Is it November yet? Because as sick as Sen. Conrad Burns must be of seeing his name in print, we’re just about that sick of putting it here. Though both he and his office have always been gentlemanly about accommodating the prerogatives of the press, it’s getting so we’re frankly scared to even call him anymore. He might start railing on children, or baseball, or apple pie. A United States senator unwise enough to publicly trash-talk acknowledged American heroes—working men, doing dangerous work, at the behest of the government the senator nominally serves—can well expect the vote of no confidence he’s more and more clearly got coming.
The Senate Select Committee on Ethics isn’t giving Burns any love either. Last spring Burns took the extraordinary step of asking the committee to provide a letter clearing him, retroactively and without evidence, of any and all wrongdoing in his affairs with notorious scumbag Jack Abramoff, who all but fingered Burns as an accomplice in Vanity Fair last year. The Justice Department won’t confirm or deny that Burns is under investigation for favor-trading, but given that Burns was the senate’s top recipient of Abramoff’s largesse, and Abramoff’s confirmation of the relationship, if he’s not he ought to be.
Early this month, the ethics committee declined Burns’ request.
The rumor last week was that unnamed Republicans were hoping to convince Burns to abandon the race and interviewing potential replacement candidates. The rumor was they’d talked to former Secretary of State and 2004 gubernatorial candidate Bob Brown. Brown says it never happened, and we believe him, but regardless, Republicans have good and increasing reason to fear for Burns’ ability to keep his seat.
\First, Texas Congressman Tom DeLay, indicted money launderer and architect of the K Street lobbying machine exploited by his buddy Abramoff, resigned from the House June 9, and has since been involved in a frenzy of legal actions designed to get his name scrubbed from the Texas ballot to clear the way for a viable Republican write-in candidate.
Then Ralph Reed, the former Christian Coalition head also hobbled by his ties to Abramoff, got stomped in the July Republican primary for lieutenant governor of Georgia.
Most recently, on Aug. 7, veteran Ohio Rep. Bob Ney— aka “Representative #1,” and aside from Burns the member of Congress most associated with Abramoff—withdrew from his re-election campaign, citing his unwillingness to continue putting his family through “this ordeal.”
The next likely domino seems painfully obvious.
But somehow we doubt we’ll see Burns withdraw. His long-ago turnabout on self-imposed term limits proved that the senator surprised even himself with how much he likes the job. Voters are going to have to kick him out like a stubborn mule. And so it seems probable, weary as it makes us to predict it, that we’ll be seeing Sen. Burns in this space again soon.