Roland Burris, please meet Ralph Tyler Smith.
While waiting for a prosecutor friend in the Everett Dirksen Federal Building in downtown Chicago Friday, I noticed the small dedication plaque in the lobby. It indicated that the Mies van der Rohe-designed structure was actually rededicated in 1970 to honor the legendary U.S. Senator from Illinois after his death the year before. The only other person mentioned is U.S. Sen. Ralph T. Smith, who was in attendance that day.
I googled to find out that Smith was an Illinois Republican legislator who was appointed to fill Dirksen's seat and served all of 14 months before losing a special election. So perhaps the rededication was one of the highlights of his Senate career. I did not know his name.
An hour or so later, my friends at MSNBC called to ask if I could shortly opine on Burris' imminent public announcement that he would not seek a full six-year term after his controversial appointment by then-Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich to fill President Obama's Senate seat. My prosecutor chum and I were nearly finished with our Chinese dim sum, so I said sure.
I can be a bit of a problem for TV producers since I occasionally blab a bit too long. Friday there was no such threat. In picking the brain of my luncheon companion, as well as a political reporter chum, it was clear that the Burris decision was simple: No money, no credibility, no White House support. Brevity was my lone alternative.