Tuesday, January 13, 2009
Personal Asides: Burris Survives: But No Thanks to You Guys, Harry and Dick!...Illinois Doesnt Make the Cut
News that Roland Burris will be accepted as a member of the Senate club is heartening not because Burris is so great (he isnt: hes very mediocre)but because Harry Reid and Dick Durbin will receive and richly deserve the fickle finger of reproach for trying to twist the constitutions of Illinois and the United States to their own ends, the promotion of the Democratic party.
Fearful that Burris cannot win election on his own, they tried to muscle Rod Blagojevich. Regardless of what you think of Rod, he is still the governor of Illinois with sovereign powers of appointment. Eccentric and as self-destructive as he is, he mustered up an inner reserve to turn the tables on the little sneak from Searchlight, Nevada (population: 250). The Illinois constitution says that in the case of senatorial vacancy the governor will appoint (unless he determines to call a special election). And the constitution of the United States maintains that the Congress shall be the judge of its own membershipbut nowhere does it aver nor does historic precedent cite that a duly appointed senator should be turned aside for any reason other than his own citizenship: unless proof be given that he is tainted by corruption.
Nowhere does the federal constitution say or imply that the character of a legally elected governor should be taken as a disqualifying factor in the appointment. It doesnt say much for Jesse White that he allowed himself to be used by Reid and Durbin by refusing to perform a routine clerical act, affixing his signature on a document certifying that Burris was appointed. In refusing to do so, White showed himself to be an unprincipled hack, neglecting to perform the work he was elected to do in order to invent a crass partisan gesture to curry favor with the jingos of his party.
Reid and Durbin tried to bluff Burris but their case had no merit no merit that is to anyone except the Sun-Times Lynn Sweet who regards the paramount interest of the Democratic party as an absolute. Using his street smarts honed when 40 years ago he and his father integrated the town swimming pool in Centralia, Burris played the race card by standing outside in the rain under an umbrella and it wasnt long before the august body yielded to the pressure and got Reid and Durbin to yield. Their last futile attempt to block Burris in behalf of a more powerful nominee Democratic nominee to be appointed by Pat Quinn came when Reid and Durbin tried to push the blame for their delaying on White. The Illinois Supreme Court scotched that ploy by pointing out that the appointment was legal without Whites say-so..
The Burris incident has brought no great credit on anyoneexcept those who urged a special election in the first place. Certainly none on Blagojevich who had the fun of savoring embarrassment to Reid and Durbin who had sought to muscle him. None on Burris who would never be on anyones short list for the Senate and whose mediocrity will be an issue in the 2010 campaign.
None on White who sought to ingratiate himself with his partys bosses by refusing to perform a job he was elected to do. None on the twin columning pander-bears of the Sun-Times who zinged Burris for the sole purpose of getting him to back away from acceptance of a legal appointment so the Democrats to triumph with a more attractive candidate named by Quinn. The only credit goes to the editorial pages of the two Chicago newspapers which supported the calling of a special election.
Illinois Doesnt Make the Cut.
Until now, I thought we had the biggest corruption case to break in the nation in 2008with a sitting Democratic governor of a major state taken from his home by federal agents and to the federal courthouse and placed under arrest. But we didnt even make the 10 ten major scandals of the year with Time magazine. Not being included in Times top scandals of 2008 was a stunner--despite the fact that the difficult name Rod Blagojevich aka Blago has become a national byword for goofy, the concept of a governor either willfully crooked or nuts.
Now get this: in Times so-called top ten scandals of the past year, no Dem was identified but Republican miscreants were listed as such. Here are the Dems who got off scot-free: Eliot Spitzer, Democratic governor of New York, who resigned post-hooker John Edwards, former candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination, (the 2004 Democratic vice presidential nominee and Democratic North Carolina senator) married to a wife fighting cancer who was found to be conducting an affair with a former female aide with a big bucks personal injury lawyer buddy paying her to shut up, then Edwards found visiting his ex-mistress and her new baby (widely regarded as Edwards) and Kwame Kirkpatrick, Democratic mayor of Detroit who along with his mistress, his chief of staff, was sentenced to jail term for perjury for lying under oath about their relationship in a whistleblower case.
In contrast, Sen. Ted Stevens prominently identified by the mag as Republican and senior Republican in the Senate, convicted for taking tens of thousands of dollars from an Anchorage builder and not reporting it on his ethics disclosure form. And lo and behold, ranking high in the scandal listing was Sarah Palin, the Republican governor of Alaska and Republican vice-presidential nominee forwhat?
