Dana Bash, CNN’s senior congressional correspondent tweets, “sad news this early morning. Senator Robert C Byrd, titan of the US Senate, has died at age 92.”
Byrd, 92, was first elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1952 and served six years there before moving to the U.S. Senate.
In November, Byrd broke the record for congressional service that had been set by Democrat Carl Hayden of Arizona, who served in the House and Senate from 1912 to 1969.
Byrd has been in frail health in recent years and was hospitalized three times in 2009. He has been confined to a wheelchair, but was present and voted “yes” for final Senate passage of the health care reform bill in March.
Byrd has been the longest-serving senator since June 2006 and was elected to an unprecedented ninth term in November 2006. His colleagues have elected him to more leadership positions than any senator in history. He has cast more than 18,000 votes and has a nearly 98 percent attendance record over the course of his career.
A former member of the Ku Klux Klan, Byrd later became a champion of civil rights. He has also been a staunch supporter of his home state’s coal industry and more recently has spoken out about environmental and safety issues.
As you can tell by the fawning tone of the correspondents from both CNN and MSNBC, get ready for the mother of all narrative struggles. (See also: Kennedy, Ted.) As that astonishing last paragraph in the MSNBC piece quoted above particularly highlights, the left will be eager to whitewash Byrd’s horrific legacy, which Michelle Malkin noted in a 2001 article for Capitalism magazine, whose every paragraph referenced Byrd’s ex-KKK past in the first sentence:
The ex-Klansman’s admirers praise his historical knowledge, mastery of procedural rules, and outspokenness. They refer to the Senate’s senior Democrat as the “conscience of the Senate.” They downplay his white-sheet-wearing days as a “brief mistake” — as if joining the Klan were like knocking over a glass of water. Oopsy.
This ex-Klansman wasn’t just a passive member of the nation’s most notorious hate group. According to news accounts and biographical information, Sen. Byrd was a “Kleagle” — an official recruiter who signed up members for $10 a head. He said he joined because it “offered excitement” and because the Klan was an “effective force” in “promoting traditional American values.” Nothing like the thrill of gathering ’round a midnight bonfire, roasting s’mores, tying nooses, and promoting white supremacy with a bunch of your hooded friends.
The ex-Klansman allegedly ended his ties with the group in 1943. He may have stopped paying dues, but he continued to pay homage to the KKK. Republicans in West Virginia discovered a letter Sen. Byrd had written to the Imperial Wizard of the KKK three years after he says he abandoned the group. 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.”
The ex-Klansman later filibustered the landmark 1964 Civil Rights Act — supported by a majority of those “mean-spirited” Republicans — for more than 14 hours. He also opposed the nominations of the Supreme Court’s two black justices, liberal Thurgood Marshall and conservative Clarence Thomas. In fact, the ex-Klansman had the gall to accuse Justice Thomas of “injecting racism” into the Senate hearings. Meanwhile, author Graham Smith recently discovered another letter Sen. Byrd wrote after he quit the KKK, this time attacking desegregation of the armed forces.
The ex-Klansman vowed never to fight “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.”
If this ex-Klansman were a conservative Republican, he would never hear the end of his sordid past. “Ex-Klansman who opposed civil rights and black justices” would appear in every reference to Sen. Byrd. And even the “ex-” would be in doubt. Maxine Waters and Ralph Neas and Julianne Malveaux and Al Sharpton and all the other left-wing bloodhounds who sniff racism in every crevice of American life would be barking up a storm over Sen. Byrd’s latest fulminations. Instead, the attack dogs are busy decrying latent racial bigotry where it doesn’t exist, while the real thing roams wild and free in their own political backyard.
President Obama’s potential words of praise to a racial demagogue far worse than even Rev. Wright himself should be especially interesting to watch.
What happens next in terms of Byrd’s former senate seat? On Sunday, when news initially broke that Byrd was seriously ill, Doug Powers, guest-blogging at Michelle’s Website explored “A Brief Discussion About W. Virginia Senate Seat Rules.”
Update (7:45 AM PDT): The Professor adds, “keep a list of hagiographers in the press who don’t mention Byrd’s Klan connection. Then we can cross-index with the Journolist membership when it comes out . . . .” Don Surber has a photo montage of Byrd’s long life and the myriad of statesmen he crossed paths with, (from JFK to the Dalai Lama). Bob Owens quips, “Off To that Great Klavern In the Sky.” Ed Morrissey has more on the process of choosing Byrd’s successor, and also at Hot Air, Cassy Fiano has an extensive round-up of Blogosphere linkage.
Update: From Nick Gillespie of Reason: “The Emperor Palpatine of Pork” — “Here lies a man who pushed his home state to build a statue of him in defiance of a rule that such honorees be dead for 50 years.” Rand Simberg adds, “For all of his posturing about his love of the Constitution, he was one of the prime architects of the fiscal ruin that lays ahead, and he served far too long.”
Update: Found via blogger “Biased Girl,” no doubt this was ghost-written, (certainly ghost-tweeted to “the Twitters”), but still. Get ready for irony so thick, it forms it forms its own recursive feedback loop and collapses in on itself: