When scandal-ridden Governor Rod Blagojevich defiantly chose to appoint former Illinois Attorney General Roland Burris to the U.S. Senate he did not play the race card … he played the whole deck.
In the process, he put the Democrats in the Senate between the proverbial racial rock and a hard place. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has made it clear that he will not allow Burris to be sworn in on Tuesday when the Senate assembles: but will he physically block Burris from the floor of the Senate?
On June 11, 1963, Alabama’s Governor George Wallace kept a campaign pledge to stand in the schoolhouse door to block integration of the state’s public schools. Governor Wallace physically stood in the doorway to block the attempt of two black students, Vivian Malone and James Hood, to register at the University of Alabama. When President John F. Kennedy federalized the Alabama National Guard and ordered its units to the university campus, Wallace stepped aside and allowed the black students to enter. As a result of the incident, Wallace became a hero to some and a pariah to most. Does Reid want to follow his lead by blocking the only black Senator from the Senate floor?
The racial implications of “the mess that Rod made” were ratcheted up when the Chicago Sun Times reported that Reid called Blagojevich on December 3 and argued against the appointment of Chicago Congressmen Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., Rep. Danny Davis, or Illinois State Senate President Emil Jones, all of whom are black. Instead, Reid reportedly wanted Blagojevich to select either state Veterans Affairs chief Tammy Duckworth, who is Thai-American and recently lost a bid to be elected to Congress, or Attorney General Lisa Madigan, who is white.
Reid’s conversation with Blagojevich was almost certainly captured on tape by federal prosecutors who have been tapping the governor’s calls, and it may ultimately be available for public consumption. In the meantime, most political analysts surmise that Reid’s concern about the potential appointment of one of the three black men was more about politics than racial prejudice. Those same political concerns apply to Roland Burris.