Once again, Democrats eat their own wordsWho says there’s no difference between Democrats and Republicans? When Republicans take power, they band together to fight Democrats
By: Bill Press, The Dickinson Press
Who says there’s no difference between Democrats and Republicans?
When Republicans take power, they band together to fight Democrats. When Democrats take power, they split into warring camps and eat their own.
Just look at the continuing circus surrounding Roland Burris, the man named by disgraced Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich to fill the Senate seat of Barack Obama. It is monumentally shortsighted, and political suicide, for Democrats to continue to deny him his Senate seat.
So what if Burris was appointed by Blagojevich? In judging Burris’ fitness for the job, there are only two questions. First, was his appointment legal? The answer is clearly yes. Blagojevich may have been charged with wrongdoing, but he has not yet been convicted of any crime. He is still governor. He has the legal authority to make a Senate appointment, and he did so. It is grossly unfair to hold Blagojevich’s alleged sins against anyone he so honors.
Second question: Is Burris qualified? Again, the answer is clearly yes. As required by the Constitution, he’s over 30, an American citizen, and a resident of the state he would represent. Burris is a distinguished Chicago attorney with an unblemished record who became the first African-American to be elected to statewide office in Illinois in 1978, when voters made him state comptroller. Twelve years later, he was elected attorney general of Illinois.
No one, in fact, has questioned Burris’ credentials nor suggested that he was part of any “pay to play” deal with Blagojevich — partly because, as Burris was the first to admit: “I have no money.” So why did Democrats refuse to seat him? Only because they don’t like Blagojevich and don’t want to be associated with him in any way. Hello? Nobody likes Blagojevich. That’s irrelevant. No matter who gave Burris the job, as long as he’s legally appointed and duly qualified, he should have been sworn in on day one, along with the rest of the Senate.
Instead, on live television, Democrats turned Burris away at the entrance to the Senate. (Am I the only one who flashed back to George Wallace standing in the schoolhouse door?) The next day, realizing how badly Democrats had been hurt by images of Burris being left out in the rain, leaders Harry Reid and Dick Durbin met with the embattled appointee and announced they would relent and consider seating Burris after all. But only after four conditions had been met: Burris had proved his innocence of any quid pro quo with Blagojevich; the Illinois secretary of state had certified his appointment; the Senate Rules Committee had conducted its own investigation; and Burris had been approved by a vote of the full Senate.
What nonsense. Don’t Democratic leaders get it? All they’ve done by piling on these conditions is drag the issue out for another few weeks or months, meanwhile making Burris look like an innocent victim, making the Democratic Party look intolerant, and depriving the people of Illinois from one more vote in the U.S. Senate.
Besides, the Senate has no legal right to impose its own set of conditions on Roland Burris. That question was already raised and decided by the U.S. Supreme Court in Powell vs. McCormack (1969). In that case, New York Congressman Adam Clayton Powell Jr. had been re-elected to Congress despite allegations of misuse of travel funds. When the House, under Speaker John McCormack, refused to honor the election results, Powell sued and won. In a majority opinion written by Chief Justice Earl Warren, the court ruled that Congress does not have the power to add qualifications for office other than those spelled out in the Constitution. If that was true for the scandal-plagued Powell, it’s all the more true for the scandal-free Burris.
This whole thing is one bloody mess and one giant distraction that could have been avoided, if Democrats would only learn to think straight. Trying to avoid the stigma of Blagojevich, they stigmatized themselves, instead. It wasn’t racism. It was just stupidity.
How much smarter it would have been to just give Burris his seat — and then move on, with one more solid Democratic vote — to stop fighting each other and start fighting Republicans over the stimulus package. The sooner Democrats do that, the better.
— Press hosts a nationally syndicated radio show and is the author of a new book, “Train Wreck: The End of the Conservative Revolution (and Not a Moment Too Soon).”