If a Democratic leader of the U.S. Senate tells you that this month is January and not July, would you believe him? Don't answer until you've read these five statements:
"No appointment by this governor under these circumstances could produce a credible replacement." — U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., calling for a special election to fill President-elect Barack Obama's vacant Senate seat, Dec. 9, 2008
"We write to insist that you step down as governor of Illinois and under no circumstance make an appointment to fill the vacant Illinois Senate seat." — Letter from the 50 members of the Senate Democratic caucus to Gov. Rod Blagojevich, Dec. 10, 2008
"(T)his is not about Mr. (Roland) Burris; it is about the integrity of a governor accused of attempting to sell this United States Senate seat. Anyone appointed by Gov. Blagojevich cannot be an effective representative of the people of Illinois and, as we have said, will not be seated by the Democratic caucus." — U.S. Sens. Harry Reid, D-Nev., and Durbin, Dec. 30, 2008
David Gregory: "But there sounds to me like there may be some room here to negotiate and actually seat Burris?" Reid: "Hey, listen, David, I'm an old trial lawyer. There's always room to negotiate." — Reid on Meet the Press, Jan. 4, 2009
"He's going to go answer any other questions they might have. He's not trying to avoid any responsibility and trying to hide anything. Once that's done, we'll be in a different position and see what we are going to do." — Reid on the possibility of seating Burris after he testifies before the Illinois House impeachment panel, Jan. 7, 2009
What flagrant exclusion of the people of Illinois from the selection of their junior senator. If there's a guiding principle in the devolving behavior of these Democratic leaders, it's this: The prospects for our party's eternal dominance of the Senate are all that matter. We'll change our positions as often as necessary to achieve that end. You don't like what we say today? Just wait 'til tomorrow.
Reid's and Durbin's frantic hopscotch threatens to make them and their caucus the latest eager enablers of Blagojevich. If Democratic leaders play along with a failed governor's arrogant attempt to name a U.S. senator, they'll have earned the ample public distrust their statements have invited.
Try to square the Senate leaders' noble disdain for Blagojevich's alleged actions with this Washington Post account Wednesday: "One idea being considered, Democratic officials said yesterday, is allowing Burris to be seated if he agrees not to run for election in 2010, allowing the party to recruit another candidate to defend the seat." Get that? The Post and other news organizations had unnamed "Democratic officials" divulging that Burris might become eligible to join the U.S. Senate by agreeing to quit in two years so the party of Reid and Durbin would have a better chance of keeping the seat in perpetuity.
Their latest gambit: peeking over the Appalachian Mountains to hope someone in Illinois will rescue them from their Burris dilemma. Reid said Wednesday that the Senate won't seat Burris until his certificate of appointment is signed by Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White. In other words, White is the obstructionist who's supposedly preventing the Senate from seating Burris — the very thing Reid and Durbin said they wouldn't do. Remember, this is the same Harry Reid who called White on New Year's Eve to thank White for his strong ethical stand against the governor's effort to appoint Burris!
Burris — and, evidently, Reid — want the Illinois Supreme Court to tell White he has to sign a certification. White correctly senses that the senators have cast him as the fall guy whose signature supposedly forces a reluctant Senate to seat Burris.
Not so fast: White's lawyer, Attorney General Lisa Madigan, on Wednesday told the Supreme Court that White is under no such obligation to sign anything. If the Supreme Court concurs, then Reid, Durbin and their fellow senators will have to do what they want to avoid: decide whether to seat Burris. No more hiding behind the pants legs and skirts of judges, legislators and a principled secretary of state.
The desperation to grab this seat in mid scandal may explain why Durbin stopped thumping for a special election.
We continue to hope Illinois legislators reverse their tacit complicity in this tainted choice of a senator and do what House Speaker Michael Madigan said last month that he was ready to do: schedule the election.