- The Washington Times - Friday, October 11, 2002

When it comes to parliamentary wizardry, sheer stubbornness and chutzpah needed to tie the United States Senate up in knots, no one man comes close to that chamber's senior Democrat, Sen. Robert Byrd of West Virginia. Thanks to parliamentary obstacles being erected by Mr. Byrd, Senate passage of a bipartisan resolution supporting President Bush's policy towards Iraq has been delayed for several days. Tough critics of Mr. Bush, among them stalwart Democratic doves like Majority Leader Tom Daschle, Majority Whip Harry Reid, and Sens. John Kerry and Christopher Dodd have announced their support for the administration-backed resolution authorizing the use of force against Iraq.

Late yesterday, the Senate was on the verge of ending Mr. Byrd's parliamentary maneuverings and passing the Iraq resolution. But, unfortunately, that's not the only mischief that Mr. Byrd, the chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, has been behind during the past month. He has spent the better part of four weeks on the Senate floor attempting to filibuster President Bush's legislation to create a new Department of Homeland Security; Mr. Byrd's prolonged absences may just have something to do with the fact that none of the 13 appropriations bills that were to have reached the president's desk by October 1 got there on time. Yet, despite his failure to get his work done, the Senate Appropriations Committee Web site contains a statement from Mr. Byrd placing the blame for the delay squarely on the Republicans.

Mr. Byrd, a member of Congress for close to 50 years, is often referred to as the "King of Pork," a reference to his power over the purse as chairman of the appropriations committee and his determination to load spending bills with all manner of dubious projects benefiting his home state. But, well before he was first elected to Congress, Mr. Byrd had a habit of making some very bad choices in his personal life. As the New York Times noted on March 9, 2002, Mr. Byrd "joined the Ku Klux Klan in 1942, when he was 24 years old, no longer in his youth, and resigned the next year." However, the paper goes on to note that Mr. Byrd (who subsequently called his support of the Klan a mistake) "praised the Klan in a letter at age 28."

In 1945 (one year before Barry Goldwater, the future conservative Republican senator from Arizona played an integral role in desegregating the Arizona Air National Guard, and only three years before President Truman ordered the integration of the military) Mr. Byrd sent a letter to Sen. Theodore Bilbo of Mississippi, a notorious segregationist, vowing that he would "never submit to fight beneath that banner (the American flag) with a Negro by my side," according to a letter discovered by author Graham Smith and published in a book, "When Jim Crow Met John Bull." Added Mr. Byrd in his letter to Bilbo: "Rather I should die a thousand times, and see old Glory in the dirt never to rise again, than to see this beloved land of ours be degraded by race mongrels, a throwback to the blackest specimen from the wilds." Asked about this letter back in 1999, Mr. Byrd did not dispute the quote, and said he was ashamed of it. Today 57 years after the Bilbo letter Mr. Byrd is giving people new reasons to be ashamed of him.


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