OK, not really. And I apologize to all of my readers who may now find it difficult to get that image out of their heads. I sympathize, it's not one I want in my head, either.
But it looks as if we're going to be stuck with it for at least the next couple of years. And it looks as if I can add Roland Burris to the growing list of politicians I once had at least some respect for and who are now anathema to me.
Rod Blagojevich desperately wanted to change the subject away from all of his legal woes, and maintain a façade of normality while waiting for the General Assembly to get around to dropping the other shoe and impeaching him. Getting to appoint someone to fill Barack Obama's seat in the U.S. Senate allowed him to do that. But he couldn't appoint himself (or his wife), as he had been rumored to be considering. Neither could he appoint anybody who owed him favors, as that would just make his situation worse. Ditto for anybody he might be perceived as "getting rid of" by sending them off to Washington and out of Illinois for a couple of years. No self-respecting Democrat would take a phone call from him or accept an appointment from his hands.
And then along came Roland Burris. After wandering in the political wilderness of former politicians who've been down on their electoral luck for the last 13 years, Burris desperately wanted a chance to matter again. And he took the governor's phone call--and the appointment it offered.
Two men with monumental egos and equally monumental contempt for the wishes of the voters of Illinois, the wishes of the party of which they claim to be members in good standing, the wishes of the U.S. Senate, and yes, the wishes of our next president, who used to sit in that very seat in the Senate. A match made somewhere, but surely not in heaven.
The comforting thought in all of this is that it's only for two years, and that Roland Burris will get a grand total of nothing done while he's in Washington. By the time he's figured out where everything is in the U.S. Capitol, he'll be bidding it farewell. Because he's not going back there in 2011 for the swearing in of the 112th Congress.
How do I know that? Lots of ways, really. First, let's start with the easy ones. In 2011, Roland Burris will be 74 years old. It's one thing to re-elect a senator who, despite his or her advanced age, has been serving with distinction for decades and who shows every sign of wanting to continue serving and being effective doing so. It's another thing entirely to re-elect someone with no record of distinction and who's also going to be well past retirement age by the time the next election comes along.
More to the point, running for the Senate these days is not cheap. I forget where I read it, but if I remember correctly you have to have at least a million bucks in a warchest to make a stab at it. Roland Burris last held elective office in 1995, and has lost in the primaries of every race he's entered since then. He has no organization, no fundraising lists, and, most importantly, no money in the bank. By accepting this appointment, he's burned his bridges with most of the money people and most of the people who know the money people in the Democratic Party--and precisely at the moment when he desperately needs to get his money machine up and running. No money, no campaign staff, no campaign ads, no campaign website--and no campaign, really.
Same thing when the time comes that he'll be needing endorsements, campaign partners, and access to donor lists, volunteers, etc. Anybody who might have been inclined to help him is only going to remember that Roland Burris is the guy who took our soon-to-be-ex-governor's call when nobody else would. And every time Burris's name appears, Blagojevich's is going to be right next to it. The Republicans will see to that, even though it will hardly be necessary.
I don't know who it will be (though I have a few shrewd guesses), but I think I can safely guarantee that there will be at least one other candidate on the Democratic ballot for the primary in 2010. And at least one of those candidates (if not all of them) seems quite likely to garner a whole hell of a lot more votes than Roland Burris is ever going to get.
I still maintain that the Senate ought not to seat him, given the circumstances of his appointment. But if their lawyers tell them they have to, so be it. I'll live with it, albeit with bad grace. Of this much I can be sure, however: Roland Burris will have neither my support nor my vote when his short term in the U.S. Senate is up. I'll write myself in on the ballot before I'd cast a vote for that hack. He and Rod deserve each other.