Robert Byrd, RIP

posted at 8:48 am on June 28, 2010 by Ed Morrissey

The longest serving Senator in history has passed away overnight.  Robert Byrd (D-WV), a controversial figure and third in the line of succession in the current government, died at the age of 92 after a final hospitalization yesterday:

The Senate has lost one of its legends with the death of Robert C. Byrd, an orphan child who married a coal miner’s daughter and rose from the hollows of West Virginia coal country to become the longest serving senator in U.S. history.

He died around 3 a.m. Monday morning after being admitted to the hospital last week for dehydration, yet his condition worsened over the weekend and he became critically ill. Byrd was 92. …

It’s not a stretch to say Byrd wrote the book on the U.S. Senate — he authored a four-volume history of the upper chamber — which is why so many of his younger, more energetic colleagues continued to defer to him when it came to Senate rules and procedures.

Byrd had been hospitalized on and off over the past two years, including an extended hospitalization back in March. He was rarely seen in the Senate in recent months, yet he made it to several key floor votes over the past year.

The timing of Byrd’s death creates the need for a special election, as Nate Silver explained before Byrd passed away:

Byrd’s current term expires on January 3, 2013. Under West Virginia state law on handling Senate vacancies, “if the vacancy occurs less than two years and six months before the end of the term, the Governor appoints someone to fill the unexpired term and there is no election”. Otherwise, Manchin would appoint an interim replacement, and an special election would be held in November to determine who held the seat in 2011 and 2012.

In other words, we are within a week of the threshold established by West Virginia law. If a vacancy were to be declared on July 3rd or later, there would not be an election to replace Byrd until 2012. If it were to occur earlier, there could potentially be an election later this year, although there might be some ambiguities arising from precisely when and how the vacancy were declared.

Manchin, a Democrat, reportedly wanted a shot at the seat himself when Byrd left the Senate.  That would be a difficult maneuver now, at least in terms of the interim appointment.  Had Byrd died a week later, Manchin could have appointed himself to what would have been a two-year term and hoped to ride Barack Obama’s coattails, such as they will be, into a full term in 2012.  Now the election will have to be held this year in a midterm cycle poisonous to Democrats, especially in coal country while the Senate attempts to revive cap-and-trade.

As for Byrd, his death does mark the end of an era and removes a continual flashpoint for controversy.  Byrd’s history as a KKK recruiter and the man who filibustered the Civil Rights Act was routinely cited by Republicans and excused by Democrats.  Ironically, he was the last member of the upper chamber from those days.  Byrd also attracted controversy as one of the biggest practitioners of pork-barrel politics in Congress, which endeared him to many West Virginia voters but made him the scourge of clean-government and fiscal-responsibility activists.  The media treated him with a bit of amnesia regarding the earlier portion of his career, focusing mainly on his self-described expertise on the Constitution and his work as a historian of the Senate.  Only in this past year did media reports focus on his declining health and ability to serve, as Democrats finally removed Byrd as chair of Appropriations when it became clear that he wasn’t able to keep up with the task.

Our prayers are with the Byrd family and with the people of West Virginia.

Update: ABC News reports that the law in West Virginia says that the governor has to declare the seat vacant — and Manchin could wait to do that, apparently.  We’ll see whether West Virginians will demand immediate action.  However, the longer Manchin waits, the longer Harry Reid has to have one less vote for breaking filibusters, too.  I’m guessing that little will get done this week.

Update II: John McCormack has more thoughts.


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Let’s not pretend that anyone here – of all places – sincerely cares that Byrd was in the KKK.
Narutoboy on June 28, 2010 at 2:08 PM

One day:

Charles is a nut and I try to avoid visiting LGF. Narutoboy on June 28, 2010 at 1:37 AM

Another Day:

LGF is the most respected site and most trusted site for news. Narutoboy on June 25, 2010 at 12:11 AM

Your interest in truth is so… weak.

