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Old 06-28-2010, 09:32 AM   #1
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Senator Byrd Dead At 92

Robert Byrd Dead at 92, Senate's Longest Serving Senator, Reformed Member of KKK - ABC News

West Virginia Sen. Robert C. Byrd, the longest-serving member of the U.S. Senate, died early this morning. He was 92.

Byrd was admitted to a Washington area hospital a week ago, suffering from what was believed to be heat exhaustion and severe dehydration as a result of the extreme temperatures in the nation's capital. By Sunday afternoon other conditions developed, and Byrd's health took a turn for the worse.

Born Nov. 20, 1917, in North Wilkesboro, North Carolina, Byrd was orphaned as a 1-year-old when his mother died. He was raised by his aunt and uncle in a rural community near the coalfields of West Virginia.

The life lessons he learned while growing up in a coal-mining family helped him shape his political career; he ultimately achieved the distinction of being a three-term congressman and a nine-term senator.

"I served with him for 36 years. We sat in the same row," Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont, said on "Good Morning America" today. "He was a senator's senator. He was a keeper of our traditions, a keeper of the rules and the kind of senator who always kept his word. ... I will miss Bob Byrd."

Famed for his informed, often lengthy speeches on the floor of the Senate, Byrd's admirers praised his mastery of governmental procedure, historical knowledge and candor -- often referring to him as the "conscience of the Senate."

Byrd will be remembered "as that guardian of the Senate, as an institution. He insisted on the dignity of the Senate and tried to make people put aside their partisanship, and really look at the Senate as a deliberative body," ABC News contributor Cokie Roberts said on "GMA." "He always carried a copy of the Constitution in his pocket, reminding everyone that the Congress is the first branch of government, not the executive."

In his 51 years in the Senate, the Democratic senator cast more than 18,600 votes -- more than any other senator to date.

Despite his successful political track record, the Senate's senior Democrat was no stranger to controversy and was once a member of the Ku Klux Klan.

Byrd said he joined the white supremacist group in 1942 because it "offered excitement." He claimed the Klan was an "effective force" in "promoting traditional American values" and "was strongly opposed to communism."

Byrd allegedly ended his ties with the group in 1943, telling the Washington Post in June 1993 that his stint in the KKK was the mistake in his life that he most regretted.

"Just as a lot of young people these days join organizations they regret joining, I joined as a youth and regretted it later," he said. "I made a mistake."

But West Virginia Republicans discovered a letter Byrd had written to the imperial wizard of the KKK three years after he said he abandoned the group. In the letter, he wrote: "The Klan is needed today as never before and I am anxious to see its rebirth here in West Virginia" and "in every state in the Union."

In 1964, Byrd filibustered the landmark Civil Rights Act for more than 14 hours. Decades later, he opposed the nominations of the Supreme Court's two black justices -- liberal Thurgood Marshall and conservative Clarence Thomas.

In March 2001, Byrd made headlines again after he stunned a national television audience when he used the term "white niggers" when asked about the state of race relations.

"They are much, much better than they've ever been in my lifetime," Byrd said on the cable talk show. "I think we talk about race too much. There are white niggers. I've seen a lot of white niggers in my time -- I'm going to use that word. We just need to work together to make our country a better country, and I'd just as soon quit talking about it so much."

Byrd later apologized.

"The phrase dates back to my boyhood and has no place in today's society," he said.

By 2005, facing a potentially tough re-election campaign, Byrd received support from an unlikely source -- freshman Sen. Barack Obama, the only black member of the Senate, who sent out a fundraising letter on Byrd's behalf that raised nearly $825,000 in just a few days.

Byrd endorsed Obama after the West Virginia primary, despite Obama's loss to Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., in that contest.

Asked about the endorsement despite his personal history on the issue of race, Byrd replied, "Those days are gone. Gone."

Despite his controversial involvement in the KKK, Byrd repeatedly apologized for it in the latter part of his career, calling it the biggest mistake of his life.

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Old 06-28-2010, 09:51 AM   #2
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there are a lot of things i didn't like about Sen. Byrd, his reprehensibly racist past being one, his taste for gratuitous park another.

however, now is a time to celebrate the good things.

March 19th, 2003

"The Arrogance of Power"

I believe in this beautiful country. I have studied its roots and gloried in the wisdom of its magnificent Constitution. I have marveled at the wisdom of its founders and framers. Generation after generation of Americans has understood the lofty ideals that underlie our great Republic. I have been inspired by the story of their sacrifice and their strength.

But, today I weep for my country. I have watched the events of recent months with a heavy, heavy heart. No more is the image of America one of strong, yet benevolent peacekeeper. The image of America has changed. Around the globe, our friends mistrust us, our word is disputed, our intentions are questioned.

Instead of reasoning with those with whom we disagree, we demand obedience or threaten recrimination. Instead of isolating Saddam Hussein, we seem to have isolated ourselves. We proclaim a new doctrine of preemption which is understood by few and feared by many. We say that the United States has the right to turn its firepower on any corner of the globe which might be suspect in the war on terrorism. We assert that right without the sanction of any international body. As a result, the world has become a much more dangerous place.

