On the eve of the New Year, Gov. Rod Blagojevich, charged with conspiring to sell the Senate seat of Barack Obama, put the ball back squarely in the court of a Democratic Party that had disowned him.
Blago named Roland Burris, former attorney general of Illinois and first African-American ever to win statewide office, to fill the vacated seat. National Democrats and their media auxiliaries went berserk.
This governor, thundered The New York Times, "has taken his hubris to new heights and the misery of Illinois citizens to new lows." This appointment "will not stand," raged Majority Leader Harry Reid.
If the distinguished 71-year-old lawyer arrives to take his seat, Reid threatened, the Senate will slam the door in his face. But who is truly showing hubris here? And under what authority and with what justification would Reid deny Burris his seat?
There is not the slightest hint Burris did anything unethical or illegal to win this appointment. Nor is there any doubt as to Gov. Blagojevich's right to make the appointment. He is still governor of Illinois. He has not been convicted of anything. And he not only has the right but an obligation to carry out his duties, one of which is to appoint candidates to fill empty seats in the U.S. Senate.
As for Burris, his qualifications are surely superior to those of Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg, whom Democrats have been pounding New York Gov. David Paterson to appoint to Hillary Clinton's seat.
Before now, Kennedy has shown zero interest in public office or a public life. She has been lax in voting and shown nothing in the way of political substance since being hailed as the next senator. Who is to say Paterson's motives in considering Kennedy are superior to Blagojevich's motives in naming Burris?
Blagojevich must not appoint anyone, we are told, because he is charged with conspiring to sell Barack's seat, and the evidence is on the wiretap tapes cited by U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald.
But here in America, even a governor is innocent until proven guilty. And what exactly do those tapes show, other than that Blago and his chief of staff engaged in crude and corrupt talk about getting rewarded with campaign contributions or high office for Blago in return for giving someone the Senate appointment?
Using vile language and ruminating on selling a Senate seat may be sins, but they are not necessarily crimes. Moreover, there is evidence Blago may have been engaged in boastful beer talk and little more.
Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. says he talked to the governor for 90 minutes about the Senate seat but was never solicited. Nor did he offer anything. Obama aides Rahm Emanuel and Valerie Jarrett both talked to Blagojevich about the seat, and Rahm talked to his chief of staff.
Neither claims to have been solicited for any kind of bribe. Yet, if Blago were going to sell the seat, the obvious party to sell it to is the man with the power to appoint ambassadors and Cabinet officers, or to convince others to hire Blago: President-elect Obama.
Yet, from all we know, nether Barack nor anyone on his staff ever offered anything illicit to the governor, nor were they asked for anything. Where is the body of the crime? If Blago and Burris hold firm, this is going to get interesting.
Here we have an African-American elder statesman of the Democratic Party, an honorable and distinguished man, appointed by the governor according to law and the Constitution, to fill a Senate seat. There has been no hint of illegal consideration asked or given by either the governor or Burris.
Yet Harry Reid, who presides over a Democratic caucus of some 60 senators, with not a single black member, is going to refuse this black man a seat to which the law entitles him? One hopes Burris will stay firm and march up to that Senate, and, if nothing else, expose the hypocrisy.
Our president-elect is from a party that champions busing to integrate public schools but bypasses D.C. public schools to send his girls to exclusive private schools in far northwest Washington.
We have a Democratic Senate that champions affirmative action. Yet not one white male Democratic senator, in a caucus that has not a single black member, has ever volunteered to step down and let the governor of their state replace him or her with an African-American.
Not one. That would be liberals leading by example, not exhortation. If Democrats believe our institutions of power should look like America, why don't they make their Senate caucus look like America? Why do not a dozen Democrat senators resign, to be replaced by 12 appointed black Democrats, giving one-fifth of all Democratic Senate seats to a minority that gave Barack 97 percent of its vote and Barack and Joe Biden one-fourth of all the votes they received?
Why does not Gov. Paterson follow Gov. Blagojevich's lead and name an African-American of Burris' stature to the U.S. Senate?
Fellas, let's start practicing what we preach here.
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