This editorial appeared in The Miami Herald.
If you haven't paid close attention, you may think you've missed something in the debate about whether Chicago politician Roland Burris should get the U.S. Senate seat vacated by President-elect Barack Obama. Just a month ago, Democrats were condemning disgraced Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich as arrogant and out of touch for nominating Mr. Burris.
This week, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin led a parade of Democrats to grease the skids for Mr. Burris to slide into office. Even Mr. Obama backpedaled on his initial opposition. This week, he said Mr. Burris is a "fine public servant" whom he will work with if the Senate admits him.
What happened? Politics.
The Democrats don't want a long fight over confirmation, don't want to oppose a credible African-American nominee who is obviously qualified by the Senate's nominal standards, and most assuredly don't want the matter to be decided in an election, which could be won by either a Democrat or Republican. So the prudent thing, Democrats are telling themselves, is to focus on the question of "legality."
By this test, because Gov. Blagojevich is still in office, he therefore is legally authorized to make the appointment. Also, since Mr. Burris meets the Senate's meager qualifying standards, there is no real choice but to say yes.
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