Monday, June 28, 2010

The Self-Education of Robert Byrd

He will be remembered as the nation's longest-serving lawmaker ever, a Ku Klux Klan bigot who lived long enough to back an African-American president, a patriot who tried to stop his country from starting a disastrous war in Iraq and, above all, someone who never stopped learning.

A self-made man if there ever was one, Robert Byrd, who died today at 92, started as a gas jockey and butcher in West Virginia during World War II, who discovered a taste and talent for politics by joining the Ku Klux Klan at the age of 24 and rising to the position of Exalted Cyclops.

His worldview then is reflected in a 1944 letter: "I shall never fight in the armed forces with a Negro by my side... Rather I should die a thousand times, and see Old Glory trampled in the dirt never to rise again, than to see this beloved land of ours become degraded by race mongrels, a throwback to the blackest specimen from the wilds."

But in May 2008, Sen. Robert Byrd was endorsing an African-American candidate as "a shining young statesman, who possesses the personal temperament and courage necessary to extricate our country from this costly misadventure in Iraq, and to lead our nation at this challenging time in history. Barack Obama is a noble-hearted patriot and humble Christian, and he has my full faith and support."

In his journey from benighted to Obama, Byrd's finest hour came on the eve of the Iraq invasion in 2002 when he warned:

"Why are we being hounded into action on a resolution that turns over to President Bush the Congress's Constitutional power to declare war? This resolution would authorize the president to use the military forces of this nation wherever, whenever and however he determines, and for as long as he determines, if he can somehow make a connection to Iraq. It is a blank check."

An advocate of lifelong education, Robert Byrd practiced what he preached, becoming the only member of Congress ever to put himself through law school while in office. It's hard to imagine any of the current or future crop of blowhards doing anything like that.

R.I.P., Senator.

1 comment:

Character Education Resources said...

Ku Klux Klan African American President? To be very frank I can't understand it at all? Can some explain it to me?