Bite the Bullet: Seat Burris

First, a confession. Our firm was the media consultant in 1994 for the gubernatorial campaign of Roland Burris. I didn’t handle the account, but all of us felt that Burris was a decent, honest, competent candidate who would make a good governor.

Nearly 15 years later, no one has questioned his integrity or his qualifications. What has been questioned, and rightly so, is the cynical and ego-driven appointment made by Rod Blagojevich. No question — too cute by half, more about Blago than Burris, a ploy so that the governor could play; unfortunate, to say the least.

What we have now is both a political and legal problem. Initial revulsion at Blagojevich has morphed into a more pragmatic look at the situation. First, there was a sense that the Illinois secretary of State could block the seating of Burris. Turns out, legally it does not look like that will fly. Second, there was an initial decision by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) that the appointment would be referred to the Senate Rules Committee and that the Senate would not seat Burris or anyone appointed by Blagojevich. Again, this could become a very lengthy and complicated legal fight. Not good for anyone.

The solution: Seat Burris with his agreement that he will serve out Barack Obama’s term and not run in 2010. Burris should agree to those stipulations if he wants to serve his state and his country. One alternative is for the Senate to stall on his nomination, for the Illinois legislature to proceed to a rapid impeachment of Blagojevich and for the lieutenant governor (once he becomes governor) to appoint someone else. With court challenges and weeks of discord, not a pleasant alternative. Another possibility is for a special election, a costly and time-consuming process when the appointment is provided by law and should be much faster.

The fear is that the Senate’s denial of Burris will not hold up under a court test.

The hope is that Reid and Obama can convince Burris to accept the two-year appointment and get on with it. Bottom line: Let’s resolve this by allowing Burris to take his seat. The country has a lot more to worry about, serious problems to confront, so let’s get beyond this.