Barack Obama's replacement in the Senate had a tough act to follow -- but Roland Burris managed to impress with his willingness to engage in a bare-knuckle brawl to get through the doors. Remember his pal Bobby Rush imploring us not to "hang or lynch" the Blagojevich appointee just because he'd been nominated by a man who would shortly get drummed out of office?
Burris, unlike his predecessor, hadn't gone to any Ivy League schools. And unlike Obama, who lost a single state Senate race before steadily ascending the political ranks to the presidency, Burris ran for Illinois Comptroller, U.S. Senate, governor of Illinois, and mayor of Chicago, and lost them all. Still, he was sufficiently proud of his scattershot accomplishments that he had them all listed on his own personal mausoleum.
He's probably not the only senator to have a mausoleum, but he's undoubtedly the only one to have "First African-American in Illinois to become S.I.U. exchange student to University of Hamburg, Germany 1959-60" engraved on it.
Burris is, in other words, a bit of a character -- not half as loathsome as the vainglorious human hairball who appointed him to the Senate -- and a generally likable guy. As to what he has actually done for the state of Illinois during his brief tenure in office, who knows, but he at least has not made headlines by confessing to affairs or tapping his foot in restrooms or accusing his colleagues of being clowns. That should count for something, in these troubled times.
And, yet, too few people recognized the greatness in Senator Burris to support his nascent 2010 election efforts. He collected such a laughably small amount that it just wasn't worth it to continue, and finally declared that he wouldn't serve in the Senate past next year.
Too bad. He may not have been the best senator in the world, but he was far from the worst. And now he can't add "first African-American in Illinois to become a second-term U.S. senator" to his mausoleum list.