Circus

CIRCUS…. I hope I wasn’t the only one who watched the Blagojevich/Burris press conference rather gobsmacked. The controversy surrounding Blagojevich was surreal enough before today, but this afternoon’s leak, followed by a bizarre press conference, has moved this story from bizarre to farcical.

Blagojevich introduced Burris, Burris offered some boilerplate rhetoric, and largely pretended that the man standing next to him is not scandal-plagued at all. Blagojevich emphasized a few times that the people of Illinois deserve two senators, so he had no choice but to make this decision.

The Q&A portion was a mess, and after several questions, Burris noticed that Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Ill.) was in the room. Burris, unexpectedly, invited Rush to say a few words, and the congressman ended up saying more than either Blagojevich or Burris.

It bordered on surreal. Rush said Blagojevich had answered his prayers, and insisted that voters make a distinction between the “designatee” and the “designator.” Rush spoke at some length about the lack of African Americans in the Senate — if seated, Burris would be the only one — and effectively argued that Senate Democrats couldn’t possibly reject Burris’ appointment without snubbing African Americans in general. It wasn’t just playing the race card, it was playing the race card old school.

Rush said he would personally urge the Senate to seat Burris, vowing to “persuade them, challenge them, beg them, whatever it takes.”

The word “lynching” was thrown around a few too many times.

I have to admit, watching the bizarre event unfold, Blagojevich seemed to be having a great time. I got the sense that he thinks, for the first time in weeks, that he’s finally on the offense, sticking it to, well, pretty much everyone. He even took a shot at the legislature, saying today’s decision is their fault, because they didn’t call for the special election he wanted.

It was quite the political circus.

Update: Looking over my notes, I had one other observation to pass along. Burris was asked if he’d seek re-election if he takes office. He said he’d “determine that when we get to that point.”

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Steve Benen

Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.