THERE IS NO BULL CONNOR IN THE DEMOCRATIC CAUCUS…. One can make a reasonable case that Roland Burris’ appointment to the Senate should go through, Rod Blagojevich’s scandal notwithstanding. But this is the wrong way to make the argument.
In an interview this morning on the CBS “Early Show,” Rep. Bobby Rush compared Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s refusal to seat Roland Burris with the actions of leading segregationists from decades past, including George Wallace and Bull Connor.
Seriously, he did. Rush specifically said, “[T]he recent history of our nation has shown us that sometimes there could be individuals and there could be situations where school children — where you have officials standing in the doorway of school children. You know, I’m talking about all of us back in 1957 in Little Rock, Arkansas. I’m talking about George Wallace, Bull Connors and I’m sure that the U.S. Senate don’t want to see themselves placed in the same position.”
Burris himself appeared on NBC’s “Today” this morning, and raised the same point, though in a more passive way: “Is it racism that is taking place? That’s a question that someone may raise.”
This strategy is a mistake. Blagojevich almost certainly considered Burris’ race before making his announcement, but there’s no evidence at all that Senate Democrats or Barack Obama are basing their opposition on anything but the governor’s corruption allegations. The comparison of modern-day Senate Democrats to George Wallace and Bull Connor is baseless and irresponsible. For Burris to even raise the possibility that racism is a factor here isn’t much better.
Strategically, a race-based strategy isn’t just offensive, it’s likely to be counter-productive. I seriously doubt Harry Reid is going to respond well to these kinds of accusations, especially when Reid has Barack Obama taking the same position.
Burris and his supporters who want to see him fill the vacancy have a far better option: emphasize the rule of law. Remind the political world, Illinois voters, and reporters that, like him or not, Blagojevich is the duly-elected governor, he has the sole authority to fill this vacancy, and he enjoys the presumption of innocence. Burris is unrelated to the governor’s scandal, and he’s fully qualified and eligible to serve. The Supreme Court precedent in the Powell case seems to back them up.
What’s that old law-school adage? “When you have the facts, argue the facts. When you have the law, argue the law.” My advice to Burris and his surrogates: skip the Bull Connor nonsense and go with the more compelling argument.