Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Did Blago put Burris on a gondola?

GOV. ROD BLAGOJEVICH'S defiant summary choice of Roland Burris to fill Barack Obama's seat in Illinois was a strange political twist in a political year in which there seemed to be scant room for still another loony surprise.  Excuse me, but when you anoint a replacement who was a former opponent, who is 71 with only two years left in an unexpired term and you are faced with unanimous opposition from your  own  party in the Senate, I  have to ask:  What  the hell did you really have in mind, Guv?   

In this instance, no one need question Burris' credentials to be a senator.  God knows,  one need only cite Saxby Chambliss or Robert Byrd (in his latest years) to know credentials are whatever you want them to be to serve your purpose.  Burris could very well be a genius in contrast  to some others in Congress.    But politically speaking, he doesn't serve the interests of his party with only two years left to the term and, at his age,  has  little chance as a freshman senator to rise at the committee level for the benefit of his constituents.  A practical rule in sustaining a political party's  power is to appoint a younger freshman who can hold the seat for at least an eternity. 

So, did Blago really choose Burris as a transitional senator ` who is all dressed up with no place to go?  Was Blago really playing  a nasty trick on his fellow-Democrats?  Was he merely trying to assert his own menacing ego at the expense of traditional party politics simply because he thought he could? Was he spitefully playing a race card, daring Democrats to reject an African American?

There is, to me, something  quite Venetian  in all of this.  When the power brokers of early Venice chose a doge - the top banana in presiding over their  Most Serene Republic, he was usually someone in his golden  years with only limited, almost ceremonial,  powers. The Venetians, deeply suspicious of power concentrated in one individual, devised complex ways to get the doge into and out of the office with as little discomfort as possible.  They didn't have Prudential Life actuaries to tell them that the older the new doge,   the less chance of his building his own power base at the expense of the state. 

I don't know whether Blago spent a lot time thinking about doges. But the parallel is a bit too morbid to seriously consider.  Sorry to have mentioned it as we celebrate a new year.    

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