An Open Letter to Senator Byrd, AKA "Comments on Byrd's letter to the POTUS"
crossposted from Alegre's Corner
I read with great incredulity last evening of Sen. Robert Byrd's letter to Barack Obama; Sen. Byrd, in this widely publicized letter to President Obama, is unhappy with what Byrd calls a "power grab" by the setting up of "policy czars" who bypass the Senate, thus doing an end-run around the Constitutional requirement of checks and balances.
Here's a link to this story; I chose the Politico version:
A salient quote:
"As presidential assistants and advisers, these White House staffers are not accountable for their actions to the Congress, to cabinet officials, and to virtually anyone but the president," Byrd wrote. "They rarely testify before congressional committees, and often shield the information and decision-making process behind the assertion of executive privilege. In too many instances, White House staff have been allowed to inhibit openness and transparency, and reduce accountability."
All true, and an obvious reference to former advisor to Pres. George W. Bush, Karl Rove, but . . . I find it hard to express how angry I am that only now Byrd has reservations about Barack Obama, when the Clinton Dems and PUMA community has been up in arms for months.
Simply put, Sen. Byrd -- where were you when you could've halted all this nonsense, huh? Where were you when then-Sen. Clinton beat the living Hell out of Obama in your own home state, West Virginia?
Because I can assure you, Sen. Byrd -- had you backed Senator Clinton, and done so ethically and with the highest of principles, at minimum we would not have a fractured Democratic Party now, and we would've had a clean Democratic National Convention.
(break in Alegre's Corner article is here)
And there was great reason you should've backed then-Senator Clinton, Sen. Byrd. Great reason indeed.
On May 13, 2008, Hillary Clinton won your state, Sen. Byrd, with 66.99% of the vote (nearly 67%), and won 20 pledged delegates, yet did not win your vote. You, sir, went against the will of your own state and pledged to vote for Barack Obama on May 19, 2008, despite your knowledge of Senator Clinton's integrity -- which you praised at the time (and rightly so). Your quote of both praise and endorsement (from the Charleston Gazette, link available here: http://wvgazette.com/News/2008... ) was:
Byrd praised both Obama and Hillary Clinton, saying their "integrity, honor, love for this country and strong belief in our Constitution I deeply respect...
"Barack Obama is a noble-hearted patriot and humble Christian, and he has my full faith and support," Byrd concluded.
Indeed, your endorsement carried so much symbolic weight in this hotly contested Democratic contest that Ben Smith of Politico.com remarked upon it; many, many pundits aside from Ben Smith discussed it, and it was widely viewed as then-Senator Clinton's last chance to get any of the big-name Democratic Party players on her side. Not as her campaign's last gasp, mind, because it wasn't -- but her last chance to get the establishment to see how much momentum she had.
Senator Byrd, you failed in your task; you were blinded by then-Senator Obama's praise (and his talk about how Byrd had once been a member of the KKK) as quoted from then-Sen. Obama's book The Audacity of Hope, as quoted in Ben Smith's article http://wvgazette.com/News/2008...
Listening to Senator Byrd I felt with full force all the essential contradictions of me in this new place, with its marble busts, its arcane traditions, its memories and its ghosts. I pondered the fact that, according to his own autobiography, Senator Byrd had received his first taste of leadership in his early twenties, as a member of the Raleigh County Ku Klux Klan, an association that he had long disavowed, an error he attributed-no doubt correctly-to the time and place in which he'd been raised, but which continued to surface as an issue throughout his career. I thought about how he had joined other giants of the Senate, like J. William Fulbright of Arkansas and Richard Russell of Georgia, in Southern resistance to civil rights legislation. I wondered if this would matter to the liberals who now lionized Senator Byrd for his principled opposition to the Iraq War resolution-the MoveOn.org crowd, the heirs of the political counterculture the senator had spent much of his career disdaining.
Sen. Byrd, you had your chance to avert this catastrophe back in May of '08. You failed, and while I know you are aged and you probably didn't want to have to take a stand in this fight (you alluded to such in your statement that Smith also quoted, which was:
(Byrd) said he has "no intention of involving myself in the Democratic campaign for President in the midst of West Virginia's primary election. But the stakes this November could not be higher."
but as a principled, smart, highly educated man, you had to know that we needed the most experienced, principled, conscientious person in the office. Someone who already knew the world stage; someone who wouldn't make mistakes on the job, or try to appoint "czars" to do end-runs around the Senate, or otherwise try to subvert the Constitution.
You, sir, had the chance to take a stand and back the person who won your state -- Hillary Rodham Clinton. The first woman with a serious shot at the Presidency of the United States of America.
And you blew it.
If the stakes weren't so high now, I'd laugh in your face.
And no, I won't forgive you, Sen. Byrd. You are a bright, highly educated, principled political scholar. And you had to know at least in part that the tactics used by the campaign staff of Barack Obama were utterly wrong and even reprehensible -- yet it surely seems that you chose to be viewed as "forward-thinking," progressive, and most of all, not a racist despite your past KKK membership (not that you've been racist for a long time; that is not in doubt) rather than back the person who would've been much better in this position, Hillary Rodham Clinton.
All you had to do back in May of '08, Sen. Byrd, was to say that while you had the greatest respect for then-Sen. Obama, you were backing Hillary Clinton for the good of the country and the world. And let the chips fall where they may.
At any rate, I'm glad you have come around to seeing at least some of the problems that come with having Barack Obama as POTUS, and I hope your letter does some good. But I can't do anything but think this is all "too little, too late."