Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Then: "No Burris, no way, no how!" Now: "Never mind"

Durbin, Burris and Reid enjoy a chuckle earlier today

Wow, that was fast! One minute Harry Reid and Dick Durbin are vowing never to seat anyone appointed to the Senate by Hot Rod Blagojevich and turning the appointee away in the rain. The next, we're all chums ("Rod who?").

After several days in which only attacks on Hamas in Gaza by the entire Israeli Army could compete with the saga of Roland "I am the Senator" Burris for media attention, Reid caved. He didn't blink or wink; he just collapsed and invited Burris to join him for a cozy schmooze.

Of course, there are still several "conditions" Burris must meet to get his seat. One is to get the signature of Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White on his credential, as was supposedly required by the Senate rules. (One wag likened this to getting a note from the principal.) That got a lot easier when White, himself, being no fool, declared that his signature was merely "ceremonial" and "not required" for the Senate to seat Burris, and that he was not about to be made the "fall guy."

A second condition is that Burris testify to the Illinois Legislature's impeachment committee about the circumstances of Blago's offering him the appointment, presumably so Burris could swear there was no hanky panky involved. Burris testifies Thursday. Consider the condition fulfilled.

Finally, Reid still insists that the Senate Rules Committee will have to look into the appointment and recommend action to the entire Senate, which would then vote to seat Burris -- or not. This gives Harry a bit of time to let the issue sink from public view and also allows him to force Republicans to vote, yes, along with Democrats, thereby diluting future partisan charges of caving to Blago-mail.

Meanwhile, Senator Diane Feinstein broke ranks with the Majority early to say she supported seating Burris, thus opening a potential flood. The Congressional Black Caucus voted unanimously to urge the Senate to seat him. President-elect Obama said it was a Senate matter but he thinks Burris is a fine fellow. According to Burris, Jimmy Carter phoned in an endorsement while in Washington for a photo op. And several sources are reporting that when Obama met with Reid on Monday, he urged a quick "amicable resolution" to the Burris embarrassment.

No wonder. Here we have Obama coming to Washington to rev up his economic plan and finalize his top appointments, and the new Congress with its lop-sided Democratic majorities convening for the first time to great expectations, but CNN, MSNBC and Fox News had wall to wall, day-long coverage of the Burris drama. To use the old cliche, Burris was sucking up all the oxygen.

So, it is now clear, he IS the Senator, or soon will be, and Blago has outfoxed everyone. U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald reportedly went public early -- before he could obtain a grand jury indictment -- with his charges against Blago in order to head off a corrupt appointment to fill the President-elect's Senate seat. Yet, all the Illinois pols -- Pat Quinn, the various Madigans, Boss Daley, Durbin, White, et al. -- and Democratic Senate Majority headed by Reid, and Obama himself, along with his highly touted transition team, "Rahmbo" and the rest, have managed to muff the play and let Blago make the appointment anyway. It's not a corrupt appointment, now, to be sure, but it's a big Blago win. I suspect this will not be the last we hear of Hot Rod.

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