So the question now is: Is it Roland Burris the perjurer or is it merely Roland Burris the weasel whose memory apparently was seriously impaired by his desperate desire to be a U.S. senator? We'll find out soon enough.

So the question now is: Is it Roland Burris the perjurer or is it merely Roland Burris the weasel whose memory apparently was seriously impaired by his desperate desire to be a U.S. senator? We'll find out soon enough.

Giving his mentor Rod Blagojevich a break from the media spotlight last week, Burris brought a firestorm upon himself when he revealed that by golly he did talk to a bunch of Blagojevich aides about getting appointed to the U.S. Senate seat vacated by President Barack Obama. When the House impeachment committee asked him about that issue back in January, Burris said no such talks took place.

In normal times, having those kinds of conversations probably would be no big deal. These are not normal times, not when the former governor gets arrested for trying to sell that same Senate seat for personal gain and then gets booted out of office.

So when Blagojevich appointed Burris to take the seat, the questions naturally arose about whether Burris offered anything in exchange and just who he spoke to about getting the appointment. The U.S. Senate leadership, which was skeptical about seating anyone appointed by Blagojevich, left it up to the House impeachment committee to find out.

Burris said nothing funny went on and got himself a seat in Washington. Once safely there, Burris had one of those "Wait a minute. It's all coming back to me now" moments. He revised his story to acknowledge talking to a lot of Blagojevich people and even promised to raise campaign money for the former governor. For a while, Burris' account changed on a near daily basis.

Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, has now turned the various Burris stories and statements over to state prosecutors to determine if Burris committed perjury. Remember, though, that perjury is a legal concept that requires various factors to be proved. It's entirely possible legal experts will determine no perjury took place, despite what it may look like to laymen.

That pretty much leaves the weasel factor. Burris had to know that telling the committee upfront about his contacts with the Blagojevich people and willingness to raise money for Blagojevich could have spelled the end of his U.S. Senate ambitions. Thus, there was no mention of them until he had the seat in hand. He forgot.

From his comments, Burris wants people to believe this episode is no big deal and that he should not be blamed for anything. That notion has been almost universally rejected by people. Maybe Illinois residents are finally developing some standards.
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If Burris is forced out of the Senate, you have to wonder what he'll do with his mausoleum.

For those who don't know, Burris has this giant mausoleum in Chicago. On it, he lists all of the offices that he was the first African-American to hold, like comptroller, attorney general, even bank examiner. He wouldn't be the first African-American senator from Illinois, but would a walking ego like Burris leave that off the building?

Something else to ponder: Burris lists all of these jobs he's held, but doesn't list anything he accomplished while holding those jobs. Curious.
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Rep. Jim Sacia, R-Pecatonica, was on the House impeachment committee and listened to Burris' first version of events surrounding his appointment. Sacia wasn't impressed and that's before Burris' memory lapse cleared up.

"There is little doubt that there was a strong feeling on the day he was testifying we weren't getting the full truth," Sacia said.

Any notion that Burris would clear the air on his appointment was soon dispelled, he said.

"Not only did the air get unclear, it got downright smoky," Sacia said.
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Blagojevich must be happy right now.

The state spent last week mired in yet another political crisis, one that couldn't have happened without the help of the former governor who always reveled in chaos.

Moreover, the crisis (and attendant publicity) played out without Blagojevich having to go on TV or radio and make a fool of himself by once again proclaiming his innocence and martyrdom.
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The Illinois House debated a bill last week that involved Blagojevich. When a description of the bill was flashed on the House electronic message board, the former governor's name was spelled "Blagoejevich."

How soon we forget.

Doug Finke can be reached at (217) 788-1527 or doug.finke@sj-r.com.