Couldn’t We Ask The Supreme Court What They Think Of The Rules?

Max, allow me to say that I am wholly in support of our executive branch upholding the law and I am disappointed if I came off otherwise. And I don’t think that sentiment is in conflict with my original argument that our leadership has handled a few Senate scandals, including the Blagojevich-Burris situation, poorly. In regard to Powell v. McCormack there are definitely those who believe the Senate’s hands are tied but there also seems to be an argument on the other side that because Burris was not elected by the people of Illinois it may be possible to refuse to seat him. Given that there appear to be reasonable arguments behind both interpretations of the law, it is a fair bet that any challenge to Burris’ appointment would eventually go to the Supreme Court. I suspect (and hope) that before Harry Reid’s initial comments that the Senate would refuse to seat anyone appointed by Blagojevich that Reid actually investigated whether contesting a Blagojevich appointment was legally tenable.

Reid also (allegedly) made the catastrophic mistake of privately pressuring Blagojevich to select either Lisa Madigan or Tammy Duckworth for the seat over Jesse Jackson Jr., Danny Davis and Emil Jones. Not only was Reid making a mistake to publicly state the Senate would not seat any Blagojevich appointee while privately pushing for particular appointees, but Reid also opened himself up to the criticism that race was a driving factor in his preference for the appointment. And astonishingly Reid did this by assuming he could trust a corrupt politician in the midst of scandal and public bouts of megalomania to keep a private conversation private. Reid effectively neutered himself on the issue and a better leader would have handled the situation without embarrassing himself so thoroughly. Reid backed himself into a corner where it would look like he was advocating for particular candidates because of their race rather than their qualifications (and he very well may have!) and it hindered his ability to be fully critical of Blagojevich’s slection of Burris. In fact you could say this was played masterfully by Blago after receiving the “advice” from Reid.

As for Obama, it is less clear where he stands however he does have a dicey history with the black Chicago south side constituency that Burris made his career out of. Obama even lost an election to Bobby Rush, who spoke at the press conference during which Burris’ appointment was announced. It could only look bad for Obama to involve himself in these issues. Obama would be lowering himself to take a legally risky position (although once again, possibly tenable) in a battle against a weak, scandal tainted Illinois politician and two pillars of the Chicago black community. The risk is high and the reward likely low. And we have already seen Obama shy to risk any capital when he declined to actively campaign for Jim Martin against Saxby Chambliss in Georgia’s Senate runoff.

What I see here is ham-handed leadership by Reid and a need to be mindful of risking political capital by both Reid and Obama. My point was never that political agendas should trump the law, instead my point was that concerns of integrity will likely always lag behind concerns of politics. The old boys network of the Senate must laud a long time Senator regardless of his number of felony convictions and our legislators only dislike Blagojevich appointees when the appointee is not the one that the party privately lobbied for.

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One Response

  1. I relent. You are right that Reid biffed the opposition, and then biffed the acceptance of Burris. He’s a chump. I think everyone was shocked that Blagojevich had the chutzpah to appoint someone. That said, the odds that something shady went down for Burris to get the seat are exceedingly low: everyone knew they were being wiretapped. Either they should have known from the start they had to seat him, or they shouldn’t have said they weren’t going to.

    I’m the first to call democrats weak when they warrant it, but in this case I think it was stupidity more than anything else.

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