Is it finally time for Sheets to go? John Bresnahan reports that some Dems are furtively looking for ways to send ol’ Bobby Byrd out to pasture with an “emeritus” title:
A group of Senate Democrats has begun quietly exploring ways to replace the venerable Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.) as chairman of the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee, believing he’s no longer physically up to the job, according to Democratic senators and leadership aides familiar with the discussions.
Under one scenario being circulated in Democratic circles, the 90-year-old Byrd would be named “chairman emeritus,” and Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) would become “acting chairwoman” for the remainder of the 110th Congress.
Democratic insiders caution, though, that no decision has been made.
Don’t think he’s going to go quietly, though:
“We’ve had a very successful year,” said Byrd’s spokesman, Jesse Jacobs. “We’ve done not one, but two omnibus bills this year. We’ve done an Iraq supplemental, even after [Bush] vetoed the first one. And we created some unprecedented transparency as it relates to earmarks. That to me is a very successful year.”
Jacobs was referring to the fact that Democrats were forced to pass an omnibus spending bill early in the year after Republicans failed to pass the annual appropriations bills last year.
Byrd has “every intention of continuing his service as chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee,” Jacobs added. “Sen. Byrd does not walk away from his commitment to the people of this country, his colleagues and the people of West Virginia.”
Flashback: My March 2001 column, “Sen. Robert Byrd, ex-Klansman.”
The “white nigger” video:
The Washington Post:
Despite his many achievements, however, the venerated Byrd has never been able to fully erase the stain of his association with one of the most reviled hate groups in the nation’s history.
“It has emerged throughout my life to haunt and embarrass me and has taught me in a very graphic way what one major mistake can do to one’s life, career, and reputation,” Byrd wrote in a new memoir — “Robert C. Byrd: Child of the Appalachian Coalfields” — that will be published tomorrow by West Virginia University Press.
The 770-page book is the latest in a long series of attempts by the 87-year-old Democratic patriarch to try to explain an event early in his life that threatens to define him nearly as much as his achievements in the Senate. In it, Byrd says he viewed the Klan as a useful platform from which to launch his political career. He described it essentially as a fraternal group of elites — doctors, lawyers, clergy, judges and other “upstanding people” who at no time engaged in or preached violence against blacks, Jews or Catholics, who historically were targets of the Klan.
His latest account is consistent with others he has offered over the years that tend to minimize his direct involvement with the Klan and explain it as a youthful indiscretion. “My only explanation for the entire episode is that I was sorely afflicted with tunnel vision — a jejune and immature outlook — seeing only what I wanted to see because I thought the Klan could provide an outlet for my talents and ambitions,” Byrd wrote.
While Byrd provides the most detailed description of his early involvement with the Klan, conceding that he reflected “the fears and prejudices I had heard throughout my boyhood,” the account is not complete. He does not acknowledge the full length of time he spent as a Klan organizer and advocate. Nor does he make any mention of a particularly incendiary letter he wrote in 1945 complaining about efforts to integrate the military.
Byrd said in an interview last week that he never intended for his book to provide “finite details” of his Klan activities, but to show young people that there are serious consequences to one’s choices and that “you can rise above your past.”
He suggested that his career should be judged in light of all that he did subsequently to help lift his state out of poverty, and to bring basic and critically needed services and infrastructure to West Virginia.
“I grew up in a state where we didn’t have much hope,” Byrd said. “I wanted to help my people and give them hope. . . . I’m just proud that the people of West Virginia accepted me as I was and helped me along the way.”
And two good moments, because even an ex-Klansman can get it right sometimes:
“The people were appalled” (Byrd’s speech lambasting Democrat insanity over the Alito nomination).
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