For and Ill pardon you for laughing out loud for receiving a $150,000 wardrobe for use in her campaign from the Republican National Committee! Not only was it no scandal but the wardrobe was donated to charity after the campaign: so whats the hubbub about? Answer: no scandal at all, just the cross-eyed media unable to discern facts as facts vetting its animosity at Palin because she doesnt conform to their idea of feminine political leadership. And even more important than that: because she went ahead with her pregnancy and delivered a Down syndrome baby which, one prominent psychiatrist said, caused feminists to endure grief pangs since they believe if a woman cant abort a defective baby, the so-called right to abortion means nothing.
What Now for Blago?
After impeachment, whats likely to happen now? The new House (constituted of those who elected last November) convenes on Jan. 14 and will approve yet another impeachment resolution which will also pass almost unanimously. Then the state Senate takes on the job of jury. The trial is set to begin Jan. 26 and is expected to run nine days or so. Removal of Blagojevich by the Senate will require at least 40 votes which means Blago will have to hustle up 20 votes to stay in which is viewed as impossible.
After conviction, the focus moves to the feds. District Attorney Pat Fitzgerald has been granted a 90-day extension (leading up to April 7) before formal indictment. Fitz said the probe involves far more than the two initially charged, Blago and his top aidebut Blagos brother, Robert who ran his campaign fund. The file involves thousands of phone calls between late-October, 2008 and early December when he was arrested, said the prosecutor. But in filing for extension, Fitzgerald has handed Blagos attorney Edward Genson, cunning as a wolf, a lot of valuable information to use prior to April 7. Last week Genson, asked the court to remove Fitzgerald and his team because of a supposed violation of pretrial publicitynotably the statement Fitz made saying that Abraham Lincoln is turning over in his grave at the violations by Blago. (Nice turn of phrase, Fitz, but anyone familiar with the mid-19th century style of politics would say maybe not. Of which more later).
Genson argues: Yes, the governor was taped saying hed sell Obamas seat to the highest bidder, that he wanted to get the Tribunes editorial board fired as a pretext to getting the state to buy into Wrigley field (owned by the newspaper) and that he was putting the squeeze on a sick childrens hospital for donationsbut that was only talk. No proof exists anything like this took place. Its a 1st amendment issue.
But Fitzgerald will counter: Blagos talk itself is a crime because the offer to take a bribe is the completed crime since its depriving the people of honest service. Statutes have become broader allowing juries greater flexibility in judging such talk. Genson will say politics is politics and you cant hold somebody liable for playing by this old, accepted rules (rules in effect long before Lincolns time).
and What About Burris?
Always playing the race card, Blagojevich rejected the Democratic partys edict communicated by a thoroughly stupid Harry Reid, the Senate Dem majority leader in Washington not to name to fill Obamas seat Democratic Congressmen Jesse Jackson, Jr. and Danny Davis, nor retired Dem State Senate President Emil Jonesall black. He signified as okay two white women, the pro-choicers Dems Lisa Madigan (step-daughter of the powerful Dem House Speaker: surprise!) and Tammy Duckworth, a multiple amputee from the Iraq War.
The aforementioned blacks cant get elected in 2010 according to Reid (who himself will have a tough time getting returned by voters in his state of Nevada because of his sharply liberal views). To this, Blago thumbed his nose and named a black: Democrat Roland Burris, the first of his race to be elected statewide as comptroller and attorney general. For months, Reid and his jelly-fish sidekick, Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) vowed not to allow any tainted choice of Blago to go to their pristine Senate. And Burris didnt help himself when he admitted reluctantly that he discussed the appointment ahead of time with an ex-Blago staffer now widely criticized lobbyist, Lon Monk.
Nevertheless, skilled at playing the race card, Burris, 71, went to Washington on the first day of the new congressional session and out-foxed Reid by standing outside in the rain under an umbrella with the door locked, barring his entrance resembling how two black students were locked out of the University of Alabama by Dem Gov. George Wallace on June 11, 1963.
Liberal Dems vowed not to take the bad publicity. President-elect Obama told Reid to make the Burris embarrassment go away-- and Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) broke ranks and publicly urged Reid to accept Burris. Many chafed when Reid and Durbin pretended Burris papers of appointment werent in order because the Illinois secretary of state, a black Democrat, had withheld his certification to please his Dem bosses. But the Dem-controlled Illinois Supreme Court ruled the state officials signature is not required. Notwithstanding, Reid and Durbin made the secretary of state the fall guy for not certifying Burris, no matter what the court says.
