The ugly yet completely scripted theater that was Roland Burris being turned away from the Senate today has managed to make Burris appear to be an innocent victim, and the Senate leadership racist. Harry Reid has been outmaneuvered by Rod Blagojevich.
With each passing day, Blagojevich’s appointment of Burris is looking more like a stroke of genius designed to take the spotlight off the embattled governor, while as Larry Sabato described it giving the middle finger salute to the Democratic Party. Blagojevich has created a total sideshow, while the media has taken the bait he laid out by injecting race into the controversy.
Burris himself keeps fanning the flames with language that is reminiscent of the civil rights era, by stressing that he is not looking for a confrontation. He said today, “I am not seeking to have any type of confrontation. I will now consult with my attorneys and we will determine what our next step will be.” The image of the lily white Senate being sworn in while Burris was denied entry pokes at the collective conscience of the Democratic Party.
On last Sunday’s Meet the Press, Majority Leader Harry Reid had to defend himself on the issue of race, “But I do know that I’ve served in the United States Senate with two outstanding senators, Carol Moseley Braun and Barack Obama, both African-Americans from the state of Illinois. I worked harder than anyone in this country for Ron Kirk running for senator, senator for the state of Texas. As a Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, we spent more money in the state of Tennessee than any state in the country trying to get Harold Ford elected.”
Reid continued, “I have–anyone that suggests there’s any racial bias in this instance doesn’t realize I went to the Clark County district attorney’s office to find a–people thought was a nobody to become a federal judge, Johnnie Rawlinson. She was a great judge. She’s now on the Ninth Circuit. I did that myself. So anyone to suggest anything racial is part of the Blagojevich spin to take away from the corruption that’s involved his office in Illinois.”
Blagojevich and Burris have Reid on the run, which isn’t that difficult a thing to do. The mistake that Reid made was assuming that an indictment would immediately come down against the governor. He assumed that Blagojevich would not have the chance to make an appointment. Reid’s mistakes have left the Democrats looking like racists by denying an African American who is legally qualified a seat in the Senate.
At a time when the Democratic leadership should be celebrating the inauguration of the nation’s first African American president, they are confronted with a Roland Burris, a man whose large ego has made him a willing martyr. Whether Reid likes it or not, Burris is qualified for the seat, and pressure is growing on him not to let this fiasco distract from Obama’s inauguration, which is why I suspect that Burris will be seated before Obama takes the oath of office on January 20.