We flaunt our superpower status with arrogance. We treat UN Security Council members like ingrates who offend our princely dignity by lifting their heads from the carpet. Valuable alliances are split. After war has ended, the United States will have to rebuild much more than the country of Iraq. We will have to rebuild America's image around the globe.

The case this Administration tries to make to justify its fixation with war is tainted by charges of falsified documents and circumstantial evidence. We cannot convince the world of the necessity of this war for one simple reason. This is a war of choice.

There is no credible information to connect Saddam Hussein to 9/11. The twin towers fell because a world-wide terrorist group, Al Qaeda, with cells in over 60 nations, struck at our wealth and our influence by turning our own planes into missiles, one of which would likely have slammed into the dome of this beautiful Capitol except for the brave sacrifice of the passengers on board.

The brutality seen on September 11th and in other terrorist attacks we have witnessed around the globe are the violent and desperate efforts by extremists to stop the daily encroachment of western values upon their cultures. That is what we fight. It is a force not confined to borders. It is a shadowy entity with many faces, many names, and many addresses.

But, this Administration has directed all of the anger, fear, and grief which emerged from the ashes of the twin towers and the twisted metal of the Pentagon towards a tangible villain, one we can see and hate and attack. And villain he is. But, he is the wrong villain. And this is the wrong war. If we attack Saddam Hussein, we will probably drive him from power. But, the zeal of our friends to assist our global war on terrorism may have already taken flight.

The general unease surrounding this war is not just due to "orange alert." There is a pervasive sense of rush and risk and too many questions unanswered. How long will we be in Iraq? What will be the cost? What is the ultimate mission? How great is the danger at home? A pall has fallen over the Senate Chamber. We avoid our solemn duty to debate the one topic on the minds of all Americans, even while scores of thousands of our sons and daughters faithfully do their duty in Iraq.

What is happening to this country? When did we become a nation which ignores and berates our friends? When did we decide to risk undermining international order by adopting a radical and doctrinaire approach to using our awesome military might? How can we abandon diplomatic efforts when the turmoil in the world cries out for diplomacy?

Why can this President not seem to see that America's true power lies not in its will to intimidate, but in its ability to inspire?

War appears inevitable. But, I continue to hope that the cloud will lift. Perhaps Saddam will yet turn tail and run. Perhaps reason will somehow still prevail. I along with millions of Americans will pray for the safety of our troops, for the innocent civilians in Iraq, and for the security of our homeland. May God continue to bless the United States of America in the troubled days ahead, and may we somehow recapture the vision which for the present eludes us.

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Old 06-28-2010, 01:10 PM   #3
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Irvine said it.

Racial intolerance, flat out hostility and blatant use of legislative appropriations power to reward/punish and hand out pork can't be excused anywhere.

But with Byrd, the good outweighed the bad.

-First, that entire Iraq speech that Irvine posted a part of was just incredible. Not because it was "inspirational" fluff, but because of its brutal realism and its placement of the Iraq question in the context of history that was so badly needed at the time. This proves that, no matter where you stood with regards to Byrd, he was not someone who you ignored.

-He would stand for principle over party.

-He was kind to Senators in both parties.

-He provided a moderate voice in opposing things like busing, which were well intentioned but disasters in practice.

-One of the most well read and intelligent people anywhere in government.

-He did numerous good for West Virginia.

-Unlike some others who went to their graves as bigots, Robert Byrd fully renounced his past and actually sponsored and argued forcefully for a federal holiday for Martin Luther King.

Like all Senators that become institutions in and of themselves(Kennedy, Thurmond) Byrd had his good and bad points. The difference is with Byrd you would be hard pressed to find someone with better good points and hard pressed to find someone who did more to atone for his bad points.
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Old 06-28-2010, 02:00 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by Irvine511 View Post
there are a lot of things i didn't like about Sen. Byrd, his reprehensibly racist past being one, his taste for gratuitous park another.

however, now is a time to celebrate the good things.
the last 30-40 years of his life, he was right side on Civil Rights
he said voting against the Civil Rights Act in 64 was the biggest mistake of his life
that a Southern, white man born in the South was on the wrong side, as a young man is not surprising, when the time came to choose, he rejected the GOP's Southern Strategy and chose the right side.

I didn't know about Park (Mr Park?) but that is neither here nor there.
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Old 06-28-2010, 02:15 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by deep View Post
the last 30-40 years of his life, he was right side on Civil Rights
he said voting against the Civil Rights Act in 64 was the biggest mistake of his life
that a Southern, white man born in the South was on the wrong side, as a young man is not surprising, when the time came to choose, he rejected the GOP's Southern Strategy and chose the right side.

I didn't know about Park (Mr Park?) but that is neither here nor there.

he and his staff were some of the most responsive to those he represented , that has ever been and will ever be.

Anyone could call his office with an issue , and within minutes he was on the phone back to you , and would get the problem solved. You ever called him again, years later, he remembered you by name.

98 % voting record is a record in itself.
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Old 06-28-2010, 04:26 PM   #6
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Rest in peace, Senator Byrd.
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Old 06-28-2010, 08:20 PM   #7
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One thing I can say about Senator Byrd
is that he was a defender and advocate for
the U.S. Constitution.

I think he carried a copy in his pocket.

Something very lacking in many in Washington today.
I think he was calling President Obama on some issue a few
months ago.

~Prayers to family and friends

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