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January 02, 2009

Harry Reid gets played again [Blago/Burris edition]

Tactical genius Harry Reid scores another coup. In his eagerness to prevent the Senate from seating Roland Burris to replace Barack Obama, Reid encouraged the Illinois Secretary of State to refuse to certify the appointment.

Reid failed to take the following into account: i) The governor of Illinois has a stack "blank check" papers, pre-signed by the Secretary of State, ii) Even the IL Secretary of State publicly admits that his signature isn't necessary, iii) the spurious paperwork argument being used to exclude Burris is already being cited by the Republicans to refuse to provisionally seat Al Franken pending the outcome of legal challenges to his victory in the Minnesota Senate recount.

So, the Senate Dems are looking at a preventable, self-inflicted, two-seat deficit for several months while the inevitable legal challenges play themselves out.

This debacle didn't have to happen. In their zeal to denounce the admittedly slimy Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich, Senate Democrats decided to make his appointee their problem.

The Senate Dems could simply have refused to let Burris caucus with the Democrats. That much could have been accomplished quietly and decisively. Burris would have been neutralized and the scandal would have ended. But no, they had to do it this hard way.

Harry Reid and the Senate Dems overreached when they decided they had to keep Burris out of the Senate entirely. So, we're going to be treated to a reality TV drama when Burris reports for work on Tuesday as the capitol police stand by to prevent him from entering. Dems admit a "radioactive" situation could arise if Blagojevich himself showed up and demanded entry to the Senate--they couldn't kick him out, as sitting governors have floor privileges.

Everybody said that Blagojevich's surprise year-end appointment was a desperate attempt to provoke a showdown. Why did Reid think it was wise to give Blago exactly what he wanted?

One theory is that the Democrats are just stalling to give the Illinois legislature enough time to i) figure out how to impeach the governor, and, ii) do it. Apparently, the Illinois constitution doesn't offer any guidance on how or why a governor may be impeached, it just says that impeachment is an option. If this is a stalling tactic, that's pretty dumb idea in its own right, seeing as there's no obvious legal mechanism for retroactively recalling Blago's appointment.

How did the Senate Democrats set out to look tough on corruption and end up presiding over a three ring circus? Reminds me of that line from the Big Lebowski, "Everything's a fuckin' travesty with you, man!"


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Let's see if Reid is as energized to seat Franken as he is not to seat Burris. For Franken I expect Reid to be interested more in making his Republican colleagues happy, as usual.

Neither Al Franken nor Norm Coleman should be seated until after the lawsuits are resolved.

It would be underhanded to try to prejudice the expected lawsuits by seating one of them.

Similarly, it was wrong to seat Congressman Vern Buchanan (R-FL) before the issue of his dubious 2006 victory was resolved (electronic voting machines produced undervotes in Florida. The state of Florida then got rid of electronic voting machines for the 2008 election, switching to optical scan ballots statewide.)

How hard is it to impeach Blago?

Democrats in Keystone Cops mode again. Jesus.

Isn't there any way to impeach Harry Reid and get him out of the way? The Dems need some new leadership. I'm just astounded they act so idiotic...or maybe not.

Reid is really ineffectual ... time for him to go.

As I've noted elsewhere, Reid and the rest of the Dems are playing a game where the refs (the media) secretly wear the jerseys of the other side under their stripes. It doesn't mean he's not screwing up, but it does mean it's not self-evident that he's screwing up. In a rigged game, you can never be entirely sure when you're going to get hit with the penalty flag, or what infractions from the other side will get a blind eye.

It seems to me that when Reid & the Dems (incorrectly) said they wouldn't seat a Blago nominee, they were hoping to: 1. distance the Dems from a scandal which had a high probability of tarnishing Obama, and 2. send a clear signal that the party was united in the notion that Blago's Career Was Over and he should leave the field. They were gambling on Blago not being a complete asshole.

Well, they lost that gamble, but if they hadn't taken it, I think it's likely that at least some — probably many — pundits would have pontificated that the Dems' Failure To Take A Hard Stand Has Encouraged Blago To Stay On and Gee I Wonder If There's Something Special About Chicago Corruption That's Interfering With Dems' Ability To Take A Hard Stand Here Gosh Gee What Could It Be?

Once again, it may have been the wrong decision, but it's not at all clear that there was any 'right' decision to be made.

How hard is it to impeach Blago?

Assuming that they want to give him appropriate due process, and take the trouble to figure out what constitutes appropriate due process, it's probably not so easy.

Good points, ballgame.

I feel like the Senate Dems could have gotten just as much mileage out of banning Burris from their caucus. That's a big deal, especially for a freshman senator with just two years left in his term.

They opened a real can of worms by trying to ban Burris from the Senate altogether. If anyone had asked why they were going to let him be seated as an independent, they could just say that they didn't have the legal authority to keep him out because the Illinois legislature for dropping the ball on impeachment. Here's where the rigged game becomes a consideration. It's entirely possible that the reasonable move would have been pilloried in the established media. What? Harry Reid doesn't want to keep Burris out of the Senate by any means necessary? He sure must love corruption.

Please explain to me why Burris deserves to bear the burden of shunning for not-convicted, not-indicted, duly-elected Blagojevich. Burris is a) competent, b) clean, and c) a Democrat. He's also over 30 years of age and a native-born citizen. He might also be a Boy Scout.

All of the qualities, especially a), pretty strongly recommend him.

the refs (the media) secretly wear the jerseys of the other side under their stripes.

This is something both sides seem to agree on.

This is something both sides seem to agree on.

Damn it- if only there were some way of determining the merits of differing arguments through reason and evidence! I guess I'd better stop dreaming, though, and resign myself to the only respectable conclusion: both the moonbats and the wingnuts are equally deluded, and our media establishment is just peachy.

One motivation for the Democratic Party may be the opportunity to audition a new leader from Illinois. Open seats are sometimes given to competent and attractive politicians within the party who would have to overcome awkward electoral obstacles in order to rise to higher office.

(Some people think that this is a reason to appoint Caroline Kennedy in NY. I think it is a reason NOT to, when one of the relatively unknown public servants in the state could really make a splash. If the NY Dems are doing their jobs, they should have a list of such individuals in their heads and in their notes from strategic meetings.)

Seating Roland Burris would be a serious setback for the Illinois Democratic Party (if it had this kind of plan), as these situations don't happen frequently for the US Senate. It could be a setback for the national party for the same reasons: a future leader lost, one who could have made an impact (or garnered publicity) for two years and then won a state-wide election that he or she would otherwise lose to a more established candidate in the primary.

Keep in mind that this is a long-term strategy, so you may choose to believe that political parties can't think this way.

As for the recall of the governor: it is very difficult in Illinois. There was a referendum, this November, to call a constitutional convention in part to make it easier to recall the governor (that is, Blago).

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