Illinois House and Senate.

Not much has changed in Illinois politics since then, only the names and faces.

mike kohr

Princeton, IL 61356

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By tropicgirl, January 2, 2009 at 10:22 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Our government is thankfully set up so that a “pack of dogs” or schoolyard bullies cannot gang up on an elected official and oust him without due process.

If they get away with this, then it will be a sad day for our country. We have seen with the Democratic governor of Alabama how Rove used the state attorneys office to railroad him illegally, actually putting him in prison temporarily. Its wrong when Repubs do it and wrong when Dems try to do it.

If they get away with this, then I think every politician who is guilty of the same, should be immediately investigated, taped and arrested. With three of our county commissioners already serving time, the rest would surely follow and we would have few left in the country. Obey the law and use due process, that’s our only acceptable course.

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By Anarcissie, January 2, 2009 at 8:56 am Link to this comment

What is Blagojevich’s actual status?  Has he been convicted of anything?

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By Msjournalist, January 2, 2009 at 7:54 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

For on the Blagojevich scandal please visit http://www.blagojustice.com

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By kloe, January 2, 2009 at 7:37 am Link to this comment

Having lived in Chicago for over twenty years and watched the Democrats rule the city with an iron fist that is similar to the Mafioso none of this is comes as a surprise.  The one thing that needs to be continually pointed out is that Barack Obama cut his political teeth in Chicago gangster-style politics and for anyone to think he’s somehow clean is simply deluding themselves.  The statement that his staff didn’t have any contact or very limited contact with Blagojevich and wasn’t attempting to influence Blagojevich in the appointment of Obama’s senate is pure BS.  Anyone who buys that has really bought into this whole Obama PR “change” and “hope” scam.

Now the rest of the country gets to enjoy the political machinations that are a regular part of business as usual here in Chicago on a national level.  If you thought previous administrations acted criminally and/or with nepotism or were just plain corrupt from within and that this new administration was going to somehow be any different you need to just tune in to the local Chicago news for a while.  Almost every few months we hear about another major politician being busted.  The former governor is sitting in prison right now!

Don’t get me wrong.  I’m not saying what we have now is good - far from it.  What I am saying is that we are now going to see just another version of the same in slightly different clothes and with the chairs simply moved around.

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By Purple Girl, January 2, 2009 at 6:42 am Link to this comment

Oh Please do you know how many Corrupt SOB’s currently reside in the Senate? ALL!
Come on Carl Levin’s still in and he has supervised nearly every mass exodus of MI Auto jobs.Stabenow’s Husband out screwing his brains out ( you’d think he’d learn from other mistakes..But no)
I’m a Life long Dem and it requires mental gymnastics just to keep up with which Dems have committed minor crimes, and those who have committed major crimes in accordance with their Repug Cohorts.
Illinois & NY will have to sort out these Soap operas for themselves. The rest of the States have their own assholes we have to contend with.

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By Shift, January 2, 2009 at 2:06 am Link to this comment

No drama Obama is not living up to his name.  Unless anyone has any information of corruption regarding Burris, he should be seated, and then allow the people of Illinois to decide his fate in two years. After all Harry Reid is not clean either. His father in law owns a gold mining company operating on Indian land.  Reid attempted to steal twenty two million acres of Western Shoshone land for the United States for fifteen cents an acre three years ago. Burris is likely cleaner than the majority of Senators already in Washington.  Obama is looking weak by allowing this to fester.  He should put it behind him and move on to more essential business.

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