Akzed on June 28, 2010 at 4:32 PM

shick on June 28, 2010 at 4:22 PM

He’s living in Georgia, going to art school. I assume Savannah but not positive. Young people are so sure of their beliefs, I know I was. Time and experience do funny things. I think even Sen Byrd found that to be true.

Cindy Munford on June 28, 2010 at 4:36 PM

Where in LA? I lived briefly in Baton Rouge. I was there during Hurricane Andrew and temporarily worked as a courier for Red Cross. Man, did that storm do some damage.

shick on June 28, 2010 at 4:31 PM

You must have some amazing stories to tell! Actually, I’m in the other LA — Los Angeles, CA, where I’m one tiny red speck in a sea of blithering blue. :-)

I do love Louisiana, having visited there, and still buy Cafe du Monde coffee by mail to help support the state’s economy. I figure every little bit helps…

Mary in LA on June 28, 2010 at 4:46 PM

I give out the facts and you, the uninformed, can decide whether or not you want to accept them.

Narutoboy on June 28, 2010 at 3:14 PM

Maybe when you start giving us real facts, we’ll accept them.

Del Dolemonte on June 28, 2010 at 5:08 PM

Question: Did anyone at the hospital cut out eye holes after they pulled the sheet over Byrd? I’m just saying.

David in ATL on June 28, 2010 at 5:18 PM

donh525 on June 28, 2010 at 8:56 AM

You posed a better question than most here.

Oh… how the mainstream brainwashing works so well! Let’s not deal with a real issue brothers and sisters. Let us talk about the KLAN!!!!

Hey, Pssssttt…he didn’t build a career with racism, it was something else.

The country is going broke with the rampaging spending and growing government. A hundred Klans couldn’t do the damage of his real source of power and nobody stands up to it.

Piggy, piggy, piggy…

IlikedAUH2O on June 28, 2010 at 5:26 PM

Liberals running arouind talking about racism today remind me of a girl still wearing her dress three days after the prom ended cause it was so appropriate and useful at one time.

It looks stupid and is starting to stink.

P. S. I use this on lib sites. They tend to leave.

IlikedAUH2O on June 28, 2010 at 5:32 PM

A dead white racist that created the black racists that It grew up with. Meh. Classic case for term limits.

Key West Reader on June 28, 2010 at 5:34 PM

Liberals running arouind talking about racism today remind me of a girl still wearing her dress three days after the prom ended cause it was so appropriate and useful at one time.

It looks stupid and is starting to stink.

P. S. I use this on lib sites. They tend to leave.

IlikedAUH2O on June 28, 2010 at 5:32 PM

Byrd was a racist. So is “It”.

Key West Reader on June 28, 2010 at 5:35 PM

Let’s not pretend that anyone here – of all places – sincerely cares that Byrd was in the KKK.
Narutoboy on June 28, 2010 at 2:08 PM

It is confirmed. YOU ARE insane.

CWforFreedom on June 28, 2010 at 5:41 PM

I give out the facts and you, the uninformed, can decide whether or not you want to accept them.

Narutoboy on June 28, 2010 at 3:14 PM

As Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan once remarked, “We are each entitled to our own opinion, but no one is entitled to his own facts.”

oldleprechaun on June 28, 2010 at 5:41 PM

Young people are so sure of their beliefs, I know I was. Time and experience do funny things. I think even Sen Byrd found that to be true.

Cindy Munford on June 28, 2010 at 4:36 PM

True. True. True. And when we get a certain ripe old age we can become rigid again.

shick on June 28, 2010 at 5:47 PM

Too bad you can’t even get it right–once! Oh and your sister wants her underwear back…

lovingmyUSA on June 28, 2010 at 3:35 PM

Wow, you’re a regular comedian, aren’t you? Take off the clown nose and start doing stand up. I bet your mentor will be Michael Richards. “Look-there’s a N….!”

