Sen. Roland Burris should resign. There is no evidence that he engaged in a direct pay-to-play scheme with former Governor Rod Blagojevich. People in Burris’s position – he served thirty years in public office – are asked to raise money by other politicians all the time. And perhaps he agreed to raise the money before Blagojevich was arrested on charges that he was trying to sell Barack Obama’s Senate seat to the highest bidder. Still, if he was interested in the appointment, why would he not have raised his interest when the man who had it solely in his power to bestow that prize was hitting him up to raise money? And, why did he not disclose his fundraising before?
I will give Burris the benefit of the doubt personally. But, politically, he needs to get off the stage. He was seated only because he had stated, under oath, that there was no discussion between him and the Governor before the appointment was proffered. Now, it turns out that relatives of both men were in touch, not the kind of information that gives voters confidence that a backroom deal was not made. So, despite their misgivings, and given the lack of constitutional restrictions on a governor’s right to make the appointment, Burris was seated.
When Blagojevich was impeached on a near-unanimous vote of the Illinois House and convicted by the Illinois Senate in a vote that was unanimous, everyone breathed a sigh of relief. The whole sordid, nasty, obscenity-laced story could be turned over to the historians. Now, with the revelations this week of discussions between "his guys" and "my guys" the whole ugly business is back in the news.
The President of the United States made his first trip abroad yesterday, a quick trip to Ottawa for discussions with our nation’s leading trading partner. He and the Congress have their work cut out in trying to turn the economy around without bankrupting the country. Our men and women in the Armed Forces continue to fight and die in Iraq and Afghanistan. The last thing the nation needs is distraction because another politician could not behave himself and acted in a tawdry manner.
The whole story will come out: Patrick Fitzgerald will guarantee that. If Mr. Burris committed a crime, he should pay the penalty. If his only crime is to have been politically clueless, he should be promised his full pension as a former member of the U.S. Senate. But, he should have the decency to step aside even if it means abandoning his dreams of a successful and respected career in the U.S. Senate. His association with Blagojevich is enough to ensure that he will never get much in the way of respect, and without that, there will be no success. He should leave with as much dignity as he can muster. Let him have his pension pending the criminal inquiry. And let the country get on with its business.