Alas, I Think She’s Right

January 6, 2009 12:50 p.m.

The Politico is reporting that Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), last seen getting bristly over Leon Panetta’s appointment to run the CIA, says the Senate Democratic leadership was wrong not to seat Roland Burris.

Says Feinstein: “I can’t imagine the secretary of state countermanding a gubernatorial appointment,” Feinstein said. “The question, really, is one in my view of law. And that is, does the governor have the power to make the appointment? And the answer is yes. Is the governor discredited? And the answer is yes. Does that affect his appointment power? And the answer is no until certain things happen.”

Let me first recite the catechism: Blagojevich is a joke, an embarrassment. And I think accepting the appointment from Blagojevich reflects poorly on Burris’s judgment (though not in any fatal, ominous way, just a bad choice).

But Blagojevich is the governor of the Illinois. And the Governor appoints senators to vacant seats. He hasn’t been convicted of anything, which is no mere technicality. And I don’t think anyone has seriously claimed that this appointment is tainted by corruption.

If there was a real belief that Burris’s appointment had been bought, then I think more aggressive and expansive refusal would be justified. But as I said, I don’t think anyone is really suggesting that. So as awkward and untoward as the whole thing may be, I really question the wisdom and possibly also the legality of not swearing him in. Rules are rules.

I could be persuaded otherwise. And I’m not losing much sleep over Burris’s plight. But rules are rules. And I’m not sure what’s being accomplished with this spectacle.

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