Narutoboy on June 28, 2010 at 3:37 PM

Oh yes loving’s joke is just like Richard’s joke-almost exactly. / idiot

CWforFreedom on June 28, 2010 at 5:47 PM

Blogger Clay Waters has a devastating analysis of the NY Fishwrap’s double standard coverage of Byrd’s passing:

The Times marked the death early Monday morning of veteran Democratic Sen. Robert Byrd of West Virginia, who served a record 51 years in the U.S. Senate, with an online obituary by former Times reporter Adam Clymer. While acknowledging Byrd’s Klan past and his pork-barrel prodigiousness, Clymer’s lead also emphasized Byrd’s proud fight as the keeper of Congressional prerogatives. The headline was hagiographic: “Robert Byrd, Respected Voice of the Senate, Dies at 92.”

While Clymer’s opening statement on Byrd wasn’t exactly laudatory, it did not match the paper’s hostile treatment of the passing of two veteran Republican senators accused of racial prejudice: Sen. Strom Thurmond of South Carolina and Sen. Jesse Helms of North Carolina.

Clymer’s lead paragraph:

Robert C. Byrd, who used his record tenure as a United States senator to fight for the primacy of the legislative branch of government and to build a modern West Virginia with vast amounts of federal money, died at about 3 a.m. Monday, his office said. He was 92.

The bulk of Clymer’s obituary for Byrd may have been written some time ago, as is customary. Clymer retired from the Times in 2003, after a career of bashing President Bush and prominent conservatives, while defending old-guard Democrats like Sen. Ted Kennedy.

Clymer acknowledged what he called Byrd’s changing perspective, moving from conservative to liberal over the years, and in the 16th paragraph brought up Byrd’s membership in the Ku Klux Klan in the 1940s and his filibuster of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

Mr. Byrd’s perspective on the world changed over the years. He filibustered against the 1964 Civil Rights Act and supported the Vietnam War only to come to back civil rights measures and criticize the Iraq war. Rating his voting record in 1964, Americans for Democratic Action, the liberal lobbying group, found that his views and the organization’s were aligned only 16 percent of the time. In 2005, he got an A.D.A. rating of 95.

Mr. Byrd’s political life could be traced to his early involvement with the Ku Klux Klan, an association that almost thwarted his career and clouded it intermittently for years afterward.

….

Mr. Byrd insisted that his klavern had never conducted white-supremacist marches or engaged in racial violence. He said in his autobiography that he had joined the Klan because he shared its anti-Communist creed and wanted to be associated with the leading people in his part of West Virginia. He conceded, however, that he also “reflected the fears and prejudices” of the time.

-snip-

In contrast is the Times’s treatment of veteran Republican Sen. Jesse Helms of North Carolina, who died on Independence Day 2008: “Jesse Helms, Unyielding Beacon of Conservatism, Is Dead at 86.” Steven Holmes’ obituary for Helms began:

Jesse Helms, the former North Carolina senator whose courtly manner and mossy drawl barely masked a hard-edged conservatism that opposed civil rights, gay rights, foreign aid and modern art, died early Friday. He was 86.

Clymer’s Byrd obituary didn’t mention that Byrd, like Helms, voted on a measure to bar the National Endowment for the Arts of funding “obscene” or “indecent” work.

Clymer also wrote the obituary for centennial Republican Sen. Strom Thurmond, who died on June 26, 2003. Like Byrd, Thurmond was a former segregationist (he made his mark as the States’ Rights candidate in 1948 and became a Republican in 1964) who later reconciled with blacks and became proficient in earning pork for his state. The Times’ headline the following day left no room for doubt: “Strom Thurmond, Foe of Integration, Dies at 100,” although Clymer’s lead didn’t mention race.

Del Dolemonte on June 28, 2010 at 5:59 PM

You’ve been pushing that but have no proof. What’s your sourcing?

The Race Card on June 28, 2010 at 1:19 PM

Like democrats, I don’t need proof. I’m just leveling a serious charge which is all that matters.

SouthernGent on June 28, 2010 at 6:00 PM

Byrd, like Kennedy, has a family and friends that probably love him. My respects to them.

