First and foremost, we should recognize that in Burris the people of Illinois have an outstanding public servant as their new senator -- not withstanding the unfair and scurrilous criticisms flung at him by pandering political leaders and a public press on a feeding frenzy,
Burris has been one of the most descent public officials in recent history. In an Illinois environment of pay-to-play, insider deals, bribery, vote fraud, cronyism, nepotism, abuse of office, etc., Burris has kept his integrity. He has been faithful to the calling of public service.
He was the first African-American to win statewide office. In sixteen years in office, eight as Comptroller and eight as Attorney General, he was not once the subject of scandal. Somehow his unsuccessful bids for later offices are held against him despite the fact that those campaigns were run with dignity, intelligence and integrity. Losing an election is no sin – and consider for one moment the caliber of those who beat him.
Burris’ critics come in two varieties. The first group is composed of the revisionists, who once praised and endorsed him for public office in the past. On the basis of nothing more than their almost crazed desire to “get” Governor Rod Blagojevich (who certainly deserves to be “got,” and will be), they have turned on Burris like rabid dogs.
For the revisionists, the mere acceptance of a seat in the U.S. Senate wiped out a long, distinguished and honorable career in politics. In maligning Burris, they are re-writing history. Burris is retroactively declared to be a hack politician, an ego maniac, a scumbag of sorts.
What Burris did is not illegal. It is not immoral. It is not even the slightest disservice to the public. As a career politician, his interest and willingness to accept a historic senate seat is understandable. I suspect there are a lot of “good people” who would have done the same. I would have.
Then there are those who still say Burris is a “good man” … “qualified” … “competent” … but he should not have been seated due to the sins of the appointer. They say the appointment is “tainted.” There opposition has nothing to do with Burris as a person. It is that damn Blagojevich.
This is nothing less than guilt by association – and a hypocritical double standard, to boot. Many of the very same people who wrap Blago around Burris had, themselves, close working relationships with the Governor. Lt. Governor Pat Quinn was his running mate for re-election even as the feds were closing in. Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan was Blago’s campaign co-chairman. Much of the media that now demonizes Burris by the proxy of Blagojevich endorsed the Governor’s re-election on their editorial pages.
Taking it personal … I have known Roland for almost 30 years as a friend and as a member of the board of the City Club of Chicago, in the days I served as its executive director. Though I generally leaned Republican, he always had my support because of his competency and decency.
Though much has been made of his monumental grave marker, Roland has always been a humble and unpretentious man. I have never known him to use race to his advantage or as an excuse.
No matter how he got there, or who appointed him, or the twisted logic that places the wrongs of the Governor on his shoulders, I know one thing for sure. Illinois has sent a good man to Washington, and I am confident that he will serve the people of Illinois with effectiveness, dedication and integrity.