Does Burris have a chance?

DOES BURRIS HAVE A CHANCE?…. In the previous post, a reader in Illinois summarizes a point I’ve heard quite a bit this afternoon about former Illinois Attorney General Roland Burris, Rod Blagojevich’s apparent choice to fill Barack Obama’s seat in the Senate.

Taking the appointment at face value, Roland is well known and liked here in Illinois. He built a long career in politics without hint of scandal, which, as has been documented as nauseum, is not an easy thing to do here. He’s a great choice.

A TPM reader in Illinois makes a similar point.

My home state’s culture of political corruption is well documented. Roland Burris managed to build a career in politics in this state without falling into that muck. He is, to the best of everyone’s knowledge, squeaky clean, and he’s highly respected. He’s 71 years old, so I wonder if he intends to serve as a caretaker. But he’s an honorable guy, well liked by people across the state in both parties. It’s a stroke of brilliance by Blagojevich in my opinion.

I’ve seen/heard similar sentiments elsewhere. Indeed, more than a few people have suggested that Blagojevich wanted to find the one person voters in Illinois would approve of, and the one person senators in D.C. would consider actually seating, and Burris was the only name that fit the bill.

It’s certainly possible that Harry Reid and other Senate leaders may, in fact, pause before rejecting a respected figure like Burris, who would be the chamber’s only African-American member.

But my hunch is that pause won’t last long. Senators told Blagojevich, in writing and in no uncertain terms, that his choice wouldn’t be seated. Reid & Co. may respect Burris, but this really isn’t about him, it’s about the governor. What are senators going to say, “We were going to reject Blagojevich’s choice, but since he picked a respected black man, we’ve changed our minds”? I doubt it.

This is hardly a situation in which senators would worry about accusations of racism. It’s pretty obvious lawmakers have a problem with Blagojevich’s alleged corruption, nothing more.

For what it’s worth, while Burris is going to have to explain why he’d even accept this appointment in the first place, Adam Serwer notes that Burris probably won’t be labeled a close Blagojevich ally.

Burris announced his interest in the [vacant Senate] seat at a December 13 press conference. And he didn’t pull any punches with regards to the governor. He described Blagojevich’s alleged efforts to sell the Senate appointment as “pretty appalling” and “just reprehensible.” He also endorsed Attorney Gen. Lisa Madigan’s effort at the time to get the Illinois Supreme Court to remove the governor from office, describing Blagojevich as “incapacitated.”

Stay tuned.

Update: A Democratic leadership aide told Ben Smith that Majority Leader Harry Reid views Burris as “unacceptable.” Also, in case it matters, Josh Kalvin notes that Burris has said he would not seek another term.

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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.