Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Burris: I'm A Natural Born Citizen

Senator-designate Roland Burris has been asked to testify on Thursday before the Illinois House impeachment committee about the circumstances surrounding his appointment by Gov. Rod Blagojevich. Senate Democrats turned Burris away at the doors to the world's most exclusive club on the ground that his appointment had not been signed by Secretary of State Jesse White, the mere ministerial act his office performs in the appointment process. In advance of his planned testimony on Thursday, Burris furnished the impeachment committee an affidavit. In that affidavit, Burris states that he is at least 30 years of age and "a natural born citizen of the United States." Article I of the U.S. Constitution requires a senator to be at least 30 years of age and "a citizen" of the United States for at least nine years. The "natural born citizen" requirement is only found in Article II of the U.S. Constitution establishing the qualifications for president of the United States. One can't help but wonder if Burris' "natural born citizen" status mentioned in his affidavit is a pointed barb at President-elect Obama, whose status has been called into question in more than a dozen lawsuits and who has withheld support for Burris' appointment.

Burris' affidavit states that he was first contacted about the appointment by one of Blagojevich's attorneys, Sam Adam, Jr. on December 26. Burris asked for a couple of days to think about the appointment. Two days later, Adams contacted him again and he told him he would accept. The governor telephoned later that same day and offered the appointment to him. The governor told him he would publicly announce his appointment in a couple of days. The governor held a press conference on December 30 to announce the appointment.

Despite the Senate's refusal to seat Burris, there is a crack in Senate Democratic opposition. Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-CA) broke ranks with the Senate leadership and called for seating Burris. Feinstein, a former governor, said, “I can’t imagine the secretary of state countermanding a gubernatorial appointment.” “The question, really, is one in my view of law. And that is, does the governor have the power to make the appointment? And the answer is yes. Is the governor discredited? And the answer is yes." Senior Republicans in the Senate, as well as the Congressional Black Caucus, are also siding with Burris according to Politico. U.S. Rep. Andre Carson, a member of the Black Caucus, has not publicly stated a view on whether Burris should be seated.

The media coverage of Burris in some quarters of the Illinois media has been atrocious. Sun-Times columnist Mary Mitchell accuses Burris of having blind ambition. Ironically, she speaks dismissively of an allegation Burris hurled against Mayor Richard Daley when he ran against him several years ago. Burris alleged that one of Daley's guys offered him two separate jobs, one in Chicago and one in Washington, that he could hold simultaneously if he did not run against Daley. "Daley ignored the accusation and went on to trounce Burris," Mitchell writes. "On Monday, the 71-year-old Burris displayed the same self-grandeur as he headed to Washington for a possible showdown in the U.S. Senate."

Did it not occur to Mitchell that if the Chicago reporters had taken Burris' allegations seriously, Blagojevich might have been more cautious in playing similar games with the U.S. Senate appointment as Daley most assuredly played in his own mayoral race. In the same vein as Mitchell, one Chicago reporter asked Burris during a press conference before he headed to Washington yesterday if he wasn't allowing his ego to get in the way. Excuse me, but did any of these same reporters ask Barack Obama if he was allowing his ego to get in his way when he declared his candidacy for president after being a Senator for only a couple of years? Mitchell had this parting shot for Burris:

But on the national stage, Burris is a nobody who will arrive in Washington looking like an opportunist rather than a statesman.

As a result of the controversy, it will be difficult for Burris to be an effective voice for Illinois. But that's not why I find this whole episode so distasteful.

The man who once claimed to be outraged by the rank pay-to-play politics isn't the man who is going to Washington.

The man who is going to Washington is the ultimate political insider who is acting in his self-interest.

I believe Burris genuinely doesn't get why anyone would think he is doing anything wrong.

The fact that he doesn't shows how badly Illinois needs change.


Too bad Mitchell and the rest of the Chicago media didn't see Obama as "the ultimate political insider." If they had made a little bit bigger deal about Obama's own "pay-to-play" antics over the years, our country wouldn't be facing this mess Illinois politics has served up to us--a prelude of what we have to look forward to over the next four years.

1 comment:

Joe said...

It is passing strange that amid all of the litigation surrounding Obama and company, one piece of news worthy information has been lost in the shuffle; Larry Sinclair has accused Obama of being involved in the murder of Donald Young. Donald Young's murder, along with another man's murder has not been solved by the Chicago police department; these execution-style murders were committed at the church Obama attended at the time. The two murders, both gay men, Obama and Larry Sinclair (who also accuses Obama of being bi-sexual) are all related.

Will all of this also be swept under the bulging carpet if Obama is allowed to take the office of POTUS on January 20th of this year? --jws