December 30, 2008 [LINK / comment]

Blagojevich embarrasses Obama

What is it that makes headstrong, yet morally crippled politicians think they can get away with (figurative) murder, when they've already been caught red-handed? To understand that, you would have to put yourselves in the shoes of someone as ambitious, crafty, and contemptuous of ethical values as Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich. Defying the warnings of Barack Obama, the Illinois legislature, and nearly all top state officials, he has gone ahead and nominated someone to replace Obama in the U.S. Senate. Who is the lucky appointee? Roland Burris, a former attorney general who happens to be black. Obama reacted by expressing disappointment, but in private he must be seething with anger to have his transition disrupted by the state-level constitutional crisis. See Blagojevich is certainly not shy about playing the race card, but in his position, he has to pull out all the stops or else step down and get ready to serve a prison sentence.

While some Republicans may find amusement in this disgraceful situation, the issue of who will serve as senator from Illinois for the last two years of Obama's term is a deadly serious matter for the whole country. The Democrats are within a vote or two of the filibuster-proof 60-seat supermajority, and they want to have a legitimate senator fill that vacancy right away. Whether they can block Burris from being seated may depend on getting cooperation from Republicans and/or black Democrats in the House of Representatives. (Obama was the only African-American in the Senate, and indeed, he was only the third such person since the Reconstruction Era.) There will be a lot of wheeling and dealing behind the scenes to get this matter straightened out, and though it might not look pretty, the urgency of resolving this mess for the greater good might have the salubrious side effect of getting the two parties used to cooperating on key policy issues. You never know...