Jewish World Review January 20, 2009 / 24 Teves 5769
Let the carving begin on Tombstone's tomb
By John Kass
http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | How many days have passed since Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, the Nevada Democrat, vowed that he'd never, ever, ever seat anyone touched by the leprous hand of Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich?
And how many days since Reid's ripe second banana, Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Big Jim, scoffed that the appointment of Roland Burris was "an act of political defiance that will lead nowhere"?
Actually, it was only 17 days ago Friday, but does it matter anymore, really?
It stopped mattering the moment President-elect Barack Obama privately told Reid - with a metaphorical slap in the mouth to the Chicago Way - to stop stalling and seat the guy from Illinois and get his home state's political corruption out of the news and away from his inauguration festivities.
So on Thursday afternoon in Washington, Roland "Tombstone" Burris raised his right hand and was asked if he would uphold the Constitution. "I do," Tombstone said.
Tombstone signed his name in the big book of senators, a clerk told him to keep the pen as a trophy and a strange thing happened. The other senators, who until recently shunned and ridiculed him, began to applaud him, enthusiastically.
Burris smiled like a man who knows he has plenty of room to carve another accomplishment on his ridiculous mausoleum. He gazed out onto the faces of his new colleagues rising to their feet, slapping their palms together, making the sound of absolute senatorial sincerity.
What was really going on inside Tombstone's head? We'll probably never get the full monty.
I'd like to think that Tombstone saw himself as the heroic Maximus character in "Gladiator," with all the Romans chanting lustily, "Maximus! Maximus! Maximus!"
Tombstone could have taken the pen and heaved it at Reid and Durbin, making them flinch like frightened rabbits, with Tombstone shouting defiance at the senatorial mob:
"Are you not entertained!? Are ... You ... Not ... Entertained!?"
Sadly, that isn't Tombstone's way. He doesn't throw pens. He smiles.
Though Illinois has been embarrassed by his ambition, I don't think we'll be embarrassed by his service. He'll be a quiet senator and do what he's told. He'll make speeches and cut ribbons.
One thing for certain, he won't act like a couple of other senators who are beloved by the news media, two senators who made the famous cocktail waitress sandwich years ago.
According to news reports, those two liberal Democratic lions and champions of women's rights, Sen. Ted Kennedy, the noted midnight swimmer from Massachusetts, and his buddy Christopher Dodd of Connecticut were out one night drinking at La Brasserie, a Capitol Hill restaurant.
Dodd had so much to drink he slumped in a chair. Kennedy decided to liven things up. So he threw a waitress on top of Dodd. Then Kennedy jumped on the astonished woman.
"She was said to have run screaming from the room," according to a lengthy 1991 profile on Dodd in the Hartford Courant.
Burris may be a hack, but he'll never make a waitress panini.
If nothing else, he's been instructive. We've witnessed his transformation, from an amiable Democratic Party functionary with that Please-Don't-Squeeze-The-Charmin mustache to the playing card for certain black politicians using race as a cudgel.
And just weeks after America elected the first black president, we learned that the race card, when skillfully flicked across the foreheads of white Senate Democrats, is still the ace in a royal political flush.
No one else would take the job offered by Blagojevich after he was arrested and charged with trying to sell Obama's old Senate seat to the highest bidder. No one, except for Tombstone.
Such ambition, though terrifying and desperate, is also somewhat endearing. He so wanted to be senator that he kissed Blagojevich's hand. Now, all Tombstone has to do is call out the stone-carvers.
Perhaps they've already been dispatched to inscribe the title "U.S. Senator" under the list of honors on Tombstone's tomb.
He might want to add a few more stone benches, so voters can visit and calmly reflect upon the vagaries of American politics. He could also install a snow cone machine for the summer, and peddlers could hawk Rolandian trinkets near his shrine.
How many days until we can get the Burris bobble head and enjoy a snow cone? It doesn't matter, does it? He's a senator now.
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John Kass is a columnist for the Chicago Tribune. Comments by clicking here.
© 2008, Chicago Tribune. Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.