Why Did Burris Accept Blagojevich's Offer?

It's no mystery why Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich would want to appoint Roland Burris to Illinois' vacant Senate seat. By offering the job to ...
by | December 30, 2008

It's no mystery why Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich would want to appoint Roland Burris to Illinois' vacant Senate seat.

By offering the job to an unobjectionable elder statesman, Blagojevich is saying, in effect, "See, I didn't sell the seat." This dovetails with the argument Blagojevich's lawyers are making to try to head off his impeachment. Their case is that everything on those tapes was just talk. Blagojevich, they argue, didn't do anything wrong.

The real mystery, though, is why Burris would accept the appointment. He's going to face a fight even to make it into the Senate. He's now associated with a governor whose approval ratings are in the single digits. And, because of that association, he's very unlikely to win a full term in the Senate when the seat is up in 2010. Who needs all that hassle?

Apparently, the answer is Roland Burris. On an earlier post today, a commenter pointed to this very interesting article on Burris from Illinois Issues in 1998:

Like Chicago athletes Michael Jordan and Ryne Sandberg, Roland Burris has heeded voices, perhaps internal as well as external, and returned to the field more than once. He has yet to enjoy the success of his athletic counterparts, though. And critics claim that while his quixotic comebacks, including unsuccessful bids for U.S. Senate and Chicago mayor, apparently haven't dented his psyche, they may have bruised his credibility Nevertheless, Burris is making an eighth try in 22 years for statewide office.

But why chuck a good life and a role as something of a Democratic elder statesman for another grueling campaign? Burris is asked that question in his sparsely furnished -headquarters on Chicago's LaSalle Street, an office that overlooks the Thompson Center, where he hopes to move into the governor's suite next year. Burris, who has his hands folded under his chin, gazes out the window at the beckoning state complex. "My life is not where my heart is," he says. "I should get back into the arena where I can affect policy."

Fair enough, but critics say a policy agenda is not what really drives Burris. He has, they say, a politician's share, if not more, of ego and ambition. In 1989, for example, when invited by Statehouse reporters to give the rebuttal at a Press Room fund raiser that skewers politicians, he raised some eyebrows by pretending to be "The Greatest," Mohammed Ali.

Note that Burris had this reputation as someone who couldn't resist the limelight even before his 2002 bid for governor. Now, a decade after that article, he's still not ready to step out of the spotlight.

Josh Goodman
Josh Goodman  |  Former Staff Writer

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