What Would Brian Boitano Do? He’d Call All The Kids In Town And Tell Them To Unite For Truth — That’s What Brian Boitano’d Do!

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The truth — despite what some people would have you believe these days — isn’t relative.  Something either is, or it isn’t.  Unless you’re trying to work your way into a cushy public office job, in which case the truth can be many things, depending on what suits your aims the best.

Expecting our elected officials — or anyone serving in a governmental capacity these days — to actually tell the truth is about as hopeless as expecting the Cubs to win the World Series.  Sure it might actually happen, but you statistically have a better chance at hitting the lottery or being struck by lightning than finding truth-telling people in Washington.  Our political system that’s in place, rotted and corrupt as it’s become, is no place these days for an honest man.  But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t expect better anyway from those who are claiming to “lead” us, and when those in public office violate our trust, we should expect there to be repercussions felt.

Everyone knows already about the recent stench in Illinois, with then Governor Rod Blagojevich being driven from office on the heels of strong allegations that he’d attempted to sell the appointment to the vacant Senate seat (that had belonged to now-President Obama), for all intents attempting to trade the office for cash and other favors.  Reprehensible as his actions were — and as deserving of impeachment as anything could be — an even bigger middle finger Blagojevich gave to his constituents and to the entire electoral process was that of naming Roland Burris to the vacant seat anyway, despite the urging of political leaders from all corners and both sides of the aisle not to — including predominant members of his own party and President Obama himself.

Politician-in-training

Politician-in-training

You can throw out the question of whether any vacancy for an office as important as U.S. Senator should be filled by appointment anyway, rather than be contested in special elections (I would rather see the latter).  The problem with this appointment at the time wasn’t with Burris, who by most accounts was a decent enough public servant and someone who hadn’t had the stain upon him of scandal-after-scandal that seems to be drawn to Illinois politicians like moths to the flame.  The problem properly recognized at the time by anyone looking rationally at the situation was that, due to the weight of the evidence building against Blagojevich, anything that the then-Governor attempted to do was immediately suspect.  The then-Governor was the rotten tree, and anything coming from him had to be assumed to be tainted fruit if only by association.  Unfair to Burris, perhaps?  Maybe, but such a course of action would have been the safest and most prudent way to go, and a special election would have been the only way to be sure that Blagojevich’s corrupt actions wouldn’t be destroying the integrity of the office.

Again, both Democratic and Republican leaders knew this — or at least they seemed to know this — back when Burris was first appointed by Blagojevich.  However, once some of the public furor regarding the issue began to die down, and after a House Committee cleared Burris of any improper activity regarding the former Governor after Burris testified that he’d had no contact with Blagojevich or his people, the Senate backed down and allowed Burris to take possession of the vacant seat.  All’s well that end’s well, right?

Except that — surprise, surprise — Burris apparently lied under oath when he testified in front of that House Committee.  Now, he’s changed his story several times and has given several differing accounts of what actually was taking place between him and Blagojevich.  After initially claiming otherwise, Burris now admits to trying to raise money for Blagojevich and having contact with the former Governor’s advisers.  A preliminary Senate Ethics Committee inquiry has begun into Burris’ actions and statements, and Illinois lawmakers are looking into the possibility of perjury charges against the current Senator.

Enough is enough, already.  What’s most disturbing to me is that, even though he knew full well that every action he’d made regarding Blagojevich and his people as well as every word that came out of his mouth would be incredibly scrutinized, Burris still chose to not be completely forthcoming in his admissions.  It’s irrelevant whether or not Burris was really up to something underhanded or not.  Even if we presume he’s innocent of unethical behavior regarding the appointment, he’s still guilty of being incredibly arrogant in his apparent stance that the entire truth wasn’t necessary in his sworn statements to the House Committee, and in believing that he showed such an ignorance and poor judgement that the question on the minds of Illinois voters has to be:  Why would we want this guy making decisions for us at a national level, if he couldn’t even be trusted to make the right decision here?

Well, the reason he made such a foolish mistake here is obvious — he did it because the tempting lure of a U.S. Senate seat was more than he could apparently resist, as well as the belief that he’d be able to weather any potential storm that brewed and get past his own shifting accounts of his dealings with Blagojevich once he was already seated (as it’s going to be far more difficult to get Burris out of the Senate now, when it would have been far easier to simply not seat him initially).  However, Burris is now faced with a growing assault that’s nailing him from all sides — not only have top Republicans called for his resignation, but so have many Democrats, including the new Illinois Governor Pat Quinn and Illinois Representative Phil Hare, who said on Burris that “Our state and its citizens deserve the whole truth, not bits and pieces only when it is convenient.”  In addition, both major Chicago newspapers, the Tribune and the Sun-Times, have called for his resignation.

The significance of Burris as the Senate’s lone African-American representative in the legislative body can’t be ignored, and it makes his removal a thorny issue for the Senate to have to tackle.  While the Senate has never suffered from a lack of corrupt, lying, self-serving members before — which means, in a sense, that Burris should in theory fit right in — the Illinois Senator isn’t doing himself or his office any justice by continuing to serve.  Chances of him or the Senate realizing it and actually rectifying the situation?  About as good as Burris arriving in person to pick up this week’s Ro-Sham-Bo Award — or in other words, about the same chances that we’ll find honesty, integrity, and ethics making a comeback in Washington.

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