Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Congratulations, Senator Burris

December 30, 2008

Governor Blagojevich Taps Roland W. Burris As Next U.S. Senator

CHICAGO -- Governor Rod R. Blagojevich today appointed former politician and statewide office-holder Roland W. Burris to the United States Senate seat vacated by President-elect Barack Obama.

"Roland Burris was born and raised in Illinois. He attended school in Illinois, and has represented the State's people both as comptroller and as attorney general," Governor Blagojevich said. "He understands the people's needs. With his experience and knowledge, I believe there is no one better suited to serve as Illinois' next United States Senator."

Mr. Burris, 71, currently runs a political consulting firm and works as a lawyer. He has a long history in Illinois state government. In 1983, he was elected to the office of comptroller, becoming the first African-American to be elected to an Illinois statewide office. He was the Illinois attorney general from 1991 through 1995.

After growing up in Centralia, Ill., Mr. Burris graduated from Southern Illinois University in Carbondale. He is also a graduate of Howard University School of Law.

"I welcome the challenge that awaits us in the 111th Congress," Mr. Burris said. "I have faith in the record that I have forged over the last four decades, and am proud of my accomplishments as a public servant."

Governor Blagojevich appointed Burris to the Senate seat after the Illinois House of Representatives dropped plans to schedule a special election for the spot.

"This state has 12.8 million residents. During a time of economic crisis, they deserve to be represented by the two Senate positions to which they are entitled – not just one," Governor Blagojevich said.


The above is the announcement released yesterday from the Illinois Governor's office.

Roland Burris has been appointed to the US Senate by Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich. Blagojevich is governor and the state constitution gives him the right to appoint the replacement for Barack Obama who has left the Senate for the White House.

The Illinois legislature has already taken the issue of Blagojevich to the state court and the court took a pass. The legislature had it in their power to impeach Rod Blagojevich and still might. However, they have yet to impeach him.

He has appointed Burris. That appointment can't legally be overturned.

On the front page of today's New York Times, Monica Davey offers up "Defiant Illinois Governor Names Pick for Obama Seat" includes an offensive statement:

The choice of Mr. Burris immediately injected the issue of race into the appointment process, which may very well have been party of the governor's calculation. Representative Bobby L. Rush, Democrat of Illinois, who was called to the lectern at the news conference by Mr. Burris said he did not believe any senator "wants to go on record to deny one African-American from being seated in the U.S. Senate."

The offensive statement is Davey's first one and we'll be using "Black" and not African-American in this entry, just FYI.

Barack Obama is a person of color, he is bi-racial. He was the person holding the seat. Of course a person of color should have been considered to replace Barack. More importantly, appointments have often been a traditional road to address disenfranchisement. What's especially offensive about Davey's sentence is that she writes for the New York Times. New York which has their first Black governor, David Paterson. And they may have Hillary's Senate seat up for grabs but no one at Davey's paper has advocated for the governor to appoint a person of color to the Senate seat should Hillary become the next Secretary of State. Not only has the paper refused to advocate for it, they haven't even suggested it. (Marcia has raised the issue here and she's noted a qualified woman of color here.)

Blagojevich may or may not be innocent. The courts will decide that. But the state legislature could have removed him if they had the votes and the will to do so. They did not. His powers include naming a replacement senator. If they didn't want him to do so, they should have impeached him (or at least tried).

Blagojevich has exercised his powers and named the new US Senator from Illinois: Roland Burris. It is too late now and no loophole should give the legislature a second chance. They have had weeks and weeks to take action and they haven't done so. Too bad if they don't like the results.

Shouldn't have dragged their feet.

Talk of not seating Burris is offensive. The Times offers Carl Hulse's "Democrats Seek to Black Appointee to Obama's Seat, but Authority Is in Question" which addresses the disgraceful efforts now with Burris and in 1969 with Adam Clayton Powell. It really doesn't matter what Harry Reid thinks he wants, he is not the governor of the Illinois. Rod Blagojevich is and he acted within his (state) constitutional duties in appointing Burris who is qualified. The US Senate is being offensive with their threats and their claims now that they'd do this with anyone appointed by Blagojevich. No they wouldn't. And they probably won't be able to do it with Burris. The only thing that could have stopped the appointment was for the governor to be impeached. The legislature didn't do that.

Roland Burris is Black. And if they're going to try to deny him his Senate seat -- which he was legally appointed to -- they are going to look very offensive and very racist. Barack Obama -- bi-racial -- has already issued a statement saying Burris shouldn't be seated. A bi-racial man with all the breaks, spoiled from youth and barely out of his youth, wants to deny a Black man who took part in the Civil Rights struggle of the sixties? He wants to deny a Howard University graduate? He better check himself real quick because this will not play well and someone better remind Barack that racism allows him to be considered "Black" but that's a day pass, a temporary one, and it can be pulled at any point. Attempting to deny Roland Burris a seat in the US Senate could result in some of the most pointed criticism Barack's yet to receive.

Roland Burris will be only the fifth Black person to become a US Senator. Hiram Revels was the first (1870, from Mississippi), Blanche K. Bruce (1874, Mississippi),
Edward Brooke (1967 - 1979, Massachusetts) and Carol Moseley Braun, the first Black woman elected to the US Senate (1993-1999).

Barack is bi-racial, he is not Black. (That's why we're using "Black" and not "African-American" for this entry.) Burris would be the fifth Black US Senator. And someone thinks he can be denied just because they're all huffy over Rod Blagojevich?

What Blagojevich did was legal and within his rights. Efforts to deny Roland W. Burris his Senate seat will be seen as racism due to the historical pattern.

Trivia note, like Burris, Edward Brooke was a Howard University alumni.

Andrew Malcom's blog post "Inside Blagojevich's bold, brash &*%$^# pick to replace Obama" (Los Angeles Times' Top of the Ticket) does a better job than Davey's overly long article in addressing some of the realities involved. As Mike wrote last night, "I hope he does well by his state and its citizens and I say, 'Congratulations, Senator Burris'."

Disclosure: I've known Bobby Rush for years (and years). The only participant in this (that I'm aware of) whom I know. (I don't know Burris, I don't know Blagojevich.)

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