Posted By: Michael Sweeney Feb. 17, 2009
Posted By: Michael Sweeney
Feb. 17, 2009
So...lemme ask you a question. Let’s say that you’re seeking a prominent – a VERY prominent – role in a very public industry in which you used to work (but that you had been – somewhat forcibly – retired from for nearly 15 years). AND, as part of that suddenly prominent re-emergence, you must be questioned – under oath, as it turns out – by lower-ranking personnel in the industry you are returning to in a public and binding forum…AND they specifically want to ask you detailed inquiries about your connections and contacts to the now-disgraced, about-to-be-booted-from-his-job high-up executive who plucked you back from near-obscurity and appointed you into this prime position that you have (apparently) long sought to achieve.
…OK, all of the above is the set-up…and, frankly, the questioning at this point is pretty much easy-to-step-through tidying up that will get you where you want to go and still give the questioners the cover of not just waving you on without investigation. Of course, you are very experienced at dealing with questions publicly AND have pretty much made it through the previous portions of your career without scandal – in a field where prying eyes are always seeking to discover secrets, lies, or even simple inconsistencies.
…So, here’s the question: All that…and THEN you’re gonna try to slip a few apparently calculated lies (or, at absolute best, glaringly awful omissions) past the questioners, the rest of the room, the gathered and extended media, the interested audience across the state and country, and all the others who are watching, listening to, and reading about your words? You’re gonna risk EVERYTHING – that long career (during which you set still-respected benchmarks) and that glittering, dreamt-of new promotion – over trying to picky-pick your way through some misleading answers, faux-cleverly arming yourself with some sort of lame-ass "Oh, they didn’t ask the right questions" or "But I didn’t think that part mattered as much" defense if you happen to screw up and get caught? Ohh-kay, now THAT sure sounds like a great plan, eh?
Thus, we find ourselves hip-deep in the next unexpected chapter of "Rod Blagojevich and the Seemingly Never-Ending Multiple Ripples Surrounding Him," as previously free-and-clear-seeming US Senator Roland Burris (of course, appointed by the ex-Gov. Blago to finish the Senate term of now-President Obama) is now starting to look – at best – as if he’s been caught lying and is politically wounded…and – at worst – as if he might be already politically fatally injured and not long for his position.
It turns out that on Jan. 5, Burris submitted a sworn affidavit to IL lawmakers that said he had not had any contact (nor had any of his representatives) with Blago (or his people) about Burris’ potential appointment to the Senate seat. Then, several days later, while being questioned by IL lawmakers considering the impeachment of Blago, Burris – while testifying under oath – was directly asked if he had discussed the potential Senate appointment with any of Blago’s top confidants. In fact, the Governor’s brother Rob was specifically mentioned by name among the possible contacts that Burris was being grilled about. Burris’ only response was that he recalled a conversation months earlier (about interest in the Senate seat) with former Blago chief of staff, Lon Monk.
OK, that’s one semi-slight change over the course of a few days…perhaps just a misunderstanding or something, right? I mean, hey – you get picked to be a Senator by a corrupt, flailing, and desperate-seeming pol, and then there must be a bunch of stuff to do and say to get things moving along, right? It must be kinda hard to keep everything straight…
Oh, but then, on Feb. 5 – as the beleaguered but still scrapping Chicago Sun-Times broke this weekend – the then-Senator Burris quietly filed an affidavit with the head of the state committee he had appeared before. And, in this apparently-the-third-time’s-the-charm-when-it-comes-to-telling-the-truth statement, Burris finally acknowledged the discussions he had with the governor's brother, Rob. In the affidavit, Burris said that Blago’s brother talked to him three times, apparently seeking fundraising assistance. Additionally, it turns out that Burris also admitted to speaking with three other close Blago associates about his possible appointment to the Senate. So, now we’ve gone from zero contacts to maybe one to, oh yeah, it’s actually about four or five. Wow – your once-cloudy memory must sure get a whole lot clearer once you actually become a US Senator! (Perhaps the next time I just can’t recall where I placed the TV controller, I ought to consider a primary battle against Dick Durbin or something…)
Burris has now boldly claimed that he had truthfully testified back in January (before he was seated in the Senate)…even though, of course, they directly asked him about Robert Blagojevich and others and he left that information out. Now, the Senator is claiming that the "fluid nature" of the questions did not allow him to "fully respond to several matters." Oh, but NOW he wanted to clear things up…so he voluntarily submitted the new affidavit this month to straighten everything out. (And he did it pretty quietly, too; the Sun-Times only found the discrepancies in the statement after Burris had directed them there to look for some other clarifying answer.)
…In other words – oops, I wasn’t totally honest back then, when doing so MIGHT have prevented me from obtaining this office…but, hey, everything is both hunkie and dory, okie and dokie now, right? Uh, right? (Oh, please, thinks a growing-desperate Burris – tell me that everything is still OK and I get to keep on being a Senator…)
Well, no, it’s not all OK – and some IL Republicans are even calling for perjury charges to be filed against Burris, which is not likely to happen. However, the questionable stain is now prominent on Sen. Burris…and the stank around him is starting to spread.
"I can’t believe anything that comes out of Roland Burris’s mouth anymore," said Jim Durkin, a GOP IL state rep on the Blago impeachment committee who had aimed the original line of questioning at Burris. "This is the third variation of him describing his relationship with the governor and the circumstances of his appointment." Of course, Durkin is pretty much a partisan butthole who lost his last run at statewide office (against Sen. Durbin in ‘02) by a massive 22-point / three-quarter-million vote margin, but…he DOES still make some good points in this case.
Some Dems are also breaking bad on their unexpected Junior Senator…who was considered to have a weak shot at best in the ’10 primaries (what with the state’s loaded Dem candidate bench). It had been a fine line they were allowing him to walk after being launched by Blago, when he made it by the Springfield crowd and the initial Reid / Durbin opposition in Washington – but now that he’s stumbled off that line, the wolves may be at his door.
Things are certainly still in flow here, as Burris boldly sticks his chin out and dares opposition (AND denies any inconsistencies)…but, as the news reports continue to pile on (with some pundits already calling him doomed)…AND members of BOTH political parties decry the Senator’s claims…AND the public teeters a bit on the issues of sworn lies vs. perceived persecution…well, the clock may well be ticking down on his briefly resuscitated political career.
There actually was at least one US Senator who only served a single day…as well as fill-in appointees – such as Dean Barkley from MN in ’02 or Pierre Salinger from CA in ’64 – who only served weeks or months. At this point, Roland Burris has served 32 days in the US Senate. It still remains to be seen just how many more of those days he will get to stack up…
For more coverage of Illinois politics, look for my regular posts here on The Stonecipher Report. (And, for a free subscription to my twice-weekly e-mail column on politics and pop-culture, "And, in the News…" send a note to: [email protected])