Edward McClelland takes questions about Gov. Blagojevich's Senate appointment of Roland Burris.

Real-time discussions with Slate writers.
Dec. 31 2008 1:35 PM

Who's Gonna Stop Him?

Edward McClelland takes your questions about Gov. Blagojevich's Senate appointment.

(Continued from Page 2)

Detroit, Mich.: What's the latest on Mrs. Blagojevich? Is she still out in the world bleeping at people? Or has she been trying to keep a lower profile?

Edward McClelland: I haven't heard anything from Patti since her husband was arrested. I wasn't surprised to hear her use that language, though. After all, he father is an alderman.

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Washington, D.C.: Everyone agrees that Burris has violated no laws by accepting the appointment but some are attempting to assert that he has violated some vague ethical standard.

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In truth, the issue is pure politics. Some of the people complaining either wanted to be appointed by the Lt. Governor or wanted to be elected in a special election. Of course, the Lt. Governor conducted a diatribe against the appointment that was so bitter it seemed Blagojevich had disrupted delicate negotiations of some sort.

What standard of conduct that existed prior to Fitzgerald's media event is Burris accused of violating?

Edward McClelland: Burris hasn't been accused of violating any standard of ethical conduct. It's guilt by association with Blagojevich. If Blagojevich is smart, he'll disappear and let this become about Roland Burris, a 71-year-old with an honest record as a public servant, the son of a railroad worker who grew up in a small town in central Illinois, and got started in politics by integrating the public pool. It's tough to be against a senator like that.

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The big question: Are Blago's aides sticking by him? And are they keeping good track of "the football" (his Paul Mitchell hairbrush)?

Edward McClelland: Blagojevich's aides aren't sticking by him. His chief of staff resigned the week of the arrest, and his legal counsel resigned this week. The "football" is entrusted to his state police detail, so as long as he's governor, he'll be able to maintain his high standard of personal grooming.

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Washington, D.C.: Isn't it sort of odd to criticize Burris for failing to advance through a corrupt system? He has been elected statewide four times, which, barring a special election, is the most democratic credential anyone can bring to a controversial situation.

Edward McClelland: Burris does have excellent credentials for the Senate. However, reaching the top of Illinois politics doesn't necessarily mean you're corrupt. Adlai Stevenson, Paul Simon and Barack Obama both got there.

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Oakland, Calif.: Could Blagojevich have been ordered not to perform his duties? If so, who would determine that and how? (Good point that no one's contested his approval of bills and pardons.)

The choice of Burris was audacious and well-considered for benefit to Blagojevich rather than Illinois. Thank you for the clarification of issues.

Edward McClelland: The only way Blagojevich can be ordered not to perform his duties is through impeachment. We're going through that process now, but until it's completed, he's governor.

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Wilmington, N.C.: Mr. McClelland, that was great re: Burris' tombstone; what a hoot, in a good way. With the situation with the economy and soon-to-be-approached stimulus plan, shouldn't our great leaders be busying themselves with more important issues? Or is it only one separate committee that would be involved the possible impeachment proceedings?

Edward McClelland: Right now, it's one separate committee of the Illinois General Assembly. But impeachment could soon consume all of Springfield, and the fight over seating Burris could consume the Senate. I agree that we have more important issues. The Senate should seat Burris and let the voters of Illinois work this out in 2010.

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Edward McClelland: Thanks for all your great questions, everyone. Hope I was able to illuminate you about this situation. Keep an eye on Chicago politics. There's always something interesting happening here. Great day!

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