For those of you who are not familiar with the word Palinize, it refers to a concerted journalistic effort to portray a public person in the crudest and most utterly negative terms imaginable. Nuance and balance are off-limits. Instead, the Palinizing journalist can only depict the object of scrutiny as an abomination, a political disgrace, and as a helpless idiot.
Fittingly, the Chicago Tribune leads the charge. One of the allegations of corruption against Blagojevich claims that he offered to assist the newspaper in a business transaction if it fired a journalist who had been critical of his administration. The paper also endorsed Obama and has published many positive articles about him. And Obama has insisted that Blagojevich resign and has condemned his selection of Burris.
Today, the paper published a polemical article by Stephen Chapman that wastes no time Palinizing Burris. Champman, who once conceded and defended the media's "crush on Obama," begins his article -- titled "An Empty Suit for an Empty Seat" -- with a negative tone from which he never departs:
Wall Street titan Bernard Madoff proved you can take an outstanding reputation and ruin it overnight. Now Roland Burris has demonstrated that even a mediocre reputation can be instantly destroyed.And Chapman closes with this nugget, suggesting that even if Burris manages to defeat the effort of Senate Democrats to exclude him, they could nonetheless reduce him to oblivion by not assigning him to a committee:
Burris is the prototypical time-serving career politician who owes his success to being simultaneously ambitious and bland. He has never been one to challenge the status quo, but no one underestimates his self-esteem. The two Burris children, after all, are named Roland and Rolanda.
Once on Capitol Hill, Burris may have nothing to do but bask in his new title, show up for an occasional floor vote and cash his paycheck.
For that job, come to think of it, Burris is perfect.
David Broder of the Washington Post is not as ruthless in his criticism of Burriss as Chapman, but his essay effectively portrays Burriss a lightweight and as a political embarrassment:
Everyone, including Obama, has been exceedingly polite in their public comments about Burris. I have known him for years and I like him. But I have never been confused about the level of his talent. He was elected as far back as 1978 as state comptroller and stayed in that low-visibility office for 12 years before moving up to attorney general in 1990.My take: I expect that more anti-Burris articles will emerge in the next few days. Very few of them will focus on his political and ideological record. Most, instead, will seek to discredit the appointment and provide legitimacy for the Senate Democrats opposition to his selection.
When he tried to climb higher, he found the competition too tough. He lost a Senate race to Paul Simon, tried three times for the nomination for governor without success, and ran for mayor of Chicago with the same result. He couldn't get past the Democratic primary in any of those contests.
Burris is, in short, typical of a lot of politicians in both parties who find a comfortable lodging for years in down-ballot offices but never make the cut for the major prizes. He was distinctive in Illinois mainly for breaking the color barrier in statewide office, thanks to his downstate birth and friendships and his pleasant, accommodating personality.
For an interesting contrast, a self-proclaimed conservative has argued that the GOP should not join the Democrats in opposing Burris. See Matt Lewis, Republicans Shouldn't Help Dems Block Burris.