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The [Friday] Papers

BREAKING 10:26 A.M.: Governor Impeached. More below.

BREAKING 1:10 P.M.: Illinois Supreme Court Backs White On Burris. More below.

BREAKING 2:53 P.M.: Blago Speaks. More below.

-

As I've already noted, some commentators - including Eric Zorn - have advised seating Roland Burris in the U.S. Senate in order to make this mess go away, based in part on the belief that "he'll be a reliable Democratic vote" and will have no chance at winning re-election in 2010 anyway.

I beg to differ.

First, the idea that Burris is acceptable because he'll be a reliable Democratic vote is setting the bar awfully low. Why not just elect a robot?

Illinois has already gone without a second senator ever since Barack Obama was elected to that august body in 2004 and - according to his own advisers - crafted his agenda entirely around his future presidential campaign.

Facing two more years of caretaker service is a mockery. A U.S. senator does more than just show up for close votes. What committees would Burris sit on? What issues will he prioritize? What level of constituent service will he and his office deliver? Will he be accepted by his colleagues or rendered completely ineffective?

Second, who's to say he won't win re-election?

"Burris has become a national cause celebre, so he ought to be able to raise lots of early campaign money from African Americans throughout the country," Rich Miller writes today in "Burris Could Win Full Term In 2010."

"And because 46 percent of Illinois Democrats support his appointment, the move wasn't as unpopular with his party as some (like me) assumed."

Burris, who hails from downstate Centralia, has won statewide before - as he reminds us ad nauseum. He's also lost a string of elections, but almost all in Democratic primaries.

Will another African American emerge to challenge Burris in a primary, or will African Americans coalesce around Burris? And what white Democrat will have the stomach to challenge Burris, especially given the general consensus including white Democrats that, all things considered, the seat should probably remain in the hands of a person of color post-Obama.

Burris is (rightly so) a joke to many pundits and political professionals, but so was Todd Stroger (and Michael Flanagan, for that matter, just to assure you I don't mean that in a racial way).

In my book, giving Burris the power of incumbency makes him the favorite - in the Dem primary at least - in 2010, for which fundraising starts any day now.

As for the general election, Burris will have the power of Obama behind him if history is any guide. Obama always endorses the hack Machine incumbent. There's no reason to expect that to change.

Blame Game
I have a question for those supporting caving in to Burris in order to solve a PR problem for Democrats instead of thinking about the public interest and us constituents: Isn't your brand of enabling exactly the sort of thing you rail against? Why continue to empower bad actors and their bad acts?

We just went through a spate of moralizing by the pundits about how corruption in Illinois is the voters' faults, and they have to throw the bums out, but now we're told to let another bum in. Where does it end?

I mean, my God, both the Tribune and Sun-Times endorsed Dan Lipinski's latest re-election bid. I wouldn't be surprised to see them endorse Burris in 2010. They'll say he entered the job amid tough circumstances but has proven himself a pragmatic, hard worker. And that will be that. And when the next governor is indicted, the pundits and editorial boards will wonder why the culture of sleaze survives in this state - even as they enable it.

About That Racial Door Prize
A letter to the Beachwood editor from Harriett Green:

David Rutter's article "Roland's Racial Door Prize" nails the unethical and objectionable nature of Roland Burris's appointment to the U.S. Senate seat. It's not just that a criminally corrupt governor is making the appointment: He is installing a puppet who had no chance at the position otherwise. As Steve Rhodes mentioned in an earlier article, Burris would have been a fringe candidate at best in a normal selection process, and therefore, the people of Illinois aren't even getting a replacement considered highly qualified under normal conditions.

I must quibble with Rutter on one point: in my opinion, the first 2 Black senators were far worthy for the office than Burris is, and once they entered the Senate, they (at least Revels) tried to use the power for furthering racial equality. But I'm almost certain Burris will simply use his 2 years in the Senate seat to gobble up as much goodies as he can for him and his cronies, and add another pension to his checking account.

But I believe that the worst offenders in this situation are the Democratic leaders in both Illinois and U.S. Senate, not to mention Obama, who couldn't put a lid on this whole mess--because of them, my doubts grow stronger on whether they'll be able to pass the reforms to clean up the mess of the Bush Administration.

Blago On Trial
Bill Clinton was impeached too, of course, but acquitted in the U.S. Senate. Is there any chance Blagojevich could win an acquittal in the Illinois Senate?

Miller concludes after talking with several state senators (including African American Dems, who Blagojevich hoped to win over through the Burris appointment) that the answer to that is No. "This thing is on a monorail," he writes.

Programming Note 9:26 A.M.: I'm watching the impeachment right now and I've already got a few more items on tap, so again, please check back shortly. Also, please check out yesterday's column for the late postings at the bottom if you haven't seen them already. Back soon.

Club Lebed
"Also Thursday, a close confidant of Burris confirmed he called another top Blagojevich staffer, John Filan, to recommend Burris' nephew for a state job," the Tribune reports. "Fred Lebed, Burris' partner, called on behalf of Steven Burris, who had applied for a job as a chief financial officer with the Illinois Historical Preservation Agency.

