Monday, January 05, 2009

Blago outmaneuvers the respectable ones

I have little doubt that Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich is at least as crooked as they say, and there's something repellently slimy about him. (I and others may be subject to what psychologists say is a human tendency to place more blame and assume more guilt the higher-up an alleged malefactor is in the political pyramid.) But I confess to a sneaking admiration for the way he has outmaneuvered those who have sought to distance themselves from him, and he has made the leaders of the Senate look ridiculous, which is always welcome.

By appointing Roland Burris, a black former state attorney general who apparently isn't tainted with scandal, he has provoked a latent threat from Senate Majority leader Harry Reid not to seat him. But in this case Blago has the law on his side. He has sole authority to appoint the successor when a senate seat is empty. He may be sleazy, but while he was arrested and charged, he hasn't even been indicted yet. He is legally considered innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt -- and the case against him might not be that easy to make despite those sinister-sounding wiretap recordings. He hasn't been impeached, and despite the atmosphere in Springfield, that isn't even a sure thing. So there's no remotely legal reason not to seat his appointee.

So Harry Reid has pushed himself into a corner from which he can't emerge without backing away. His knee-jerk reaction was ill-considered and without legal basis. Fun stuff.

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