About face on Burris

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Illinois Governor

It has been several days now and I’ve had time to chill and collect my thoughts. During that time, I have come to realize that my opposition to the seating of Roland Burris as the Junior Senator from Illinois is a mistake and a histrionic reaction to Rod Blagojevich’s mischievous and Machiavellian appointment of a qualified African American.

 

There is no way in hell that accepting Blagojevich’s appointment was the rational act of a black politician concerned about fair black representation in the upper house. Instead, it was the juvenile and selfish maneuvering of a washed up politician who equates the legitimate desire of the African American community to be represented by at least one African American Senator with his appointment. They are not one and the same.

The man or woman chosen to replace the President Elect should have been academically, politically, and professionally the best our community could put forward. Burris fails on that score. He is relatively undistinguished but qualified and is definitely over the hill.

 

But what’s done is done and the President Elect and the Democratic Caucus need to deal rationally with the unsavory politics of this appointment without casting aspersions, as many, including me, have done.

 

This is a legally unassailable appointment. Period. Rod Blagojevich retained the legal authority to make this selection and he made it because the Illinois legislature declined to strip him of this authority. Given the time-frame he constitutionally has to decide whether he would sign or veto any piece of legislation, he probably would have been able to stall long enough to make the appointment anyway and we would still be here. Most reasonable folk understand that he had no moral authority, but the law doesn’t require that.

 

Lynn Sweet of the Chicago Sun-Times dropped the dime on Blagojevich the other day. Reid actively maneuvered against any African American appointment. He opposed Jesse, Danny Davis, and Emil Jones. The fact of the matter is that no Senate Democratic leader has done any heavy lifting to benefit a black Senatorial candidate in a contested situation. Nobody has ever attempted to clear the field to benefit a brotha or sistah. Nobody has ever attempted to dry up a white candidate’s fundraising to help out a black senate candidate. It happens for whites all the time. Steny Hoyer, the House Majority Leader, actively sought to dry up Kweisi Mfume’s money to benefit Ben Cardin in 2006.


 

The Senate Majority Leader has never done anything to benefit a black Senate candidate before appointment or before a contested primary. It’s a damn shame I didn’t see that before, but I see it now. Despite Bobby Rush’s clumsy, cartoonish injection of race into the initial press conference—he happens to be right. He also happens to be the worst messenger of the truth because of his unwillingness to support Barack Obama for this seat in the first place.

Rikyrah, CPL, y’all are right, and I was wrong.

What is baffling to me though is why some of the same black people who advocate seating Burris don’t castigate Barack Obama for siding against qualified black representation.

 

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