"Lebed said later, the governor's co-defendant and former chief of staff, John Harris, approved hiring Steven Burris. But Burris never started at the agency that had cut 32 jobs."

Force of Habit
It turns out the governor is the one responsible for those "Honorary Jim Hendry Way" street signs that just popped up in Park Ridge. No one knew because Blago even does good deeds in secret.

*

By the way, there is no record of Jim Hendry ever contributing money to Rod Blagojevich. Yes, I checked.

Today's Must-Read
"With so many new readers from strange lands finally getting interested in how Chicago works - and by this I mean the editorial boards of many American newspapers - you might start by learning about Emanuel's 5th District," John Kass writes.

Plenty of locals could stand to learn a thing or two about the 5th, too.

"There were hundreds of Tomczak/Daley stooges knocking on doors, manning precincts, passing literature for Emanuel to install him and knock out a true progressive local Democrat, Nancy Kaszak.

"Tomczak testified to this at a federal trial of other convicted Daley patronage chiefs. The mayor was so upset that his mouthpiece, David Axelrod, felt compelled to write an op-ed piece in the Tribune that took the side of patronage and clout, saying it wasn't all that bad, really.

"Simultaneously, Axelrod was massaging the message for Obama about transcending the old, corrupt politics and ushering in the sunshine of reform, a slogan that sent tingles up the legs of pundits.

"After Tomczak cooperated and testified, Emanuel defended Daley and denied any knowledge of the Tomczak army that elected him."

Well, to be fair, if Emanuel hadn't he wouldn't be Barack Obama's chief of staff today.

Blago Impeached
There was one No vote. Trying to find out who. (I think Ken Dunkin was a no-show.)

Also, Jesse White just said on Fox News that he's still refusing to certify Burris.

Who is Milt Patterson?
He's the lone vote against impeaching the governor, according to Rich Miller.

"Milton 'Milt' Patterson was elected to the General Assembly in the fall of 2004," his official House biography says. "He previously served as Chief Electrical Inspector and Deputy Commissioner of the Chicago Department of Buildings and as the 17th Ward Committeeman . . . Milt serves the 32nd district, which consists of communities on the Southside of Chicago including Englewood, West Englewood, Auburn Gresham and West Chatham.

Jesus, his vote is already on his Wikipedia page.

"Representative Milton 'Milt' Patterson REPEATEDLY REFUSED TO PROVIDE ANY RESPONSES TO CITIZENS ON ISSUES THROUGH THE 2006 NATIONAL POLITICAL AWARENESS TEST," his Project Vote Smart page says.

More Milt
Here's an extended version I just filed for NBCChicago.com: "Blago's Only Friend in the House."

Supreme Decision
A win for Jesse White, but not necessarily a loss for Roland Burris. Harry Reid (and Dick Durbin) is the one who loses.

What Blago Will Say
Our crack at what to expect when the impeached governor speaks at 2 p.m. today.

Durbin Dung
Dick Durbin will hold a press conference at 3:30 p.m.

A Quinn Sandwich
Now Pat Quinn is scheduled to speak after Blago but before Durbin. Welcome to Illinois, America!

My New Hero
Jesse White still says he's not signing. Earlier today he told Fox News that he wasn't going to sign a document forwarded to him by a governor out on bail who was about to be impeached and indicted because he was (allegedly) massively (my word) corrupt. "I just don't want to be a part of that," White said.

Blago's Bluster
Rod Blagojevich just accused the state House of impeaching him by a vote of 114 to 1 because they didn't agree with his health care policy initiatives.

"The House has been talking about doing for the last couple of years . . . this started in the summer of 2007 . . . it's part of the process that has essentially been the dynamic in Illinois since I was re-elected as governor in 2006 . . . the causes of the impeachment are because of the things I've done on behalf of families."

Yes, the House impeached him because he wanted to help people.

Worse, Blago rolled out (no pun intended, as you will see) a group of human props who apparently are folks helped by the governor's programs, including a man in a wheelchair front-and-center.

Playing to the jury pool much?

"The governor wants you to believe he's being impeached because he's pro-health care," Tribune editorial page editor Bruce Dold said on CLTV.

"He said he was a victim, and the target of a partisan political attack," Jack Conaty said on Fox Chicago.

The governor did not take questions, nor did he address the sworn testimony of Ali Ata, Joe Cari, any elements of the still-unfolding pay-to-play scandal, or Barack Obama's senate seat.

As Conaty observed, Blago's statement very much resembled a campaign speech, as he ticked off his supposed accomplishments supposedly saving lives; I briefly thought he was about to announce a run for president.

Norah O'Donnell on MSNBC said "the man is clearly delusional . . . or he could be in some ways politically smart."

Those two aren't mutually exclusive, Norah.

Final Thought
Because I've had enough for today; it's days - and ongoing news stories - like this that are driving me into bankruptcy. I have a business to build, you know. Anyway, my final thought is that Jesse White is acting like a man when no one else around him is - especially Roland Burris. Kind of like in that Rudyard Kipling poem. And I've always thought White was a hack, just like the rest of 'em. And you know what? He is. But today, he's a man.

-

The Beachwood Tip Line: Pleasantly snowy.



Permalink

Posted on January 9, 2009


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