Saturday, January 3, 2009


Mr. Blagojevich may be stupid, crazy, a scoundrel or even a criminal. but at this moment he is still a governor. He has not been indicted or impeached. Efforts to declare him incompetent to serve have been summarily dismissed. It is inconceivable to me that the mere existence of accusations against him can deprive him of his power of appointment to fill the vacant Senate seat, a power that he clearly has absent the controversy swirling about him. True, the Senate itself has something to say about who may join its august body, but that power relates to the integrity and qualifications of the elected or appointed senator, not to the person making the appointment.

I would assume that both Presidents Nixon and Clinton continued to exercise their executive powers despite the accusations against them, and as to President Clinton, even during his impeachment hearings. Absent some evidence that Mr. Burris was party to the alleged scheme by the Governor to sell the appointment or is otherwise unqualified, it is difficult to accept the adamant position of the Senate to reject him.

That effort so clearly undermines the presumption of innocence that it barely requires mention. But it takes it one step further, by premising it on guilt by association where the original guilt is yet to be established. If the charges against the Governor are true, I can certainly understand the desire not to recognize the appointment to such a distinguished and important position by someone who tried to sell it, but what we may want and what the law allows are not always the same.

If and when Mr. Blagojevitch is formally indicted or impeached, he will undoubtedly point to this appointment as evidence that he did not sell the office. Despite his obvious attempt even at this date to benefit himself, upholding the law is more important than thwarting his guile.