Sunday, January 4, 2009

Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. and Roland Burris

Adam Clayton Powell, Jr., the Kingfish of Harlem, was a playboy masquerading as a Member of the United States House of Representatives.

Roland Burris—by all accounts a reputable lawyer, and former Attorney General of the State of Illinois—is Governor Rod Blagojevich’s appointee to fill the now-vacant United States Senate seat from that state.

In early 1967 the House finally had enough of Powell’s absenteeism, bimbo chasing, and financially dubious conduct. It refused to seat him.

Now—although Blagojevich is still governor of Illinois, has not been impeached let alone removed from office, and was unarguably within his constitutional power to appoint Burris—United States Senate Majority Leader holier-than-thou Harry [Reid], has taken it upon himself to anticipatorily deny Burris his seat.

As with too many events in the past, and doubtless many more to come (at least in the next two years), Reid has proved that as a lawyer, let alone a constitutional scholar, he gets an “F” (recall his criticism of Justice Thomas’s opinions, which Reid later admitted he had not read).

There is no constitutional way for Reid and his democrats (including the vaunted constitutional scholar and former KKK member, Robert Byrd) to deny Burris his seat.

The 1969 case of Powell v. McCormack—decided only a few years after Reid finished law school and much in the news today, and which Reid apparently also has not read—makes the Majority Leader’s anti-Burris ranting utterly irrelevant.

Powell was an 8-1 decision of the Supreme Court (Justice Stewart’s dissent was on a technical point, not on the merits).

Writing for the Court, Chief Justice Warren’s lengthy majority opinion concludes with these words: “A fundamental principle of our representative democracy is, in Hamilton’s words, ‘that the people should choose whom they please to govern them.' [Citation omitted] As Madison pointed out at the [Constitutional] Convention, this principle is undermined as much by limiting whom the people can select as by limiting the franchise itself. * * * . . . since Adam Clayton Powell, Jr., was duly elected by the voters of the 18th Congressional District of New York [as Burris was duly appointed by Blagojevich] and was not ineligible to serve under any provision of the Constitution [as Burris is not], the House [here, the Senate] was without power to exclude him from its membership.”

So to the list of what Harry Reid has not read, we can add Founding Father Alexander Hamilton, co-author of The Federalist with John Jay and James Madison—the latter’s efforts including the Constitution of the United States and the Bill of Rights.