This morning U.S. Sen. Roland Burris met for an hour with a group of pastors at a church on Chicago’s South Side, after which one of the clergy members defended Burris.
“He ain’t done nothing wrong,” said the Rev. Willie Barrow of Operation Push. “You ought to recognize who he is, what he’s done in the past, and what he’s doing now. You need to recognize that and the people put him in.”
OK, let’s take Barrow’s statement a piece at a time:
“He ain’t done nothing wrong.” Burris may not have done any fundraising for former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich to get appointed to the U.S. Senate, but he is guilty of not telling a House impeachment committee, under oath, that the governor’s brother called him three times to solicit campaign contributions. Perjury is wrong, and even if Burris didn’t commit perjury by the strict legal definition, why did it take three attempts to get his story right (if this is even the final version)? Why didn’t he previously come clean about his contacts with the governor’s brother if he was interested in telling the whole truth to the House committee and, by extension, the public? Seems Mr. Burris is “a lying little sneak,” as Chicago Sun-Times columnist Mark Brown called him today. (Read Brown’s column here: http://www.suntimes.com/news/brown/1432864,CST-NWS-brown16.article.)
“You ought to recognize who he is …” Roland Burris, junior senator of the great state of Illinois.
“… what he’s done in the past …” Burris has done a lot during his lifetime. Most notably, he was the first African-American elected to statewide office in Illinois. He served as state comptroller from 1979 to 1991 and was Illinois attorney general from 1991 to 1995. He also lost a 1984 Senate race, a 1995 Chicago mayoral race, and three gubernatorial races (in 1994, 1998 and 2002). See the Burris mausoleum for more resume details.
” … and what he’s doing now.” Burris is struggling to defend himself against charges of dishonesty under oath and the perception by some that his appointment to the U.S. Senate is tainted. Also, as I write this, Burris is on a five-day “listening tour” of the state.
“You need to recognize that …” See above.
” … and the people put him in.” No, the people didn’t pick Burris to be their junior U.S. senator. Blagojevich did.
The Burris controversy has some state Republicans calling for the senator’s resignation. But I doubt Burris will ever consider stepping down.
“Demanding that Burris quit is pointless. If he had an ounce of civic responsibility, he never would have taken the job,” columnist Neil Steinberg wrote in today’s Chicago Sun-Times.
Steinberg is right. Burris should have turned down Blagojevich’s appointment offer the same way U.S. Rep. Danny Davis did. Any candidate – even one with a squeaky-clean reputation – would seem tainted by Blagogate.
But the fact that he didn’t reject Blagojevich’s offer exemplifies the difference between the classiness of Davis and the classlessness of Burris.