Wednesday, December 31, 2008

An Honest Politician

The beleaguered governor of the state of Illinois, Rod Blagojevich, has delivered the parting shot of 2008 by appointing the Honorable Roland Burris to fill the Senate seat vacated by President-elect Barack Obama. It was an awesome, in-your-face move indicative of hard ball Chicago politics, but this move will have national repercussions.

The appointment was challenged even before it was made. The Senate Democratic leadership has said they would not seat Blago's appointment. IL Secretary of State Jesse White has said he would not certify the appointment. Others, including Obama, have said that any appointment by Blagojevich would be tainted. Burris himself had even asked the governor to step down, publicly.

But Blago has decided to step up his game to another level. Once the IL Supreme Court rebuffed Attorney General Lisa Madigan's attempt to remove the governor, that gave Blago the time to plan this move. And what a move he made.

Roland Burris is a friend and political mentor of mine. Burris was the first African-American to be elected to statewide office in Illinois. He served three terms as Comptroller of the State and then was elected Attorney General. He actually ran twice for governor, including in 2002 against Blagojevich. He has served as Treasurer of the Democratic National Committee and has been a major fundraiser for Democratic candidates for years, including the President-elect.

He grew up in Centrailia, IL with my father. My dad's best friend growing up was Burris' Chief of Staff. Burris married a Mississippi woman and he hosts the annual Centrailia reunion. Currently, Burris, a lawyer by training and former bank vice-president, is a partner in a major Illinois lobbying firm. More importantly, Burris is one of the most honest and conscious politicians one could ever meet.

Many people who have heard me speak know that I have a number of catch phrases that define my political philosophy. One of them is, "There are two types of politicians: honest ones and rich ones. You have to decide which one you want to be." Right after I graduated from Jackson State University, I went home to Chicago to visit my parents. Burris heard that I was in town and asked me to stop by his office downtown. He was the Attorney General at that time and was contemplating his first run for governor. We talked for a half an hour in which the highlight was the aforementioned quote, his personal advice for a young man he admired from afar who had an interest in politics.

I made my choice to be an honest politician and Roland has been a strong supporter of mine in my two efforts to go to the United States Senate. Knowing Roland Burris the way I do, I know he made his choice to be an honest politician when I was in kindergarten. The last time I was in Chicago, Burris held a fundraiser for me and confided in me that he might be the one appointed to finish Obama's unexpired term. I think he is an excellent choice, probably the best choice Blago has made in his political life.

The problem now is the fact that Burris' character will not be the determining factor. He has become just the weapon of choice for Blago in his fight to retain power and those who are opposing the appointment think highly of Burris. However, Bobby Rush, the powerful Congressman from 1st District of Illinois, the district by the way that has been represented by an African-American longer than any other district in America, dropped the race gauntlet into the mix. So now Burris has the moniker of being the Black appointment that must be accepted since there are no African-Americans currently in the U.S. Senate.

This is not fair to a man of Roland's caliber and character, but he accepted the role, and that is the battleground on which he put himself on. Christians are taught that what is meant for evil turns to good for those that accept, and have, the favor of God. If Roland Burris becomes the next U.S. Senator from the State of Illinois, it will be an affirmation of our faith.

In short, an honest politician should replace an honest politician, regardless of the circumstances. Roland Burris is the right choice to replace Barack Obama.