January 7, 2009
Blago for Senate Majority Leader
By Mary Lyon
There! I said it.
Yes. I know embattled and ethically - well, um - relaxed Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich has no business in the U.S. Senate. There's more than a fair amount of people who quite reasonably believe his shenanigans redefine him as having no business in the Illinois governor's job, either. But there's something I've just gotta give the guy (besides a piece of my mind).
I'd like to give him a round of applause. He's evidently a world-class political maneuverer in the way he's left Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid spluttering and stammering over the Roland Burris affair. I would never want to play chess - or poker - with this guy, considering how he played the "I-can-TOO-appoint-whoever-I-want-to-fill-Barack-Obama's-Senate-seat,-regardless-what-kind-of-corruption-trouble-I'm-in" game. The same Harry Reid who declared just days ago that Burris would not be allowed into the most exclusive club in the world is now facing another capitulation. Blago outplayed him. Sent an appointee who was remarkably unimpeachable, with the added luster of maintaining the scant representation (a single seat) for African-Americans in the Senate.
Believe me, I'm no fan of Blago aside from some sheer partisanship years ago when my son, then in 5th grade, chose his grandma's home state of Illinois on which to report, and we learned that Rod Blagojevich, a Democrat, had recently replaced the GOP's disgraced George Ryan as governor. A Dem taking over from a Republican. Always good news to me. If anything, I'm just plain ticked that Blago would then set about giving Democrats a black eye and bloody nose with his own corruption misadventures. Thanks a heap, pal. Whose side are you on? And of course it all conveniently comes to a head when everyone regardless of party needs to be pulling together behind a Democrat: President-Elect Barack Obama. Just what we need is one of ours (a Democrat) giving all of theirs (Republicans) reason to try to make life more difficult for our new Commander-in-Chief.
But Blago played this shrewdly and brilliantly, painting Harry Reid into a corner, and it's a safe bet that our beloved Harry can be counted on to capitulate yet again. Sigh. Been there, done that, Senator Reid. All this means is that Reid is widely portrayed as the loser (that's how it's viewed especially in the analytical class - it's inevitably reduced rather simplistically to a winner and a loser, for better or worse). And because perception is everything in politics, you simply do NOT want to appear to be, or somehow positioned as, a loser. It matters not the reason, whatever justification you can find in the fine print, or how correct you think you are.
Let me say that again. Perception is everything in politics, whether any of us likes it or not. And with the wickedly-calculated appointment of Roland Burris to fill Barack Obama's now-vacant Senate slot, Rod Blagojevich now looks oddly and begrudgingly like a hero, with the hapless Harry Reid as the goat. Played again, Sam, by yet another Machiavellian master.
I sure wish our Senate leaders (AND House leaders, too, for that matter) could maneuver the way Blago just did. We need a LOT of that and ASAP, not merely as Democrats but as a whole nation. As Democrats, now is THE time, and perhaps the ONLY time, to show gargantuan guts, because there's a huge amount of change that is going to have to be strong-armed through the House and the Senate to rescue our nation, our economy, our reputation in the world, our moral authority, and a great deal more. The GOP has decided to dig in their heels and try to block every inch of progress and every new approach that America desperately needs to pull us out of the Republican-authored abyss of the last eight years. So far, there is NO ONE in either house of Congress attempting to remind them of what happened in November (they LOST), what a substantial and unspinnable majority of Americans voted for (neither the Republican NOR his more-of-the-same ideas), and what direction the voters dictated (AWAY from the GOP's way of doing things).
Didn't anybody notice in DC? Didn't anyone see or read, or comprehend, the writing on the wall last fall? Did they all fail miserably yet again, this time misunderstanding the mood of the people - and the new and wholly different approaches they endorsed? They still don't get it? Elections have consequences, as do the across-the-board results the Republicans produced. Basically, the message was for the infants and adolescents to go to the back of the class, sit down, and shut up - while the adults return, at long last, to restore order and clean up the mess. Republicans, they didn't want you running things anymore. The proof couldn't have been more clear. Many of us don't even want to hear from the lot of you for awhile, for how badly you've screwed things up, on YOUR watch, in OUR name, and with OUR money. You had your say and your glory days and you blew it big-time. You Republicans have thereby forfeited any right to have any say about anything, hopefully for quite awhile with your lousy conduct and even lousier policies. Frankly, your Democratic colleagues in both Houses owe you nothing but the backs of their hands.
The last thing we need is ANYTHING that gives the GOP ANY openings at all to throw more monkey-wrenches into the machinery. Why give them ANY in's whatsoever? America already decided it wanted no more of what they're still selling. Since they're clearly not willing to recognize this or bow to it, and they seem determined to keep making trouble, what we need, as Americans - not just Democrats, is a team of roaring, snarling tigers and shrewder-than-thou poker players. So far, I don't see many. The voters called for big changes and installed the Democrats in the driver's seat. The challenges ahead demand backbones of steel among Democrats, because the work will be crushing, the problems nearly sickening, and the extent of the change we need won't come overnight. It's critical that we have the strong, the sharp, and the surly to grab the wheel and shift the gears. And with Harry Reid in the lead, I fear we have none of the above.
We do have an incoming Democratic president who's declared his intentions to reach out to the opposition (oh great - offering them a hand to bite, if not try to bite off). So okay then. Let him be Good Cop. In the House and Senate, on the other hand, we need the Bad Cops - and dozens of them. SOMEONE needs to have Barack's back. And it looks as though nobody does. Reid is even talking about standing up to the new president when it's deemed necessary. Oh yeah? Senator, you've had years to figure that one out, and years to apply it to a president who should have been obstructed at every turn. And you failed. Only now did you just get religion. I say again: "Harry, whose team are you on?"
We need world-class chess and poker players working for us. Because now more than ever, we Democrats need to project an image of power, guts, intimidation, and invincibility - to deflect and defeat any further interference from the losing team. It doesn't make much difference whether Reid was technically correct regarding parts of the Burris-Blago business. Perception is still everything in politics, and the picture now painted is of a guy who got rolled - AGAIN. Oh great. Just what we need as our representatives prepare to do hand-to-hand combat to pull our country back from the Republican-built brink. The guy most likely to get punked, out-played, and out-bluffed. What's required, instead, is someone willing to play hardball, making Obama's congenial persona all the more appealing by contrast. Someone willing to manipulate the public perception. Somebody with the devious smarts of a Rod Blagojevich - who knows how to be the roller rather than the roll-ee. We may not like B-Rod much, but dammit, Democrats, he won this. And he's still ours. While he is, we ought to find a way to make something out of it. Or at least take a lesson on political gamesmanship from it.
Meanwhile, I'm wondering whether the Senate Majority Leader might be interested in some sort of poker game.