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BEHIND THE NEWS: The defiant one

December 30, 2008 1:42:28 PM PST
Oh to spend a couple of minutes exploring the mind of Rod Blagojevich.

It was already a great notion, what with the Illinois Governor talking on tape about trying to sell the U.S. Senate seat that once belonged to Barack Obama. Talking, even though he knew he was the target of a federal corruption investigation and was likely being wiretapped and bugged.

Now, comes perhaps an act with even more chutzpah. Blagojevich, despite the corruption allegations against him, has gone ahead and named a replacement for Obama.

And under different circumstances, he might make a good candidate: Roland Burris, a former Illinois State Attorney General, and former opponent of Blagojevich in the Democratic Party primary for Governor. It was a race in which Obama backed Burris.

Oh, and by the way, Burris is black. He would be the country's only African-American U.S. Senator.

Brilliant, really, at least politically, for Blagojevich. Go against this appointment, and, hey, are you being racist?

The announcement given a bit of political credence by the appearance with Blagojevich of not just Burris but also Congressman Bobby Rush, the former Black Panther leader who Obama once tried to defeat at the ballot box.

But the appointment is not in a vacuum: Virtually everyone with a voice in this process has urged Blagojevich to NOT name a replacement for Obama, because the Governor is so tainted by scandal. So Mr. Burris may not be the shoe-in Blagojevich envisioned.

Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White -- who, oh, by the way, is also African American -- says he won't certify any appointment from the criminally charged Governor.

"Although I have respect for former Attorney General Roland Burris," White said, "because of the current cloud of controversy surrounding the Governor, I cannot" certify the appointment.

You can read what people are Tweeting about today's announcement on Twitter at http://blagojevichblog.windycitizen.com/tweets/blago.html.

What a story. We'll have the latest on the Blagojevich controversy, tonight at 11.

One more tidbit from this saga: ABC News research has come up with 24 people who have been appointed or elected to the Senate, but who were not seated. The last time it happened was in 1947, when Theodore Bilbo, a Democrat and White Supremacist from Mississippi, was investigated for his escalating campaign rhetoric against blacks during this third-term campaign in 1946. Interestingly, the investigation led to field hearings in the South, and a threat of filibuster by Southern Senators against the new Republican majority.

Bilbo died in summer, 1947, having never been seated for his third term.

We're also monitoring the quickly changing events in Gaza. There's talk tonight of a possible ceasefire, although most of the discussion seems to be back-channel and not-for-attribution. We've been here before, of course, but this is, at the minimum, a chance to fashion a time-out before Israel commits to a ground assault on Gaza - a act of aggression that, at least on the surface, has no exit strategy -- other than the elimination of Hamas.

Also at 11, Lee Goldberg is tracking a wild week of weather heading our way - including some snow and ice in the northern 'burbs, and a frigid blast of air for New Year's Eve.

Scott Clark will have the night's sports, and we'll have any breaking news of the evening. I hope you can join Liz Cho and me, tonight at 11.

BILL RITTER


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