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What I Watched Last Night: Burris Blather

Once again I returned to Chicago Tonight to watch a panel discuss Roland Burris, and once again I was stunned by some of what I heard. What a bunch of tools we have in this town. The panelists: political consultant Delmarie Cobb, NPR reporter Cheryl Corley, and Laura Washington. Moderating: Eddie Arruza. This is a rough transcript edited for clarity. I was not on the panel, I was just commenting from Beachwood HQ.


COBB: I spoke to [Burris] today . . . This whole amended affidavit was done for all the right reasons. The sad thing about it was that it wasn't done within the context of a media strategy . . .

[Cobb then rues that the media "controlled the message" instead of Burris]

RHODES: In Russia, propaganda controls you.

ARRUZA: But even with a media strategy, could he control the fact that he didn't detail what we are learning now, information he once said wasn't there?

COBB: A media strategy would have explained that he had submitted information and why . . . he said [before the impeachment panel] if he remembered anything, he would be adding to it . . . now it's being framed as a "discovery" of an affidavit, and everyone is going through it line by line trying to nitpick.

RHODES: Yes. He said that if he remembered later that he tried to raise money for the governor at the behest of the brother's governor while he was seeking an appointment to the United States senate and buttonholing every Blagojevich aide now under indictment - the only question he was in Springfield to answer - he would let the committee know. And stop nitpicking, people.


ARRUZA: The Sun-Times and the Tribune have called for his resignation, the Washington Post and others . . . is this the death knell?

WASHINGTON: I think far from it . . . I can't imagine him stepping down . . . I think he's really going to fight this out . . . as he said at the City Club yesterday, he has a lot of plans . . .

RHODES: Like what? Being a friend to the Great Lakes?

WASHINGTON: I think the calls for his resignation are a little premature because we haven't seen everything yet.

RHODES: You mean four versions of sworn testimony isn't enough?


COBB: [Older African Americans] know him. They do know 30 years of a record . . . he was a public official without scandal that whole time.

RHODES: That's a lie. Would it be premature to demand that Cobb resign? And is she getting paid by Burris?

ARRUZA: Are you going to be advising him again?

RHODES: Thank you.

COBB: That's a possibility.


ARRUZA: The fact is, he wasn't totally forthcoming about his contact with the [Blagojevich] administration.

COBB: But this is politics as usual, and not just on his part . . .

RHODES: So you admit it! You should cash that check right away.

COBB: We all see an opening here and we're all going to jump on his grave . . .

RHODES: Impossible. Have you seen that thing?

COBB: It would be a sin to try him in the media, and then when these tapes become public we find out he did do all the right things . . . why don't we wait to see what's in the tapes?

RHODES: Nice try! So the media strategy will be to switch the focus from the affidavits to the FBI tapes, which we won't be hearing for, oh, maybe two years.

CORLEY: When you look at his testimony . . . this man is an attorney. He knows how to give answers. He's a politician. You would think that someone who has these sorts of credentials would have been a little more savvy from the beginning . . . and the story keeps changing.

COBB: But even prosecutors say they wouldn't go after him for perjury.

RHODES: He's being investigated for perjury as we speak!


WASHINGTON: There's a difference between if he broke the law and if he was misleading and not transparent.

ARRUZA: [asks about transparency and Burris no longer speaking to the media]

COBB: He needed to set a brake.

CORLEY: [But] his characterization of himself is that he's an honest and forthright guy . . .


ARRUZA: What will come of these investigations, the Senate Ethics Committee . . .

WASHINGTON: I doubt it will lead to much of anything . . .

RHODES: I disagree; I think Roland's toast.

COBB: You're asking for this man's resignation, but I just find it outrageous . . . the same officials who have never said anything about corruption . . . on the Fifth Floor, and all of the sudden we cannot stand this, Illinois cannot stand this, he must resign . . .

RHODES: Wow, let's unpack that! First, the Blago-like intimation about corruption by others . . . both cheap and delicious! Second, the acknowledgement (again) that what Burris has done is corrupt, but everyone else gets to do it and they get away with it, why not Roland!


ARRUZA: [Asks about the racial element.]

WASHINGTON: There is a perceived double-standard about pay-to play and shaving the truth.

RHODES: That whites are allowed to it and blacks aren't? We're sending our second white governor in a row to jail!

WASHINGTON: He's the only African American in the Senate . . .

RHODES: And his successor will be too . . .

COBB: We are the only ones who have to fight to protect our gains . . . [nobody complained when people demaned that] a white woman had to replace [Hillary Clinton} . . .

RHODES: People demanded Hillary's replacement be a white woman? Who in the world demanded that?


COBB: I'm glad he stopped today and took a break. Because he was all the news, and the media is sitting outside his door at this minute . . he doesn't need to do the soundbites on the run . . . he should continue his listening tour . . . and conduct himself in a way that is a reflection of who he is . . .

ARRUZA: How can he without speaking to the media?

COBB: You don't have to do soundbites on the run.

RHODES: I'm trying to recall a single soundbite on the run. He has submitted affidavits, testified before a House committee, held two press conferences, and spoken to the City Club. I don't believe he was running during any of that, though he literally ran away from the press after his second press conference.


WASHINGTON: Barack Obama, through his spokesman, said we need to go on with business . . .

RHODES: Not exactly. Robert Gibbs said the people of Illinois deserve answers.

WASHINGTON: People will have to sit down with him and hear his [version of events] . . .

RHODES: Which one?


CORLEY: Anybody appointed by Blagojevich, that taint was going to carry over.

RHODES: That's what a lot of us said, but Burris insisted otherwise. And then he multiplied the taint. And now he's putting his own interests above those of the constituents he is supposed to be serving - who are paying his salary. If Burris was truly a statesman, he'd do the right thing and give us a fresh start.


See what else we've been watching. Submissions welcome.


Posted on February 20, 2009

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