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Roundtable on Burris and Reid

Roundtable on Burris and Reid

FOX News Special Report With Brit Hume - January 7, 2009

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. DICK DURBIN, (D) ILLINOIS: Everyone has to present a certificate signed by the governor, cosigned by the secretary of state-- never been waived in the history of the United States Senate. So it's an important rule and one not easily challenged or changed.

HARRY REID, (D-NV) SENATE MAJORITY LEADER: We believe that the certification by the secretary of state is vital.

JESSE WHITE, ILLINOIS SECRETARY OF STATE: My signature is not necessarily required in order for the Senate to place the gentlemen in the seat that he was appointed to by Governor Blagojevich. My signature is mostly ceremonial rather than being a point of law.

MITCH MCCONNELL, (R-KY) SENATE MINORITY LEADER: I think the unanimous Republican view is that this is a mess.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BAIER: the sights and sounds of the Roland Burris circus, another day of it.

Some analytical observations of this from Fred Barnes, executive editor of "The Weekly Standard," Mara Liasson, national political correspondent of National Public Radio, and Mort Kondracke, executive editor of "Roll Call," FOX News contributors all.

Fred, your take?

FRED BARNES, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, "THE WEEKLY STANDARD": I think Roland Burris is going to be a U.S. Senator pretty soon.

And the truth is, the secretary of state, is merely a clerical role. That's all he does. When he registers that Governor Rod Blagojevich has named Roland Burris to the Senate. That's what he does. He's not regulating. He's not judging. He's not measuring whether some vote is accurate or not. He's just registering it. That's all he has to do or not do. It really doesn't make any difference.

The Democrats--look, I will give Harry Reid and Dick Durbin credit. They realized this is a huge mess for them. It is a great political embarrassment. And they're trying to get out of it, and I think that's wise.

MARA LIASSON, NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO: There's nothing more entertaining than politicians who got themselves tied up in really a bad knot and are trying to untangle it.

We knew the jig was up when they hung this whole thing on the fact that he didn't have the secretary of state's signature. "That's the only reason we're not seating him."

Anyway, look, they have charted themselves an escape path, which is the Supreme Court of Illinois will determine whether White has to actually sign or his signature isn't needed, and Burris has to, quote, "testify successfully" in front of the impeachment committee.

BAIER: For Rod Blagojevich.

LIASSON: For Rod Blagojevich. And I assuming he will say that, of course, he had no conversations with him, he wasn't asked to do anything in exchange for this seat, because that is the cloud that hangs over this entire thing, is that Blagojevich was allegedly trying to sell the seat, not necessarily to Burris, but to others.

So it sounds like after they go through a few of these motions, this kabuki dance, he will be the senator.

MORT KONDRAKE, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, "ROLL CALL": If a mischievous Republican, say Karl Rove or Lee Atwater, the ghost of Lee Atwater, who is George H. W. Bush's famous political fixer, had contrived a scenario to make the Democrats look bad, they could not have done it better than the Democrats have done it for themselves.

I mean, Durbin and Reid look like perfect fools in all of this. And now they finally decided to stop digging themselves into a hole, and they're going to climb out of it. And the scenario that Fred and Mara talked about is exactly right.

It is dumbfounding that these guys didn't quit this a long time ago. But, you know, they're quitting now, so, you know, maybe one of these days Burris will be sworn in, and we'll stop talking about this.

BAIER: Yes, because, Fred, the story now has just been processed. And now it's trying to save face.

BARNES: Yes. And, look, they have competing interests here, Democrats do. One, they don't want to have any dealings with Rod Blagojevich because he has been caught in the scandal.

So they want to separate themselves from him, which was the real reason, as Mara was saying--it wasn't the secretary of state's signature not being there. It was because he was Rod Blagojevich's pick. That's why they didn't want him. Now they're saying it's the signature.

And they especially don't want a special election where a Republican might win.

Actually, though, Republicans would be delighted to see Roland Burris as the senator and running in 2010. He is not a very strong candidate. He has lost a number of statewide elections. And, who knows? Mort's favorite Republican Mike Kirk might run and beat him.

BAIER: This was kind of shocking how this termed, Mara. Only one day ago it didn't seem like Roland Burris had a chance. And then suddenly he does.

LIASSON: The fact that Harry Reid over the weekend had said he was open to negotiations, he is an old trial lawyer. I think they realized they were getting themselves into trouble.

But, look, the focus has been on the ham-handedness of the Senate Democrats. But let's not let the Illinois Democrats off the hook too easily, because, look, they had a lot of opportunities to do something about this.

They could have called for a special election. They didn't have the nerve to do that, because they were afraid they might lose, or they could have passed a law with a veto-proof margin early on saying that Blagojevich couldn't make this appointment. They didn't do that either.

BAIER: Republicans just sit back say "This is good stuff"?

KONDRAKE: They just enjoy it.

But it really is a sideshow. It is the second ring of the circus. It is great to talk about and it's great to watch. And I guess the overriding lesson of it is, is that Harry Reid always pops off before he has thought something through.

He went out there, and I guess Dick Durbin was part of it, making this statement--"We will not seat anybody that Rod Blagojevich appointed."

BAIER: But you had 50 senators sign a letter that if Rod Blagojevich appoints something, they will not be seated.

KONDRAKE: That was a ploy to force Blagojevich into doing nothing or into resigning, or something like that. They were trying to put pressure on him not to do this.

But once he did it, and it was clearly legal under the law what he did. I mean, if he signs a bill in Illinois it's a law, right? So if he signs an appointment to a senator, he is the senator.

BARNES: But, Mort, how can you criticize somebody for popping off before they thought something through? I mean, that's what we do!

KONDRAKE: I beg your pardon.

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