Meritocracy, Anyone? – Part 4

The saga continues. Only a few weeks after taking his seat in the Senate, dubiously but legally, it appears the Senate’s initial wariness towards Roland Burris may have been well founded. First, Burris swore in an affidavit that neither he nor his representatives had any contact with Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich or his representatives prior to his being chosen to fill Barack Obama’s vacated Senate seat. Then, he stated that he had been asked to raise money for the Governor’s reelection but had refused. Now he says that he did attempt a fundraiser for the embattled Governor prior to his appointment, but had been unsuccessful.

How serious is this? The success of Roland Burris as a Senator hinges on there being a very clear disassociation between himself and the wheelings and dealings that led to Blagojevich being ousted from office. Any hint that there was a quid pro quo attached to the appointment immediately shreds its validity. The spin coming out of the Burris office, replete with contradictions and corrections, is only making him look worse, to the point where the Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Chicago Sun-Times, New York Times, Philadelphia Inquirer, and the Los Angeles Times, among others, have called for him to resign. That’s quite a lot of ink telling the man it’s probably time for him to go.

Burris had an uphill battle in his job from the moment he was sworn in, and needed to be impeccable to maintain his legitimacy. He has not been. As of now, his only opponents are editorial boards, but as his colleagues begin to question whether or not he should be a Senator, and as U.S. Attorneys possibly weigh in on the question, he will have to dedicate his time not to serving the people of Illinois, but to hanging onto his job. We are about to find out, finally, the type of man Roland Burris is. How long he chooses to fight to retain his seat, if he chooses to fight, will tell wonders about his character. If he manages to remain a Senator, in the face of such growing criticism and so many differing forces now arrayed against him, that will tell us that perhaps there wasn’t enough wrongdoing to justify bringing him down.

What stands out the most is that he began his time in the Senate with a lie. In seeking to distance himself from Blagojevich, he swore, in a legally binding document, that he had been free of any contact with the Governor. Now we know that is not true. Perhaps it is that that tells us all we need to know about Senator Burris.