Robert C. Byrd

Given that practicularly every Federal Project in the state of West Virginia is named after the man who procured the funding, Robert Byrd, I think the state is best referred to as “Byrdland”.


From IF Stone, April 15, 1968, upon the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr.  Placed in historical context of time and place, he could certainly have been worse.:

Privately many white Southerners rejoiced, and their influence was reflected in the scandalous failure to declare a holiday in the District the day Dr. King was buried.  Though stores closed, government offices were open and Negro mailmen delivered the mail as usual.  This is still, despite its black majority, a Southern-ruled town; it shuts down on Washington’s birthday, but not Lincoln’s.

The most powerful of the District’s absentee rulers, Senator Robert C. Byrd (D. W Va.), went so far as to imply in a Senate speech April 5, that Dr. King was to blame for his own death.  Byrd said those who organize mass demonstrations may “in the end … become themselves the victims of the forces they set in motion.”  While Dr. King “usually spoke of nonviolence,” Byrd went on smugly, “violence all too often attended his action and, at the last, he himself met a  violent end.”  This should make Byrd the South’s favorite criminologist.

Byrd is the Senator to whom the blacks of Washingon must come for school and welfare money.  As chairman of the Senate Appropriations subcommittee on the District of Columbia budget, Byrd wields far more power than the city’s figurehead Negro “Mayor.”  He has used this key position to block liberalization of welfare rules not only in the District but in the country, since the federal government can hardly apply elsewhere rules more liberal than those he will allow in the District.  Byrd has become the national pillar of the “man in the house” rule.  This, as the report on the Commission on Civil Disorders protested, makes it necessary for the unemployed father to “abandon his family or see them go hungry.”  In this sense not a few of the child looters in our gutted ghettoes can trace their delinquency to Robert C. Byrd.

Byrd likely played a bit of footsey as he entered Congress in the 1950s with his history in the Klan, and shaved it off in later biographical retellings.  Regarding his stances and speeches that made him a hero to opponents of the War in 2003, his record with Vietnam is less so — so says George McGovern.:

I came to greatly admire him for speaking out against these unconstitutional wars that we’ve gotten into since World War II. On Vietnam, his record is not particularly impressive. He supported it for many years, as did many senators. But he learned from Vietnam. It was Sen. Byrd’s capacity for growth, wisdom and judgment that won my admiration. There’s no sin for anybody in public life to make a mistake. It’s how you learn from them that’s important.

As he was at the time he jumped up the ranks in the Democratic Caucus in the Senate, beating Edward Kennedy for Whip in 1971.

Eventually, his Precious view of his Precious Senate and its rules and nostrums, never mind the hindering powers of it, became annoying, an excuse to wax eloquent on his role as personification of what the Founding Fathers had in mind.  While it put him in good spirits to joke about being, along with Senator Dan Quayle, members of the “Feathered Caucus”, and let him rip about the Presidential perogatives regarding war, its steadfastness empowered this:

The facts on the Ground Change:

That attention to detail eventually got him elected party whip, and then majority leader. Sen. Howard Baker, who led the Republicans when Byrd led the Democrats, once told me that he cut a deal with Byrd on his first day in office. If you never use the rules to surprise me, he told Byrd, I’ll never use them to surprise you. Byrd thought it over till the afternoon. Then he agreed.

Round up the clips, enough to digest.

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