A chance meeting between a dull kitchen knife and my left hand as I prepared Christmas dinner turned into blood at first sight. So, I'm just now healed enough to be able to type with both hands. In other words, this is a lame excuse on why I haven't posted in three weeks.
But now, I'm back. Here's a column I wrote for Ebonyjet.com about Gov. Rod Blagojevich's appointment of Roland Burris to Barack Obama's vacated senate seat. The selection may be as much about jury selection as it is about good governance.
Here's what I had to say.
Mr. Burris Goes To Washington
The appointment of Roland Burris to Obama's Senate seat is anything but a simple plan
January 6, 2009
By Monroe Anderson
I missed the exact moment when Barack Obama's vacant U.S. Senate post became a blacks only seat. No one sent me an email declaring it was ours. Nor did anyone hit up my cell or Facebook page. I didn't even get a tweet.
But, apparently, the seat that once belonged to the president-elect now commands exclusive dibs from black pols in Illinois, period. No whites need apply. Asians or Hispanics shouldn't bother either.
Rep. Bobby Rush said as much. During Gov. Rod Blagojevich's news conference last week announcing the appointment of Roland Burris to Obama's vacated seat, the Illinois congressman from Chicago emerged from the press pool to commandeer the mike. "Let me remind you that there presently is no African American in the Senate," Rush said, talking through the media to address state and national Democrats. "I would ask you not to hang or lynch the appointee as you try to castigate the appointer."
And while the appointer kept asserting during the news conference that it was all about the appointee, I didn't quite buy it.
I believe that it's about Burris as the black appointee as much as it is about the red herring to be introduced at the governor's jury trial. Blagojevich hasn't been indicted yet, but the big money is betting that he will be come spring. Anticipating the inevitable, the governor has hired Ed Genson, the high-priced super lawyer who got R. Kelly off, as his defense attorney.
When the trial begins, the Burris appointment—if it plays out badly with the Democrats over the next couple of days—may play well in Blagojevich's defense. Think O.J. If the Senate Dems have a fit, denying the one seat vacated by an African American to be filled by another, then any blacks on the jury may be sympathetic enough to the governor to vote to acquit him—striking another symbolic blow against institutional American racism.
I know it sounds a little far-fetched but so does the idea that a governor would try to sell the U.S. Senate seat to the highest bidder. But it also sounds far-fetched that in 21st-century America, blacks have no representation in the U.S. Senate, while there are 13 Jewish Americans, three Hispanics and two Asians. It is also outlandish that in this time of change, Democratic leaders would ignore the law to play politics.
Illinois State Democrats are in a mad rush to impeach their defiant governor and U.S. Atty. Patrick Fitzgerald is working overtime to indict him, but so far Blagojevich has not been proven guilty of anything but having a filthy mouth. That means the governor is lawfully empowered to appoint Burris, who is untouched by any hint of corruption and unquestionably qualified to perform the duties of the post.
Thirty years ago, Burris became state comptroller, the first black Democrat elected to statewide office in Illinois. After three terms in that office, he was elected the Illinois attorney general. Since then, he's become a lovable loser. He has run three times for governor, and one time each for mayor and U.S. senator, each time coming up empty handed.
That's why Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and the Dems are doing so much hand wringing. Although he denies it, Reid has been reported as saying he did not want the seat to go to Representatives Jesse Jackson Jr., Danny Davis or state Senate President Emil Jones because he believes that none of the three black men could win the statewide election in 2010.
If the Democrats insist on taking a bad situation and making it worse, it may be a moot point. Secretary of State Jesse White, the highest-ranking black official in Illinois right now, has refused to certify the Burris appointment. The Democrats in the U.S. Senate insist that they won't seat Burris when he arrives at the chambers today.
They may want to rethink that. Rep. Rush, a former minister of the Black Panthers who is now a Baptist minister, Sunday night called the Senate "one of the last bastions of plantation and racial politics in America," then warned that the Senate Democrats who fight Burris' appointment are "going to ask for forgiveness" from the black American voter.
Hmmmm. Come to think about it, that seat may need to be black after all.
Monroe Anderson is an award-winning journalist who penned op-ed columns for both the Chicago Tribune and the Chicago Sun-Times. Check out his blog at monroeanderson.typepad.com