Auros (auros) wrote,

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In defense of Ozymandias.

So, Roland Burris, past Comptroller and Attorney General of Illinois, having been appointed by the (still) Governor of Illinois, has finally gotten his Senate seat.

About damn time.

I have never understood what the argument was for not seating him. So the governor is a corrupt bastard. So what? He's still legally the governor, and absent any indication that this appointment was corrupt -- and you can go to the tapes to see exactly who he was asking for bids in his Senate seat auction -- it is clearly legal, and under Powell v. McCormick I think it's pretty clear that the Senate does not have any right to reject it (though they certainly could have delayed it more and wasted a lot of taxpayer dollars in litigation). (The decision basically says that the House and Senate can adjudicate the specific constitutional qualifications -- age, residence, etc. -- and if they can't block somebody on those grounds, they already have another measure at their disposal, namely expulsion by two-thirds vote. They can't use a simple majority vote to exclude somebody just because they feel like it.)

In the meantime, Illinois is down one Senator. They have a right to full representation, and as a practical political matter we ought to be getting Franken and Burris seated so that we're only one vote short of a filibuster-proof majority instead of two. Seat both of them provisionally (retaining the right to have a simple majority revoke the seating if some reason comes to light why we'd want to do that) the same way as was done in the House for Vern Buchanan when his election over Christine Jennings was in doubt. Once Blagojevich is out the new governor can make a new appointment, and the Senate can vote that the new guy is in and Burris is out.

Ideally, I would want whoever is appointed to a position to lose the right to run for (or at the very least promise not to run for) the seat they're occupying, so the people get a chance to vote on the replacement in an open election, without having an appointed incumbent with name-recognition and fundraising advantages. (In this regard, I think Kaufman, the Biden aide who was appointed to serve the next two years of his old boss' term and has said he won't run after that, was a good choice.)

The choice, here, is between:

a) having the people of Illinois get their second Senate vote back, through a totally legal procedure, giving that vote to a man that said people clearly were happy to elect to statewide office in the past, and who has a squeaky-clean record compared to most IL politicians; halving the cloture gap in the process; and, on the downside, possibly having to mount a primary challenge against Burris in 2010, on the remote possibility he ends up serving that long and wants to run again.


b) wasting a lot of taxpayer money and legislative time, when we have HUGE crises to deal with and need to move the Obama agenda through Congress at a pace that is difficult to manage even without arguments going on about who's entitled to be there.

How is (b) a sane answer, for anyone who voted for Obama?

As for the question I keep hearing about how it could be "moral" for Burris to take the seat -- please explain to me in detail what is NOT moral about it. The man did nothing wrong. He offered no bribe, took no favors, etc. He was offered the appointment. He's an ambitious guy who had seen his aspirations to serve as Governor thwarted, and now the stars aligned to give him one last shot at serving at a high level. Why shouldn't he? Ambition is not immoral. If you have an ambition to make your mark on the world, to make it a better place so that people will remember you with gratitude -- what is wrong or immoral about that?

Sure, such accomplishment is transient -- Ozymandias' great works crumbled to dust, leaving only his vanity for others to mock. But maybe those that ridicule him should ask whether Ozymandias' vanity led to the construction of a city where millions of people had a better life than they would've had in the absence of his all-consuming pride. Recognition and power (in the sense of being able to get your own vision of what should be made into reality) are strong motivators -- as long as they motivate people to do stuff that benefits the masses, I don't see how those who are lazy, but "pure," have the right to scold them. The notion that power is inherently corrupt is an excuse not to challenge the status quo.

In the end, we have to judge people by the effect they have on others, not on whether they do what they do "for the right reasons". Pragmatic effects on others are way more important than whether you were "appropriately" modest about your accomplishments.

And besides, where would late-night comedy be without a little Ozymandian hubris to poke fun at now and then?

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