A few nodded, smiled at him or shook his hand. Rep.
Jesse Jackson Jr. gave him a hug on his way into the
"I did nothing wrong, Jesse. I did nothing
wrong," Burris said, not needing to fill Jackson in on
the calls for Burris' resignation from Illinois to
Washington. Jackson nodded but didn't say much.
Burris turned, grinned and waved -- it wasn't clear to
whom -- as he moved down the aisle between Sens. Joe
Lieberman, I-Conn., and John McCain, R-Ariz. They were
polite, but focused elsewhere.
There were no cheers of support for Burris, the only
black member of the Senate.
Someone showed Burris to his seat just under the
press gallery. Nobody immediately chatted with him, so
Burris held up a hand to shield him from the glare and
appeared to scan the galleries, presumably for friends
or family. He glanced at his program.
Members of Congress have special public rituals for
pariahs who cannot, for various reasons, be ejected.
At best, they show a distinct lack of made-for-TV
enthusiasm for the scorned. At worst, they'll stare into
the middle distance as if through Those Not to Be
More commonly, they smile, but not warmly; hug
everyone else and issue a polite nod or maybe back-pat
to the undesirable before moving on. Rarely, they'll
turn their backs or be rude. Particularly not on live
Burris, the Democrat from Illinois, was urged to
resign hours earlier by the other Senate Democrat from
Illinois, Dick Durbin. He had been appointed by
disgraced former Gov. Rod Blagojevich, was resisted and
then accepted by Senate Democrats only when the
political cost of keeping him out ran too high.
New questions about how Burris won the appointment,
and his evolving answers, generated calls for his
resignation back home. Almost as soon as he hit the
ground in Washington Tuesday, Durbin made the same, er,
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid didn't even make
that much effort, dispatching a spokesman to say that
Burris would have to make up his own mind on that.
For Tuesday at least, Burris remained a United States
senator and as such merited a seat on the House floor
for Obama's address to Congress. Someone showed Burris
to his seat, very near to where Obama sat last year.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., turned around and chatted
with him briefly. So did Democratic Sens. Bob Casey of
Pennsylvania and Kent Conrad of North Dakota.
But Sen. John Tester of Montana soon sidled in one
row back and gave Casey a bear-hug. Conrad resumed
speaking to someone in front of him.
And Burris spent much of the time before Obama began
speaking standing between the backs of his seat mates.
Where there was a perceived snub a year earlier,
there was a kiss and a hug Tuesday night.
Obama opened his arms wide when he spotted his
secretary of state, Hillary Rodham Clinton, and leaned
in to give her a kiss. She responded in kind. Briefly,
they made a sandwich of Senate Sergeant-at-Arms Terrance
Gainer, who scooted out from between them. The hug
resumed, then ended and Obama moved on to greet members
of the Supreme Court.
[to top of second column]
A year ago, at former President George W. Bush's final
State of the Union address, Obama and Clinton were
Democratic senators clenched in a bitter battle for
their party's presidential nomination. Obama, seated
between Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., and Sen. Claire
McCaskill, D-Mo., saw Clinton coming up the aisle toward
him when McCaskill tapped him on the shoulder. Obama
took the opportunity then to turn toward McCaskill and
away from Clinton, who continued past him with no
greeting between the two.
Ailing and deeply respected members of the Washington
establishment were saluted in different ways Tuesday.
Obama called for an education bill to be named after
Kennedy, D-Mass., who was absent and fighting brain
cancer. It was a tribute to Kennedy's slain brother,
President John F. Kennedy.
And perhaps the loudest applause went to Supreme
Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, also being treated
for cancer, as she made her way slowly to her seat.
Tsk-tsk. Twittering while the president is addressing
a joint session of Congress? While you're in the same
room with him? Yep. Dozens of members of Congress did
just that during Obama's speech Tuesday night.
Mostly, they outlined favorite lines -- "Americans are
not quitters" being a popular one.
But snark doesn't always play well, as one lawmaker
apparently found out.
"Let's do whatever proves necessary? Again he
expresses no governing or guiding principles," Rep. John
Culberson, R-Texas, tweeted during the speech.
"Hold onto your wallet, America," he continued.
Toward the end, he concluded, "We are at war -- seems
to me honoring our troops should come on page one rather
than at the end of the speech."
But whoops, it's all about bipartisanship, people.
And covering for oneself.
"This is a great privilege to be here and I will try
hard to find ways to work together while preserving my
core principles," Culberson wrote moments later.
[Associated Press; By LAURIE KELLMAN]
Associated Press photographer Pablo Martinez
Monsivais contributed to this report.
Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This
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