A test for political peer pressure is shaping up in Washington around the tenure of Roland Burris in the Senate.
With little legal prospect of expelling him for misleading affidavits to the Illinois Legislature and Supreme Court about pre-appointment discussions of fundraising for ex-Gov. Rod Blagojevich, Obama's replacement is under heavy fire from politicians and editorial writers to step aside.
But so far, he refuses to budge. "I've done nothing wrong, and I have absolutely nothing to hide," Burris said in a Chicago speech this week. "You know the real Roland...Stop the rush to judgment."
But calls for his resignation continue, his spokesman has resigned and the pressure mounts. A Chicago Tribune editorial today goads national and local Democrats: "Do you think it's acceptable for someone to take a Senate seat by lies of commission and of omission? That is, by saying what isn't true—and by declining to say what is?"
All this is complicated by the fact that Burris is the only African-American in the Senate, which moves the debate into what Clarence Thomas called "high-tech lynching" territory during his Supreme Court nomination hearings.
In the same Tribune calling for his resignation, a columnist notes: "Watching the Chicago media pack take chunks out of Roland Burris this week—and after taking a few bites out of the lying weasel myself—I couldn't help but wonder: When it comes to covering corruption, is there a media double standard, one for weak black politicians and another for powerful white guys?"
When Barack Obama vacated his Senate seat to bring Change to American politics, it's safe to say this was not what he had in mind.
Update: Sen. Burris should resign at once for the good of the state of Illinois, Gov. Patrick J. Quinn said today. “This should not be a matter that takes weeks."