Posted by: mutantpoodle | January 6, 2009

Guys named Burris (or Burress)

burrisMore than once in the past week or so I’ve been temporarily flummoxed by an incongruous headline about someone whose name rhymes with the first two syllables of heuristic.

Before last week, the only Burress anyone cared about was the New York Giants’ Plaxico, who felt his personal security would be enhanced by stashing a gun in the waistband of his sweats as he went out on the town, and doubtless avoided serious harm by only shooting himself in the leg.

And then there’s the Illinois Burris – Roland – who accepted the nomination of one of the least popular and arguably most corrupt governors in the country and is now trying to get seated in the Senate despite the nearly unanimous feeling among Democrats that to do so would just look, well, bad.

Now, nearly everyone who has weighed in on this case is careful to note that Roland Burris is a fine man, untainted by the Blagojevich scandal, and is qualified to be the junior Senator from Illinois. What they argue is that the mere fact of Blagojevich’s role in his appointment sullies him and makes it impossible for Democrats to welcome him with open arms. (If they had, what do you suppose the Republicans would be saying?)

Now, I am sensitive to Mr. Burris’s (if not Mr Burress’s) plight: Blagojevich is still Governor, the appointment is his to make, and the only thing Roland Burris did wrong, apparently, was say yes.

Except that’s not all. What I’ve seen of Burris on TV makes me think that he is either blissfully unaware of why people would consider his appointment problematic, or doesn’t have the skills to address their concerns.

My guess is Roland Burris would have taken the oath of office today had he said something along the lines of this:

I realize Governor Blagojevich is under a cloud of suspicion. However, he did not ask for anything from me in exchange for this appointment, nor did I offer anything to him to entice him to appoint me. I feel it is very important that Illinois have Senatorial representation from the onset of this legislative session, and I feel I can effectively represent the people of Illinois for the next two years, at which point I will not seek re-election.

Maybe – just maybe – that would have gotten him two years in the Senate, and another line on his burial monument. As it stands, there’s a good chance the Illinois legislature will boot Blagojevich before the Senate Rules committee can weigh in on Burris’s qualifications, and Burris will be a sad footnote to Barack Obama’s election as President.

Which is a shame, but a self-inflicted shame. Frankly, my take on Burris is that he’s – how do I put this – not too bright. Now, there are lots of folks in the Senate who aren’t rocket scientists, but Burris’s cluelessness lay in not anticipating the firestorm of opposition to whomever Blagojevich picked, not realizing that he was being used by Blagojevich to flip off just about everybody, and not having an argument to get him through.

If he’s seated, he’ll be out in 2010.

But I don’t think he’ll get there.

UPDATE: Publius lays out more coherently my main issue with Burris, which I merely glossed over in my last post: his monumental ego.

It’s one thing to accept an appointment and fight for it — Senate seats ain’t easy to come by. But it’s quite another to actually show up on Day 1 and intentionally create a media frenzy and sideshow on a day that needs to be devoted to gathering momentum for a potentially historic legislative agenda. Instead of allowing the media to report on that, Burris’s antics ensured that he’ll be the story of the day. He’d apparently rather hog the spotlight than make room for the greater good.

Again, the large ego club in the Senate isn’t a small one, but Burris’s ratio of self regard vs. awareness of the larger circumstances is frighteningly high.

However, it looks like I will be wrong, and he’ll eventually be a (1/3 term) Senator.


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