Desperately, Reid and Durbin sought to buy themselves some time by saying they will wait to see if the Illinois senate kicks Blago out of office. They invented long delays: Burris name should go to the Rules committee for approval. If hes okd there, the whole Senate would have to vote on him.
But at last weeks end, its almost a sure thing that Burris ill be seated. No matter what happens a Burris win, another appointment by Blagos successor or a special election if the battered state Republican party can get up from the canvass, it stands a good chance to electing a senator. But it needs a good candidate. Republican country clubbers are talking up Cong. Mark Kirk, the pro-abort, pro-gay rights representative from the North Shore. But running statewide, Kirk would lose much of the partys base. A better choice would be pro-lifer (an Anglican, he rejecting the liberal Episcopalian church) Cong. Peter Roskam who represents Henry Hydes old seat. But Roskam has just been named to Ways and Means, an important assignment. If there were a special election and Roskam didnt have to give up his seat, hed run for the senate. Probably not in 2010.
But the funs not over yet. In April when Blago is kicked out and the ball is in Patrick Quinns court, will he leave Burris in place or make an appointment himself or, if hes man enough to cross Daley and Durbin will he set a special election and let the people decide? The party boss, Richard M. Daley, has a private list of favorites for appointmentheaded by his kid brother, Bill, a wealthy lobbyist and former commerce secretary under Bill Clinton. Then: Lisa Madigan, the attorney general. Third: Chris Kennedy, Bobby Kennedys son and manager of the Merchandise Mart. To those who say three Kennedys would be a crowd in the U.S. Senate (Teddy, Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg, who seems a likely successor to Hillary Clnton, and Chris Kennedy), Daley privately says: there can never be too many Kennedys.
So what will Quinn do? He will run for governor himself in 2010 and is no slouch at pleasing voters who by a big margin want a special election. Whether Lisa Madigan will challenge him is problematicbut my guess is she will and will defeat Quinn since the brunt of the party machinery will be behind her. The divisive primary should be an open sesame for the Republicans if. If they can get their act together which is an open question.
Conclusion: thats what happens when a state is managed totally governorship, all constitutional offices, both legislative houses, majority of state judges, majority of the congressional delegation by one party and two powerful families (the Daleys and Madigans) aided by a cross-eyed liberal media which fan liberal flames.
Lincoln: Turning Over or Not?
Pat Fitzgeralds statement that the Blago mess is causing Abraham Lincoln to turn over in his grave, may or may not be true (nobodys looked inside the crypt at Springfields Oak Ridge cemetery recently). But Lincoln lived at a time when ethics laws were not almost non-existent. It was no crime, for instance, to serve in a legislative body and literally lobby for clients, using your dual status.
In fact, its likely Lincoln would be right at home in contemporary Illinois. He was the most prominent railroad attorney and lobbyist in Illinois working for all the major roads at one time or another and was at the same time at one point the Whig majority leader in the House. In his legislative capacity he unfurled a map of the state on his desk and helped chart the route of key railroads he was representing as a lawyer, across the state being sure his client roads ran by the most thriving cities, some of whom he was also representing. No law prevented it. But the best was yet to come when in private life he moved to the brink of running for president.
In his time, U.S. Senators were elected by the legislature. He ran for the Senate in 1858. To get the U.S. Senate job, he not only debated his opponent, incumbent Stephen A. Douglas, but traveled the state stirring up the grassroots to get enough Republicans were elected to change the balance. A third of the state senate was up for election which meant Lincoln had to also butter up some of the wavering members in both parties. Deals with state legislators for their votes was the name of the game for both Lincoln and Douglas. Lincoln lost a close contest in the General Assembly but he should so much skill as a pol that he became a front-runner for the Republican nomination in Chicago in 1860. The galleries shouted Lincoln! Lincoln! Reason: phony tickets to the galleries were distributed and Lincoln adherents showed up early and filled the seats before the regular accredited visitors got there.
A literary and political genius, did Illinois premier ex-railroad lobbyist turned legislative schmoozer for the Senate and convention gallery stacker roll over in his grave because Blago talked dirty on the phone about cutting a deal for a Senate seat which didnt work out and for which he got no payoff?
Oh, I dont think so.