I can’t believe Blagojevich appointed Roland Burris to the Senate, I can’t believe Burris accepted after earlier saying he wouldn’t, and I can’t believe that Blago just said he’s enjoyed the limelight of the past few weeks. But he did, he did, and he did.
I don’t know if video of this news conference will stay up for long on most television news sites, but I’m listening to an unfiltered stream that WBEZ put up shortly after the end of the presser. I had to stop it just now to get my head together. At least the reporters had some facts and figures ready to shout out and they caught Burris flat-footed; he was surprised his lobbying firm or law practice had given at least $14,000 to Blago’s campaign fund, and he was unable to verify the rather large amount of IDOT contracts his firm(s) had been awarded (estimated at $290,000 by the Chicago Tribune). He completely lost the ability to speak as the press, sensing blood in the water, circled for the kill. You can hear the relief in his voice as he babbles “Oh, this one is for the Governor?” and Blago comes back on. That’s when our elected governor said he’d enjoyed the limelight of the past few weeks, but didn’t want to steal it from Burris on his big day.
Blago continues, then Burris ineffectually tries to take questions, but answers with a “we’ll have to take that under advisement” when asked what he’d do if the Senate refuses (as they’ve said) to seat him.
Chaos erupts; several reporters shout questions at the same time, wanting to know what Blagojevich will do if Secretary of State Jesse White refuses to certify the appointment (it’s required by state law) and whether he’ll take it to court. Burris can only laugh and keeps trying to point out that Bobby Rush would like to speak. Blago refuses to rise to the bait offered by one reporter; if the Congress has already stated they would refuse to seat ANY appointee made by Blagojevich, why is he even bothering to appoint anyone? Another points out that “your lawyer said two weeks ago you weren’t going to make an appointment.” A third says “Why make the appointment now?”
And then Rep. Bobby Rush steps to the podium. He starts calmly enough and thanks God for this decision by Gov. Blagojevich and says it’s a good decision, saying Burris is worthy. He speaks slowly enough that it’s almost dictation speed. He says of Burris:
He has not in 40 years of public service has had one iota of taint (there’s that word again) on his record as a public servant. He’s an esteemed member of this State and of this community. My prayers have been answered because I prayed fervently that the Governor would continue the legacy established by President-Elect Obama and that the governor would appoint an African-American to complete the term of President Obama.
Reminds us there’s presently no African-American in the US Senate. Reminds us that Illinois has sent 2 blacks to the Senate (the other was Carol Mosely-Braun, not a shining example). Attempts to say Roland Burris is worthy and insists that the appointee not be connected to the appointer as if in a bad light. Goes on at length to say that a black appointee is necessary. This is why some blogs like Gawker and others were saying “Blago plays race card: seat Burris or you hate black people.”
Rush will take his argument to the Congressional Black Caucus and lobby Durbin; it appears to be purely based on Burris’ race and years of service to the state party, not necessarily his ability (he appears to have been a fine AG, but he sure wasn’t ready to take the tough questions thrown at him).
At a news conference in Chicago, Gov. Blagojevich announced the appointment of former Attorney General Roland Burris to president-elect Barack Obama’s vacant U.S. Senate seat. Burris says he has no connection to the charges against Blagojevich, who was arrested on Dec. 9 and accused of trying to profit from appointing Obama’s replacement.
There’s also audio of Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn reacting, quite strongly but fading at the end, in a chaotic sounding news conference.