In some of his columns, the humorist Dave Barry will throw in a comment to describe some completely ridiculous event or behavior: "I am not making this up". It would be nice to have Dave Barry blogging the Illinois Senate appointment story, since each day we are handed some morsel that falls into the "I am not making this up" department".
On Tuesday, Governor Blagojevich, facing impeachment in the Illinois legislature, appointed Roland Burris to the open Senate seat vacated by Barack Obama. Burris, the first African American elected to a statewide office in Illinois, also has another claim to fame -- he has lost the last 4 elections in which he competed: Mayor of Chicago in 1995, and the Democratic nomination for Governor of Illinois in 1994, 1998, and 2002. This is not a bad losing streak for Illinois and Chicago, where streaks of futility are pretty common: the Cubs' 101 years without a championship and 9 straight playoff game losses, the Blackhawks' 46 years without the Stanley Cup, and the White Sox's 87 years without a title until their victory in 2005.
Burris is, to say the least, also a bit odd. He has constructed a monument to his political career, with extra space for future accomplishments - prophetically appropriate, since Burris has now been appointed a US Senator. Yet his appointment has not been accepted by the Illinois Secretary of State, Jesse White (who was also one of those mentioned as a possible interim Senator), and Burris has gone to Court to force the Secretary's compliance with Blagojevich's wishes. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has stated that Democrats in the Senate will not accept Burris' appointment, due to the cloud hanging over Blagojevich. Barack Obama has weighed in supporting whatever the Democratic Senators decide, though praising Burris. The fact that Burris is African-American is of course very important in all this. For a Governor with a long record of playing dumb, this was a pretty smart move. With Obama off to the White House, the Senate will once again have no blacks unless an African American reclaims the Obama seat for the race. At least that is what the head of the Urban League said on Tuesday .
Marc Morial, president and CEO of the National Urban League, "the nation's largest and oldest civil rights and direct services organization," said African-American voters and officials are eager to see a black lawmaker take Obama's place in the Senate.
"It is important to many of us that there be African-American representation in the U.S. Senate. We're very proud of Barack Obama, but it is a fact that the potential is there for the Senate to go back to being an all-white body."
So for Morial, the following US Senators are now presumed to be all white, which is just not right: Daniel Inouye, Daniel Akaka, Ken Salazar, Robert Menendez, and Mel Martinez. But weren't Salazar, Menendez and Martinez the Hispanic representatives in the Senate? Is Morial accusing them of just being plain white? Tell that to La Raza. And what of this: Martinez will not run for re-election in 2010, and Salazar has just been appointed Secretary of the Interior. Is Barack Obama, by his election to the Presidency, and his appointments, leading the Senate back toward the dark ages of being a lily white body?
Rushing to the stage after Blagojevich announced Burris as his choice, was Chicago Congressman Bobby Rush. The former Black Panther made a statement after Blagojevich's arrest that the Governor should not be allowed to name a new replacement Senator. But once Blago appointed Burris, Rush changed his tune. But Rush went further. Harkening back to the days of George Wallace and Bull Connor, Rush stated that if the Senate blocked Burris, it was tantamount to "hanging" and "lynching" him. Rush argued that because Burris would be the only black in the Senate, rejecting him would be racist.
"There are no African-Americans in the Senate," Rush said, "and I don't think that anyone -- any U.S. senator, who's sitting in the Senate, right now, wants to go on record to deny one African-American for being seated in the U.S. Senate."
Rush and Barack Obama have an interesting history. In 2000, Obama unsuccessfully challenged Rush for his House seat in the Democratic primary. Four year later, when Obama ran in the Democratic primary for the open US Senate seat, Rush supported white businessman Blair Hull against him. Needless to say, there were no blacks in the Senate at the time Obama was running. But Obama's challenge in 2000 was clearly not forgotten or forgiven by Rush, who tried to deliver black support for Hull. Hull appeared headed to victory until a Chicago Tribune story revealed he had allegedly abused his wife.
But now that Obama is gone, Rush appears to believe the seat must be held by a black.
Will Harry Reid stand up to the pressure from blacks to accept Burris, and leave him hanging out to dry (if not exactly "lynching" him), or will he prove as spineless as his critics on the left believe him to be, and cave in and accept Burris?
As Dave Barry would say, I am not making any of this up. Richard Baehr is Chief Political Correspondent of American Thinker.