COLUMNS

Burris gets political wedgie

DeWayne Bartels

After following Illinois’ junior senator Roland Burris (D-Bizarre) around Peoria for a couple of days last week, I have been asking myself the same question.

How did the Democrats take over the state?

Can it be as simple as hatred of George Ryan?

I have to believe it’s possible after last week’s President’s Day event hosted by the Peoria County Democrats.

I say that because what I saw unfold last week was utterly bizarre.

Topping off the list is Burris — the man who filled President Barack Obama’s vacant senate seat after an appointment by Gov. Rod Blagojevich as the governor faced impeachment.

Burris showed up, but a gifted speaker he wasn’t.

Peoria County State’s Attorney Kevin Lyons — surely one of the state’s most gifted orators — had to be cringing as he listened to Burris deliver his speech.

Burris needs an intervention from Lyons on how to speak in public. Burris was so bad I’m convinced if Lyons were in a coma, he could still teach Burris valuable speaking skills.  

At the media table where I was seated, we were shooting confused looks at each other as Burris tried to make his way through a speech that must have had pages missing or badly out of order.

Then, there was the sound system. It sounded like one of those $25 karaoke systems you can buy for $5 at a garage sale.

You would think when you have invited one of the most controversial men in the nation to speak, you would check to see if you have a decent sound system.

But, we’re only getting started. Let us move on to State Sen. Dave Koehler (D-Peoria). He spoke quite well. I wrote down one of his quotes about Illinois and getting past the controversy about former Gov. Rod Blagojevich.  

“We don’t need so much limelight ... We need to settle down and show the rest of the nation Illinois is a place full of honest people,” Koehler said.

Now comes the bizarre part.

Koehler had just finished talking about honesty and politics. What does he follow it up with? Why, of course, trivia questions about President Bill Clinton. I was shaking my head. Somehow, a segue at a Democratic political event about honesty and Clinton hit me as bizarre.

But, even more bizarre is the fact that Koehler would talk about honesty before introducing Burris, who was looking head-on at a perjury investigation.

Burris had released an affidavit just days before detailing contact he had with Blagojevich’s brother concerning campaign fundraising efforts prior to Burris receiving his Senate appointment. In the affidavit, Burris said he omitted references to the fundraising effort in his testimony before the impeachment committee hounding Blagojevich because they didn’t ask him about it. Don’t ask, don’t tell, you know.

At a press conference following the event, Burris blamed the media for his woes. Finally, something was unfolding that made sense, a politician blaming all his woes on an unfeeling pack of rabid media hounds.

“It’s being a little politicized,” Burris said. You think?

But, the thing that topped it off for me was when Burris, while working the room, made it to the table I was seated at.

Journal Star reporter Karen McDonald was seated next to me. She stood up and introduced herself to the senator. I was taking photos. I put down my camera and stuck out my hand.

The senator got a big smile as he took my hand.

“Oh, my God, I know this guy,” Burris said. “You haven’t aged a bit. Why don’t you age?”

I sat down as Burris walked away. McDonald and other reporters at the table looked at me.

“That man doesn’t know me from the man in the moon,” I said. The table erupted in laughter.

“Why haven’t I aged?” I said. “I am a living example of the restorative quality to be found in being exposed to years of BS from politicians.”

Would I, or anyone, lie to a group of reporters at a Democrat event?