Thursday, January 1, 2009

Presumed Innocent, Blago Appoints A Senator

Governor Rod Blagojevich of Illinois, under indictment for corruption charges that include trying to sell the Senate seat vacated by President-elect Barack Obama, named former state attorney general Roland W. Burris (left) to the seat.

Dismayed Senate Democrats released a statement: “It is truly regrettable that despite requests from all 50 Democratic Senators and public officials throughout Illinois, Gov. Blagojevich would take the imprudent step of appointing someone to the United States Senate who would serve under a shadow and be plagued by questions of impropriety."

President-elect Barack Obama agrees: “Roland Burris is a good man and a fine public servant, but the Senate Democrats made it clear weeks ago that they cannot accept an appointment made by a governor who is accused of selling this very Senate seat. I agree with their decision, and it is extremely disappointing that Governor Blagojevich has chosen to ignore it.”

Some have accused Blagojevich of cynicism, stating that Democrats would be reluctant not to seat an individual who would be the Senate's only African-American. Of course, Pat Quinn, lieutenant governor who criticized the governor's "provocative action," may have cynical motives himself, since he's Blagojevich's likely replacement. Republican state lawmakers who call for a special election are self-serving, since such a move would offer their party a chance at the seat.

Most importantly, one of the facets of the American legal system is the presumption of innocence, and that pertains to Blagojevich. That presumption is not respected by Obama when he speaks about Democrats who can't seat a senator appointed by a governor who is accused of something. Democrats are on extremely shaky legal ground. I personally perceive Blagojevich as a shady character, as do most. But perceptions are neither proof nor a legal finding.

Until Blagojevich is convicted in a court of law, he has every right to fight the charges against him and continue his governorship. He correctly stated, “As governor I am required to make this appointment... To not fill the vacancy would be to deprive the people of Illinois of two United States senators, to deprive the people of Illinois of their appropriate voice and votes in the United States Senate.”

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