Roland Burris has always seemed like a nice guy, and most immediate news reports on Tuesday upon him being selected by Gov. Rod Blagojevich to fill Barack Obama's U.S. Senate seat described him as "decent" and "honorable," but political insiders have known for years that Burris is, as the longtime columnist and political analyst Laura Washington wrote recently, an egomaniacal blowhard.
It took less than 24 hours for poor Roland's weirdness to be exposed to the whole wide world.
"He owns a space at a mausoleum on the city's South Side, where a wall is inscribed with some of his political achievements, but leaves space for more," the New York Times notes in its "Man in the News" profile of Burris this morning.
That's putting it kindly, as you can see here at this post on the widely read Washington, D.C., gossip blog, Wonkette. You know, the post under the headline "Roland Burris Has Already Constructed His Terrifying Death Chamber." Subtitle: "Oh, So He's A Psychopath."
(Wonkette also notes that Roland Burris's children are named Roland II and Rolanda.)
It's true that Burris was a TRAIL BLAZER - as he claims on his crypt - insofar as he was the first African American to win a statewide office (comptroller) in Illinois. On the other hand, he is probably the state's Most Boring Trail Blazer Ever, and achieved his goal by excelling at being such an outstanding functionary.
To illustrate the absurdity of Burris's inflated sense of self-worth, one commenter at Flickr writes, "I'm going to put 'First Asian to Comment on the Flickr Photo of Burris' Grave' on my gravestone. And also 'Trail Blazer'."
It's not just the gravestone, though, that makes Burris's sense of reality almost as suspect as that of the governor.
The Sun-Times, for example, recalls today an interview in 2002 when Burris proclaimed himself a "visionary." Which is true only in the sense that he could always envision himself for higher office when nobody else could.
Far more disturbing is the Sun-Times's recall of Burris once saying he was "divinely directed," and that "I believe without a doubt that I am predestined to be a role model."
Yes, but for which lucky cast member on Saturday Night Live?
During his inauguration as comptroller in 1979, Burris said that Abraham Lincoln had spoken to him when Burris visited his tombstone in Springfield. "I know who you are and I am pleased at what's taking place in Illinois today," Lincoln told Burris.
Burris went on to win two more terms to comptroller and one as state attorney general.
Asked this morning about Burris, Lincoln had no comment.
In 1995, Burris ran for mayor against Richard M. Daley just as Daley had hit his stride. Daley won 60 percent to 36 percent, which actually was a relatively strong showing for Burris considering what's happened since.
Burris has run for governor three times - in 1994, 1998, and 2002. He's never made it out of the primaries.
Still, Burris has managed to exist as a political entity for a long time in Illinois largely unscathed by scandal, though, as the Tribune reports, "he refused to acknowledge error in the controversial murder conviction of Rolando Cruz, who was later exonerated of the 1983 killing of 10-year-old Jeanine Nicarico."
But now a new first line has been written for Burris's biography - by Rod Blagojevich.
"I don't have any taint," Burris insisted on Tuesday.
You do now.