TPM's Zachary Roth asks How Damning Is The Burris Transcript?, and seems to be caught-up in the "gray" areas that Burris imagined he was playing in. But I'm sorry, I see no gray areas here. It's obvious that Burris thought he was walking a fine line, but the light of day shows that he had fallen off a long time ago. After all, if during Blago's announcement of his selection of Burris, they had mentioned any of this conversation, it is entirely inconceivable that Burris would have been seated. And in terms of Blago's past, there were no gray areas. Either Burris was entirely clean, or he's tainted; and that's that.
Because the main thing about taint is that you should, as much as possible, avoid even the appearance of it. And if you're offering to write a check and hold a fundraiser for someone who's offering you something, it has all the appearance of corruption. Particularly if the person you're dealing with is already tied up in a similar scandal. And if you're still willing to fully adopt the appearance of corruption, going so far as to talk about how you're going to hide the nature of the money; you're corrupt. That's all there is to it.
Knowing the Score
But my favorite part of the transcript is Blago's brother's reaction to Burris' offer. While Burris clearly imagined he was skirting around the pay-to-play issue, Blago's bro seemed to have no such illusions. He knew the score, and said as little as possible; letting Burris go further and further into outright scandal.
And here's a recap of Rob Blagojevich's part of that conversation:
BLAGOJEVICH: I hear ya. No, I hear ya.
BLAGOJEVICH: Mm hm.
BLAGOJEVICH: Mm hm.
This is clearly a guy letting Burris buy the rope, tie the noose, and put it around his own neck. He says as little as possible as Burris just keeps going further into the outright purchase of his Senate seat.
And yeah, it seems Burris didn't actually do any of this. But it's quite obvious that he was wanting Blago to know that he would. And the fact that it didn't happen is yet more evidence of how ungray all this was. Otherwise, he would not only have gone ahead with it, but would have announced that he was doing so. The only purpose for deception was because it was so blatantly wrong.
The Art of Bribery
And it's truly sad knowing that the Blagos were in no way discreet about their corruption. Bribery is an art, with it's own subtle rules and etiquette; and the Blago Bros really didn't seem aware of them. Instead, their style had all the subtlety of a Smash & Grab thief who steals from window displays and runs off while the alarm sounds. But they looked like true pros compared with Burris, who they let stumble his way into bribery and deception.
And in that regard, I suppose it makes Burris look better; in that he doesn't seem aware that he had walked fully into corruption territory. His naiveté is somewhat refreshing, and is evidence that he isn't accustomed to bribing people. But all the same, it's obvious that he was attempting to buy the Senate seat; and whether or not he actually did is beside the point. The point is that his Senate seat is entirely tainted and he needs to step down.
Again, there were no gray areas here. And the more Burris holds onto the illusion that there were, the more apparent it is that he was up to no good. An honest man would admit that he totally screwed up and step down; not because he did something wrong, but because it looks so bad. The fact that he insists he did nothing wrong is just more evidence suggesting that he's guilty. And the longer he holds on, the worse he looks.