Blago Bloggo: Or, What Part of the 17th Amendment Don’t You Understand?Posted: January 2, 2009
Obama is fond of saying, when pressed on policy matters during this interim period before his inauguration, “We have only one President at a time, and it is George Bush.” Quite right. It is equally true that Illinois only has one governor at a time, and that governor is Rod Blagojevich.
What ought to be happening now, is that we ought to be paying attention to the law, not to our sense of high moral dudgeon. The law is explicit on what happens when Illinois has a U.S. Senate vacancy. It’s called the Constitution, specifically the 17th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, and it says the governor makes the appointment. Here’s something it doesn’t say: “The governor makes the appointment as long as everyone has confidence in the governor’s honesty.” Here’s something else it doesn’t say: “The governor makes the appointment as long as everybody is pretty sure the governor is going to be the governor for a while.” It says the governor makes the appointment.
What part of that is ambiguous?
Just as there are laws that make explicit what is supposed to happen when we have a Senate vacancy, there are laws that lay out the process for the indictment and conviction of bribetakers, and for the impeachment of state officeholders who have betrayed the public trust. We do not have to make this thing up from scratch. We don’t have to wring our hands about what to do next. We don’t have to manufacture a constitutional crisis over this. All we have to do is follow the law.
What should happen:
1) Since, in my opinion, Blagojevich is a crook, he should be impeached and removed from office, and indicted and convicted in federal court, ASAP.
2) Since he has not yet been indicted or impeached, he should be fulfilling his obligations as governor and appointing a person to fill our empty Senate seat. This, to his credit, he has done. We are entitled to two U.S. senators just as every other state is.
In failing to impeach the governor by now, the Illinois legislature has, in effect, mandated that Blagojevich make the appointment. That is not what they intended, but that is what they have done. Given this, it’s a good thing Blagojevich did so — especially since neither his conviction nor his impeachment are foregone conclusions. Can anyone say with surety that he will not still be Governor of Illinois a year from now? No, they can’t. Are we supposed to go without a U.S. senator that long? No, we are not.
The pronouncements by the Democratic leadership of the U.S. Senate that they are not going to accept a Blagojevich choice are outrageous. The Constitution says Blagojevich gets to make the pick. If the Senate rejects Roland Burris, Illinois should take the matter to the Supreme Court to test the constitutionality of that rejection. (That won’t happen, because our state Attorney General happens to be an enemy of Blagojevich, but it should. In fact, if she fails to pursue this action on behalf of her constituents, the people of Illinois, Attorney General Lisa Madigan should be impeached.) In any case, if the state doesn’t take it to the U.S. Supreme Court, Roland Burris’ own attorney has already announced that he will. And he will win, because the law is straightforward. The Senate’s prerogatives in challenging the qualifications of incoming members are strictly limited to legal qualifications, such as, is the incoming senator a citizen of the state he represents, and is he at least 30 years old. Burris qualifies.
Way to unnecessarily provoke a constitutional crisis and make yourselves look like asses when you lose, Democratic Senate leadership.
Meanwhile, the press continues to try to hang this thing on Obama’s back, all the while expressing “concern” that it will cast a cloud over his presidency. There is no cause for concern, and no cloud – other than the one the press is creating! The jackals.
Everybody take a deep breath. U.S. Senate leaders, seat Roland Burris when he comes to Washington next week. U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald, pursue your criminal case against Rod Blagojevich. Illinois legislature, keep your impeachment inquiry on track and bring it to its conclusion expeditiously.
Christ, is that so complicated?
While we’re at it, here’s another thing that frosts my ass about the way the media is reporting this. They keep trotting out the Blago quote, “This thing is golden, I’m not giving it away for nothing,” as if that means something. Unless he was talking about a contribution to his own coffers (and he might have been, but this has not been proven), there is nothing at all untoward about that quote. Any politician would say it. Politics, famously, is the art of compromise, and compromise always means you give me something for what I give you. The quote, in itself, does not suggest anything different from the sort of logrolling we accept, relatively happily, as part of the American political process. The quid pro quo Blagojevich had in mind could have been, “I’m not giving this away — I’m going to hold out for a promise of $5 billion in federal capital improvement funds for my state.” I don’t think he did mean that, but there’s nothing in the quote that says he didn’t. So to keep repeating it as if it’s prima facie evidence of guilt (as I heard Rachel Maddow do the other night, but she’s not alone) is idiotic.