Blagojevich Taps Roland Burris to Replace Obama in the Senate

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Kevin Sheekey, secretly pushy. Photo: Getty Images

The cable talking heads are having spasms right now, unable to settle on a term for scandal-plagued Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich's decision to appoint former attorney general for Illinois Roland Burris to replace President-elect Barack Obama in the Senate. Leading up to today's just-finished press conference, they toyed with "cojones," "bravado," and even "chesticular fortitude." We'll just say it. The dude has balls. Even though the Illinois legislature and Barack Obama himself begged Blago not to appoint anyone while he was under federal investigation for trying to sell the position, and even though Senate Democrats have announced that they wouldn't seat his nominee in their caucus, he went ahead and did it anyway.

Burris stood beside Blago at the podium, positively beaming throughout the press conference. If there was any question as to whether he had the judgment necessary to take over the Senate seat, it seems to have been answered now. Burris appeared blissfully unaware of any of the insane controversy over accepting the position from Blagojevich. "This is an appointment done by the governor of the state," the 71-year-old attorney explained. "Based on that, I have no relationship with [the seat-selling investigation]." But, dude, you accepted the seat from the man who tried to sell it — isn't that a direct relationship?

"I don't want to hog the limelight," Blagojevich said, when asked about the scandal. "Please don’t allow the allegations against me to taint this good and honest man." He expressed absolute confidence that the Senate would seat Burris. Then, out of the blue, Illinois Representative Bobby Rush joined Blago at the podium to speak on behalf of Burris and extol the virtue of replacing Obama with another African-American.

If it's not clear to you, our minds are officially blown.

Update: Okay, after piecing together the splattered bits of our minds, with the help of Daily Intel political guru Dan Amira, we have some thoughts. First of all, how badly did Blagojevich's attempt to gloss over this move backfire? It's not even that by appointing a seemingly good, well-qualified guy, Blago is acting as though he is innocent. It's that he's minimizing the entire issue. An innocent-but-sane person would recognize that the seat-selling conflict was serious business and would take time to resolve. Naturally one should recuse himself in that situation. But by pretending that it's not even a blip on the reality radar, Blago is only highlighting how out of touch he is. The media will have a field day with this.

Second, it's pretty despicable the way that Blago and Bobby Rush played the race card. Rush challenged Senate Democrats to stand up and say they wouldn't seat an African-American candidate. But the caucus just helped elect the first black president in American history from their own ranks. Of all times, now is perhaps the most obvious one in which they don't have to worry about their multicultural cred. And to try to make this a skin-color issue instead of an integrity one is playing to exactly the kind of race politics the nation successfully avoided during (almost) the entire 2008 presidential election.