Monday, June 28, 2010

Robert Byrd (1917-2010)

Robert Byrd, who had served West Virginia in the Senate since 1959, died today at the age of 92. His was a long and varied career in public life. He joined the KKK in the '40s and later filibustered the Civil Rights Act, but he became a champion of liberal causes and an esteemed Democrat on Capitol Hill:

Mr. Byrd's perspective on the world changed over the years. A former member of the Ku Klux Klan, he filibustered against the 1964 Civil Rights Act only to come to back civil rights measures and Mr. Obama. A supporter of the Vietnam War, he became a fierce critic, decades later, of the war in Iraq. In 1964, the Americans for Democratic Action, the liberal lobbying group, found that his views and the group's aligned only 16 percent of the time. In 2005, he got an A.D.A. rating of 95.

There is something admirable in that, in learning and growing and changing, and doing so not just with the times but more profoundly as a human being.

Given such a long career as a legislator, there are a lot of stains on Byrd's record, including his penchant for pork, as well as his views against gay marriage and against gays in the military, and he was never as solid a  liberal as he could have been on issues like the environment and civil liberties, but, flaws and faults aside, he was an impressive man who represented both his state and the institution he gave so much of his life to with passion and commitment. And, when it mattered most, as he grew into one of the true lions in the Senate and in the Democratic Party, he was often there with the courage to say what had to be said.

West Virginia Blue has some tributes and posts his "finest hour," Byrd's brilliant Senate speech against the Iraq War. "I weep for my country," he began.

This is the Robert Byrd we ought to honour today.

Labels: , , , ,

Bookmark and Share


Post a Comment

<< Home