You have your black senator now

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Isn't he a dandy?

The United States Senate Ethics Committee and a local Illinois prosecutor began investigations on Tuesday into the recently appointed junior senator for Illinois, Roland W. Burris, over Mr. Burris's shifting, inconsistent descriptions of how he came to be named to the seat vacated by the election of President Obama.

Mr. Burris, a onetime state attorney general chosen to fill Mr. Obama's Senate seat by Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich in the final weeks of Mr. Blagojevich's beleaguered administration, said he had done nothing wrong and welcomed all investigations.

"I will answer any and all questions to get that point across and restore faith with the citizens of Illinois," he said in a statement Tuesday afternoon before reporters in Peoria, Ill., where a planned question-and-answer session was canceled.

Only a night earlier, Mr. Burris, a Democrat, had provided yet another new, jolting disclosure about his ties to Mr. Blagojevich's closest allies: In the month or two before Mr. Blagojevich appointed him, Mr. Burris, 71, tried, without success, to raise money for the governor, he acknowledged, at the request of the governor's brother.

How long will it take for the "one black senator" card to played? There's something poetic in all of this. It's not that Burris is dirty--plenty of politicos are dirty. It's that he was amateurish enough to think that, with all the attention paid to this case, he was slick enough to pass. I doubt they'll throw him out. But he'll spend most of his term defending himself, and then in 2010 the Dems will bounce his ass. But hey, he'll always have the honor of being the, uhm, third black senator from Illinois.

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Ta-Nehisi Coates is a national correspondent at The Atlantic, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of the memoir The Beautiful Struggle.

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