Democrats: Quit your hand-wringing over appointments
by Dracomicron, Fri Jan 02, 2009 at 06:52:44 AM EST
Or: How I Stopped Worrying and Learned to Love Democracy.
During the primaries, I advised people who found themselves condemning Keith Olbermann and National Public Radio and quoting sources like NewsMax, Hannity, and Limbaugh to stop for a minute and think about it: when you find yourself on the side against people whose ability & political view you respect a lot and agreeing with people who you believe are heinous propagandists, you really need to stop and consider why you've come to the conclusions you've come to.
Well, this week I've found myself agreeing with Kosnomore on this blog, and this morning my alarm radio activated to the sounds of Bill Press echoing my belief that we need to back off of Roland Burris's appointment to Barack Obama's vacant Senate seat. Press, I believe, is one of the worst sort of propagandist Democrats and I had, shall we say, some "primary disagreements" with him. Kosnomore, of course, is one of the premeir goat-getters on this site; if he has real motivations beyond making us waste time we could be spending debating real issues, they're not ones I approve of.
At the same time, President Elect "That One"... er, I mean, Barack Hussein Obama II, understandably has a personal investment in who is replacing him in the Senate... not only who is replacing him, but who is selecting the person that is replacing him. Blagojevich is far from an ideal source, if you'll allow me some understatement.
I gotta tell you, agreeing with those people and disagreeing with the President-Elect made me stop and reconsider my position, but in the end, I have come to the conclusion that my first instinct was correct.
Listen, folks: We have to stop wringing our hands on appointments. From Caroline Kennedy to Roland Burris and any other vacancies, the American democratic system of government has a system for making sure that its lawmaking bodies retain the required staff to make important decisions, and, after this historic election and affirmation of the democratic process, can we please have a little faith in that system?
I get it. You want the best proven people representing you. You want people who are dynamic and who get the advantage of incumbancy to hold the seat in the next elections. Sure, that's understandable.
The purpose of appointments is not, however, to give the people the candidate they want. Sorry, but that's what democratic elections are for. Appointments are made by executives whose judgement is trusted enough to get elected. Appointees hold the position until such time as proper elections can be held. If the appointee wishes to hold onto the seat, the corresponding party can decide to select a primary challenger and vote for that person instead. An appointee's main job is to be conscientious, have pretty good judgement, and, generally, be a party loyalist. They don't need to be great speakers. They don't need to be able to win elections. They don't need to be the guy or gal the people would've chosen had it been directly up to them. They chose the executive to make decisions like these so we're not dissolving parlaments and having elections at random times like other countries (I'm looking at you, Canada).
Are some appointments and hires made by executives in bad faith? They sure are: President Obama will be rooting out Liberty University graduates from the government well into his second term, I'm guessing. But this is how the system works: when someone starts abusing their power, they get removed properly (via election, term limits, or impeachment), and the next guy theoretically tries to fix things.
Like him or not, Blagojevich was elected twice. Unless you can supply me some evidence that his election was due to fraud (which is sadly not out of the question in Chicago), we'll have to assume that he legitimately holds his position until such time as the is fairly removed from office.
Do you plan on negating all the legislation he's signed since he started being corrupt? Over 100 Illinois laws just went into effect as of the new year, and he signed off on them. When, exactly, do we pinpoint the date and time when his judgement was null and void?
Fitzgerald says that he released his findings when he did because he wanted to prevent Blagojevich from selling Obama's Senate seat. Mission accomplished! Blagojevich was, in fact, prevented from doing so: he appointed a party loyalist who appears to owe him no particular favors, and who is far more qualified than, say, Xenophon P. Wilfley was when he was selected to fill the term of William J. Stone in 1918, or, more recently, Dean Barkley, who was selected to fill the last few weeks of the term of my own state's beloved Senator, the late, great Paul Wellstone, in 2002.
You may argue that times have changed since the days of Xenophon P. Wilfley. Indeed they have: Wilfley was selected in the endgame of World War I; I suppose you could classify those as "trying times." Further, Alaska and Hawaii weren't even states yet, so ol' Xenophon only shared his power with 95 other Senators, compared to 99 that Burris will have to share with (assuming Franken and Coleman don't both show up for work when the next Congress opens). In the interest of full disclosure, I use this example mostly because I like to say "Xenophon." Sue me.
In all seriousness, you get the point. We need to have a functional Senate with a minimum of acrimony if we want to get past the Bush nightmare. If we can all move past the fact that Joe Lieberman was sleeping with the enemy this election season, then we should also get past the issue of Blagojevich choosing a decent man despite a cloud of suspicion over intentions to sell the seat. The sins of Rod Blagojevich are not imparted upon his appointees... unless they've partaken in the sins as well. In this case, there's no evidence that I've seen to support Burris as being anything other than an old, eccentric Democratic loyalist who sees this as the best deal he's ever going to get from the party he has given a life of service to.
All this talk about how he should've refused the offer rings hollow to me: how many of you would turn down a Senate seat if offered? How about if holding national office were the thing you'd been striving for over a lifetime but couldn't quite obtain? What if you were concerned that the seat may be given to someone who is corrupt and purchased it, but you know that you are not corrupt and you didn't buy it?
What I'm saying is, we need to stop being such outrage addicts. This election season was the most dramatic in modern memory, and there was a lot of stuff that we got outraged over, both legitimate and specious... I get that it will take some time for us to chill the hell out, but we need to do it. Barack Obama needs a functional legislative branch that can work on tackling the huge challenges he faces right away, and whether an appointee can effectively and honestly work at implementing his agenda is a bigger concern to me than if an appointee was selected in the dying throes of a corrupt governor's career.
Approve Roland Burris and take the controversy off the table. Then impeach the hell out of Blagojevich so we can get on to important business. Democracy will sort the appointments out in time. Have patience.
Thanks for your time. Happy New Year.