The two controversial replacement US Senate picks in Illinois and New York are gifts that keep on giving -- and reinforcing the judgment (and lack thereof) of the governors who selected them.
Sen. Roland Burris (D-Ill.), former Gov. Rod Blagojevich's selected replacement for Barack Obama's Senate seat, admitted last week -- after vehemently denying it before -- that Blagojevich's brother had approached him about a $10,000 donation to the governor's campaign fund. Members of the Illinois House are now considering a perjury probe of the testimony Burriss gave during Blagojevich's impeachment hearings.
So, barely two weeks after the removal of Illinois' governor, legislators may now have to decide whether to go after the man appointed by the aforementioned disgraced governor. Cripes! Is it possible Harry Reid was right all along in trying to keep Burris out of the Senate!?!? Holy plot twist, Batman!!!
No wonder Republicans are salivating over the possibility of picking up this seat in 2010 -- whether Burris runs or not. And because of that reality, expect a whole bunch of Democrats to jump into the '10 primary -- whether Burris runs or not.
Similar dynamics are in play in New York where incompetence and indecision are more the watchword than corruption. Gov. David Paterson, after hemming and hawing for weeks (including an ugly public meltdown with Caroline Kennedy), finally settled on Rep. Kirsten Gillibrand as a replacement for Hillary Rodham Clinton.
Now, the purported whole idea of Gillibrand was to select someone from the more conservative upstate region. Indeed, she represented one of the few remaining heavily Republican districts in the state. Her voting record -- pro-gun rights, supportive of immigration restrictions, and against the September TARP bank bailout -- reflected that.
But no sooner does Gillibrand become senator than she abandons those previous moderate-to-conservative positions. Forget about a new version of Hillary's "listening" tour," Gillibrand has embarked on a full-fledged "caving" tour. And her former district constituents are not happy.
The latest switch in position came last week when Gillibrand flipped on a gun rights bill she herself sponsored eight months ago! She now claims that she was "misled" on the bill's aims. That sort of statement forces awkward questions along the line, "So, were you just dumb eight months ago -- or are you lying now?" Maybe it's just as well that Gillibrand not be allowed anywhere near guns in the near future, given her demonstrated ability to shoot herself in the foot.
It should come as no surprise then that Republicans are salivating to run against her in 2010. And Gillibrand may well have multiple Democratic opponents as well.
Whether it's Illinois' whiffs of corruption or the bizarro NY political scene, is it any wonder that there are calls for some dramatic change? Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wisc., of McCain-Feingold fame) has introduced a constitutional amendment that would make all Senate vacancies eligible to a special election within three months of the seat becoming open.
Good luck, Senator: America deserves better than these clown shows.
Robert A. George is a New York writer. He blogs at Ragged Thots and dabbles in stand-up comedy.