But I see his passing as a positive thing.

Nuff said.

BierManVA on June 28, 2010 at 6:13 PM

True. True. True. And when we get a certain ripe old age we can become rigid again.

shick on June 28, 2010 at 5:47 PM

[insert Vi@gr@ joke here]

:-)

Mary in LA on June 28, 2010 at 6:16 PM

They just said on Special Report that the governor is going to appoint a replacement, so I guess everyone was not interpreting their laws correctly.

Cindy Munford on June 28, 2010 at 6:25 PM

I blame myself also for quite a few threads where I tried to exchange with the man on an adult level. But I have to say it is a lost cause and I would take the “Don’t Feed The Trolls” advice that so many offer to heart. Naturoboy is convinced we’re all racists and we’ll never change his mind. So, why even engage him to give him the forum to spew his hatred.

I’m done with him. Again, I’d highly recommend others consider to not help him hijack threads with his single-minded nonsense.

Just saying and a hattip to Mary in LA.

hawkdriver on June 28, 2010 at 6:28 PM

Just saying and a hattip to Mary in LA.

hawkdriver on June 28, 2010 at 6:28 PM

Why, thank you, sir! :-)
It’s always great to see you around here. Stay safe!

Mary in LA on June 28, 2010 at 7:05 PM

Like democrats, I don’t need proof. I’m just leveling a serious charge which is all that matters.

SouthernGent on June 28, 2010 at 6:00 PM

ROFL! :-D

Mary in LA on June 28, 2010 at 7:07 PM

At least the Dems don’t have 60 votes in the US Senate…

Khun Joe on June 28, 2010 at 8:11 PM

Let’s not pretend that anyone here – of all places – sincerely cares that Byrd was in the KKK.
Neuteredboy on June 28, 2010 at 2:08 PM

Missing the poor racist soul already, huh ? Understandable since you two have a lot in common !

cableguy615 on June 28, 2010 at 9:37 PM

Let’s not pretend that anyone here – of all places – sincerely cares that Byrd was in the KKK.

Narutoboy on June 28, 2010 at 2:08 PM

Speak for yourself, clown.

Cylor on June 29, 2010 at 1:05 AM

North Carolina c. 1954. The KKK decided to hold a rally in a corn field just outside of Lumberton, NC a bit South of Fayetteville.
Exalted members and guests arrived and the ceremonies started.
Suddenly a buncha Lumbee indians (a local tribe) rose from the surrounding ditches with shotguns and fired them in the air.
A few minutes later, the indians were the only people present.
Words my Mother taught me.
More: democrats are the enemy.

Caststeel on June 29, 2010 at 3:22 AM

Someone should ask Ted turner if this means God doesn’t want Financial Reform to pass. And if Teddy and Murtha’s deaths showed that God didn’t want healthcare to pass.

jeffn21 on June 29, 2010 at 10:06 AM

I’m sad for his family and friends, but I’m glad we no longer have a former keagle so high in government. That was a disgrace.

Esthier on June 29, 2010 at 10:24 AM

Del Dolemonte on June 28, 2010 at 5:59 PM

good post

Byrd was an unusual Bird. I admired some parts of the guy, and I carried a lot of admiration for the tenacious Helms, also a product of an era and a history which drove men into certain directions. I would have trusted either guy woth my wallet, but I would have trusted Helms more with my paycheck

People change, and people born into closed systems have a battle. Byrd and Helms both performed better than Obama, for instance, in letting go and moving on. Obama still retains a less than charming mix of knee-jerk and jerk, as he can find no way to share with his perceived enemies the least crumb.

I wonder, had Byrd been stronger how he would have spoken about the handling of the oil spill? Would he have shown some anger the problem is being treated as a poltical, not national crisis by his party’s leader? I can also imagine Helms making some mighty statements about the absence of effort to make right the tragedy

Byrd made me mad with his lib loyalties, but he was a bigger fellow than many who came after him.

entagor on June 29, 2010 at 10:41 AM

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