Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich reportedly is planning to name a replacement to fill Barack Obama's vacant U.S. Senate seat Tuesday, even though his attorney said just two weeks ago that the governor would not exercise his appointment powers in the face of Senate objections.
Blagojevich is facing federal charges and impeachment proceedings after being accused of trying to sell Obama's empty U.S. Senate seat. He plans to name former Illinois Attorney General Roland Burris to fill the vacancy, according to the Chicago Tribune and The Wall Street Journal.
If his only goal is self preservation, then this move is a brilliant piece of brazen political jujitsu. Blagojevich is fiercely maintaining his innocence and so he intends to govern. The seat needs a replacement, it's his role to replace the seat, and so he is doing it.
This simple act just made it that much more difficult to impeach him. That's because it affirms his authority. Just by finding someone to accept the nomination, he implicitly shows that he has the capability of Governing. The United States Senate still has the ability to override the pick. I can only assume that Blagojevich thinks that Reid et al don't have the stomach for that or he sees no other alternative to try and maintain his power.
Burris is the former Attorney General, Comptroller, and a product of the same political machine that produced Blagojevich himself. On that level, it shouldn't necessarily be a surprise that he accepted. He has been lobbying for the job since Blagojevich's arrest. Still, I thought that even in the swamp of Springfield no one would ever accept the job from Blagojevich himself. Burris showed that there really is no brazen, corrupt, back room deal too low for the political swamp in Springfield.
Blagojevich continues to be a gift to the Republican Party. If the Senate actually allows Burris to take the seat, that will be used by each and every Republican running for national office in 2010. If they deny Burris, it will set up a Democrat on Democrat food fight in which no one can tell just how much dirty laundry will be aired. Meanwhile, Blagojevich is acting like the political equivalent of a wounded fighter. He is desperately swinging with any political punch he can find. First, he defiantly refused to step down. Then, he demanded that multiple members of Obama's administration be subpeonad. Now, he is announcing a replacement for Obama as though nothing has happened. You can bet that his political gun is nowhere near out of ammo, and the more desperate he gets the more extreme his political moves will become.
The only winners of any of this are the Republican Party both statewide and nationally as well as political junkies like me, who will be treated to great political theater. The Democratic Party is the big loser, but the citizens of both Illinois and the nation will be treated to spectacle that no one really needs.