Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Burris may learn his long-term fate in the Senate by the end of Wednesday

I happened to be talking to someone on the telephone Tuesday morning when the cable news channels decided the best way to serve the public good was to give us “live” pictures of Roland Burris approaching the Capitol building, only to be turned away when he tried to enter the Senate chambers.

“It’s so fascinating,” she told me, finding interest in the ludicrous entourage that surrounded Burris as he went through the motions of trying to claim his seat as junior senator from Illinois. But because his credentials from Gov. Rod Blagojevich do not contain the official state seal (controlled by Secretary of State Jesse White), the Senate bureaucrats refused to let him in.

“FASCINATING” IS NOT the word I would have used to describe that moment. “Predictable” and “pointless” more accurately describe the show that took place on Tuesday.

For those people with interest in figuring out who will actually wind up representing Illinois along with Richard Durbin in the U.S. Senate for the next two years, Wednesday’s activity is much more important.

For today is the day that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., (the man whom Blagojevich tried to portray as anti-black when it comes to picking a replacement senator) is scheduled to meet with Burris.

Wednesday is the day that the two will quit posturing and engaging in political role-playing. They will have to talk to each other to see if Burris will go along with some procedural move that will allow Reid to “save face.”

TECHNICALLY, REID HAS engaged in rhetoric in recent weeks that would forbid Burris from getting the Senate appointment under any circumstances. Allowing Roland to become Sen. Roland Burris, D-Ill., would have the potential to be humiliating for Reid, since it would show he either did not understand legal procedure for political replacements or just didn’t care.

In short, Burris is probably going to have to agree to some conditions that will constitute him backing down from the rhetoric that Blagojevich has every right – until the moment he is both impeached and convicted – to make whatever appointments he chooses.

Some have speculated as I originally suspected; that Burris is going to have to accept the fact that all he gets is two years in the U.S. Senate. He’s not going to be the Democratic candidate for the post come the 2010 elections.

And when his two years on Capitol Hill are over, Burris will have to return to his home in the Gresham neighborhood (that mini-mansion once owned by gospel singer Mahalia Jackson) with the knowledge that his days in public service are complete.

NO MORE POLITICAL comebacks. No more token bids for Illinois governor or Chicago mayor or anything else.

One would think this is a small concession for Burris to make, since at age 71 he really isn’t in a position to guarantee he would still be alive at the end of a six-year Senate term. And even if he was, he could wind up becoming an Illinois version of what Strom Thurmond of South Carolina was during his last couple of terms in the Senate.

But Burris, the first black person elected to a statewide Illinois government post, has his ego.

Having to make such concessions might appear to be a public humiliation for him. He may want something that allows him to decide in the future that retirement from politics has finally arrived (even though the reality of things is that he has been “retired” for the past 14 years. In some ways, Jane Byrne would be just as logical a choice for the U.S. Senate seat as Burris).

MY POINT IN making this diatribe is to say that all the activity on Tuesday was rehearsed. Everybody went along with their lines, and the outcome was known way back when Blagojevich delivered his “Drop Dead!” to everybody in sight when making the Burris appointment last week.

Wednesday’s meeting is where we really don’t know whether either Reid or Burris will “give” a little. Or will they both remain stubborn?

If they do, then Burris might as well return to Chicago immediately thereafter. His continued presence in the District of Columbia would make him a pathetic figure (and I don’t want to hear wisecracks about him already achieving that status).

Of course, Burris accepting the ability to enter the Senate chamber with restrictions on his powers and with a Senate Rules and Administration committee taking its sweet time to investigate Burris’ status out of hopes that a future governor would pick a different replacement for Barack Obama in the U.S. Senate might be equally pathetic – except that such a scenario could make the Senate itself seem as petty and pathetic as the Illinois Legislature has been in recent weeks with its eagerness to impeach.

THAT’S THE HARD part for Blagojevich bashers to accept.

If one follows the letter of the law, then they have to accept the fact that the rules were followed and that the Burris appointment to the Senate is legitimate.

There’s also the fact that Democrats in Minnesota appear to have successfully put their candidate, entertainer and pundit Al Franken, in the Senate by the slimmest of vote margins. But Republicans are not going to give up on their candidate without a court battle or two.

To allow Franken entrance to the Senate while taking such a hard-line on Burris could wind up making the Democratic caucus of the U.S. Senate look even more ridiculous. In short, to be able to have a former writer for Saturday Night Live in the U.S. Senate, they may have to also accept the concept of “Roland, Roland, Roland” ridin’ his way into their ranks for a spell.


EDITOR’S NOTES: Al Franken also likely will get a meeting with Harry Reid, although no sessions ( have yet been scheduled beyond Wednesday’s one-on-one with Roland Burris.

Tuesday’s activity with Burris on Capitol Hill was preferred by television “newscasts” because it ( was entirely predictable. In short, none of it was “news.”

Burris, as perceived in South Africa (,,2-10-1462_2449378,00.html) and in mainland China (, just to name a couple of places around the world.

1 comment:

Monroe Anderson said...

Gregory: I think you're wrong on this one. I think Roland will get the post without promising not to run in two years. We probably won't know if you're right or I'm right by day's end but we'll know by the end of the week.