Low road, all traffic

The fight over Barack Obama’s vacated Senate seat is playing out with a cast of villains and fools, and no hero in sight.

Rod Blagojevich. The arch-villain, a corrupt governor caught on tape trying to sell this seat, who now claims he’ll be vindicated at trial because 1) the tapes will not be admissible in court, and/or 2) it was just “talk” and there’s no crime because he was busted before he actually sold the seat. Of course, the court of public opinion doesn’t need a jury to decide that Blago is reprehensible.

Roland Burris. Blagojevich’s pick for the seat, a former Illinois attorney general, was by all indications an unremarkable-to-poor public official. His tenure as the state’s top attorney was punctuated by his decision to continue the death penalty prosecution of a clearly innocent man. DNA evidence and a confession by the real murderer cleared Ronaldo Cruz and his alleged co-conspirator, but Burris was running for governor and afraid of being labeled “weak on crime.” He lost the gubernatorial contest anyway, and proceeded to lose several more campaigns in ensuing years. Yet his failures haven’t stopped Burris from erecting a large monument to himself at his future gravesite, listing such accomplishments as being the first African-American Southern Illinois University student to attend the University of Hamburg as an exchange student. Wow.

Apparently, it would take an ego of Burris’s magnitude (his children’s names are Roland and Rolanda) to accept an offer from a crook like Blagojevich, knowing that his office would be tainted and that he’d have zero credibility in the U.S. Senate. There must be too much blank space on his self-congratulatory granite monument, and “U.S. Senator” sure would look swell chiseled in stone.

Harry Reid. As soon as the pay-for-play scandal broke, the Senate majority leader jumped out front and stated his opposition to seating anyone appointed by Blagojevich. Reid’s grandstanding might be defensible if he had a strong history of standing for the rule of law. Yet Reid joined his Senate colleagues in sending off convicted felon Ted Stevens with a standing ovation. So Reid has no problems honoring convicted crooks in the Senate, but refuses to seat someone who, whatever his ego, isn’t a crook?

Of course, this is the same Harry Reid who refused to enforce subpoenas that Bush lackeys like Karl Rove ignored; who beat back efforts by Sens. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) and Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) to hold telecommunications companies accountable for illegal spying on Americans; who responded meekly to the administration’s use of torture; and who refused to hold the administration accountable for leading the nation to war against Iraq based on a pack of lies.

“If Reid wanted to be consistent here, he’d send a strongly worded letter to Blago and then agree to let Burris be seated and to get committee assignments,” wrote a commenter on Daily Kos.

Democrats. The Democratic-dominated Illinois legislature kicked around the idea of ordering a special election to fill the vacancy. It’s a decision that more states are opting for, realizing the problems inherent in gubernatorial Senate appointments. Yet the Democrats backed off, fearful that the seat could fall to the Republicans in a special election. Illinois GOP Reps. Mark Kirk and Peter Roskam have both been able to buck the increasingly Democratic tilt of their districts, and could prove strong statewide contenders. So instead of doing the right thing and letting the voters make the pick, the Democrats left the ball in Blago’s court.

It’s little wonder that the one potential hero of this farce — ex-Sen. Obama — prefers to watch from the wings as the play drags on.

Moulitsas is founder and publisher of Daily Kos (www.dailykos.com).