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Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Illinois Democrats play a starring role in this mess

By Dennis Byrne
Chicago Tribune

According to a New York Times editorial, Gov. Rod Blagojevich, by appointing Roland Burris to the U.S. Senate, has reduced the Illinois Statehouse to an opérabouffe.

For us flatlanders who had to look it up, an opĂ©rabouffe is an operetta, performed in an extravagant burlesque style, containing elements of comedy, satire, parody and farce that often ends happily. Except, this bouffe has no happy ending. And, if I may point out to the Times and other keen observers of the Illinois political scene, Blagojevich didn't single-handedly turn Illinois into "La Belle Helene." Blagojevich had a lot of help, and all of it came from Democrats, the Times' favorite political party. The ones who run the state, from whose maw emerged President-elect Barack Obama. The ones who control both houses of the legislature, occupy every statewide elective office and debauch Chicago and Cook County governments—Democrats all.

If any lesson is to be learned from this farce, it's that Democrats here know how to get elected but can't govern. It wasn't just Blagojevich who turned Illinois into the nation's most financially challenged state. Illinois Democrats were co-conspirators in wringing huge deficits, stiffing Medicare and other service providers and stuffing the budget with politically motivated programs. I would remind the Times that the legislature, over Blagojevich's objections, passed a budget that was $2.5 billion in the red in a blockheaded attempt to embarrass the governor.

The Democrats' most recent blunder was their stunning failure to pass legislation that would have stripped the governor of the power to appoint someone to fill Obama's Senate seat. They could have authorized Illinois voters to pick the replacement in an election, but, no, our beloved Democrats could not take the slightest chance that voters, at last fed up with the donkey party, might elect a Republican. Illinois Democrats could have easily spared U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and the rest of the party the embarrassment of trying to turn away the Senate's only African-American. Instead, Illinois Democrats can take the blame for putting Reid in the position of having to explain to a guffawing nation why his party could legally slam the door shut on Obama's replacement. If you don't think that Blagojevich managed to plant a sharp stick in Reid's eye, you must have missed the senator's squirming and deplorable performance Sunday on NBC's "Meet the Press" as the program's new host, David Gregory, skillfully grilled him.

And squirm Reid should. His refusal to seat Burris is so arbitrary that it could set a precedent theoretically allowing Republicans, once back in control, to refuse to seat Democrats simply because they're from Chicago—which, come to think of it, isn't a bad idea. The legalities of the Burris affair have become so tangled, I don't see how a replacement—whether named in a special election or by a successor to an impeached and convicted Blagojevich—could legally bump Burris out of his seat.

Truth is, Democrats are stuck with Burris and all that implies about being the party that spawned the allegedly "corrupt" and goofy Blagojevich. That's how it should be. Reid, and all those other Democrats who keep saying Burris would make a "fine" senator, will discover another truth: Burris, spawned by the same party that gave us Blagojevich, is a mediocrity, perhaps even an embarrassment, something they couldn't miss if they saw him stumble through his appointment news conference. Here's a measure of Burris' character: He silently stood by while his staunchest supporter, Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Ill.), implied that anyone who opposed the appointment would be guilty of lynching a black man. Burris has yet to repudiate that inflammatory racism, something the Democratic Party can't afford if they want to hold together Obama's "inclusive" coalition. Burris would be facing gale-force head winds in either a special or the next general election because even Illinois' remarkably untroubled electorate will remember Burris was crass and stupid enough to accept Blagojevich's appointment. Burris' only chance is for Republicans to pull their usual vanishing act.

"The many problems of Illinois cannot be addressed so long as Mr. Blagojevich remains governor," the Times editorial intoned. Not quite. It should have said: "The many problems of Illinois cannot be addressed so long as Democrats run the state." Someday, Illinois' blind Democratic voters will see it.



3 comments:

PLucas said...

Kudos on hitting the nail on the head in this piece. The Dems really stepped it by locking out Burris today. Now if the Illinois GOP can just get it's act together to seize this opportunity...but that's just wishful thinking.

Kalleh said...

I have just one question, Dennis. Did you feel the same way about your fellow Republicans with George Ryan's mess? How quickly you Republicans forget.

RJB said...

Great post. My favourite line: "His refusal to seat Burris is so arbitrary that it could set a precedent theoretically allowing Republicans, once back in control, to refuse to seat Democrats simply because they're from Chicago—which, come to think of it, isn't a bad idea." Quote used in a post on the Burris matter at our weblog Critical Thoughts (http://criticalthoughtsblog.blogspot.com/2009/01/democrats-continue-to-block-burris-from.html)