Good Riddance, Robert Byrd

When Robert Byrd was a young man, he organized a local chapter of the Ku Klux Klan in his hometown of Crab Orchard and at the young age of 24 rose to the high office of “Exalted Cyclops.” He quickly climbed the KKK ranks, ascending all the way to “grand Kleagle,” a powerful recruitment head.


Once he became a prominent Democrat in the Senate, he had to mitigate his mistake of joining the Klan. As a former Exalted Cyclops and kleagle, it was hard for him to portray himself as a “good man in the wrong place at the wrong time” so he tried to mitigate the harsh image of the Klan that was becoming mainstream.

As he writes in his autobiography Child of the Appalachian Coalfields: “In those days, as I was told, many of the upstanding people in the communities belonged to the Klan. Doctors, lawyers, clergymen, judges, business people, and laborers—including women—were members of the organization. Many of the ‘best’ people were members—even senators and other high officials. It was with such background impressions, therefore, that I sought to become a member of the KKK.”

He went on to write, “I had good experiences with nearly all of the blacks I had known as a young man. I had been to their homes to sell produce and had found most of the black families I knew to be kindly, law-abiding, and God fearing … as far as Catholics, Jews, and foreign born people were concerned, I felt no bias against them.”

In Byrd’s autobiography, one is led to accept that he was simply looking for a good social networking device. Despite being such a high ranking member, Robert Byrd claims he simply had no idea that this organization was killing civil rights workers and burning down black churches. The following except is from a 1945 letter that Byrd sent to the segregationist Sen. Theodore Bilbo concerning the Truman administration’s efforts to integrate the US military;

“I shall never fight in the armed forces 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.”

Within the Church of Modern Liberalism, does one really think these words will prevent the elevation of Robert Byrd to media sainthood? In a church where abortion is a sacrament, it is unlikely. For goodness sakes, Ted Kennedy actually killed a woman and that did not halt his canonization process.

It is quite possible that a young, immature Byrd joined the KKK for noble reasons as he suggests in his autobiography. He may have seen the Klan as a fine tool for combating a rising tide of communism and for promoting patriotism. However, the mainstream media and other minions of the American left will continue to persecute men who did far less than Byrd while venerating Byrd himself.

With his recent death this hypocrisy will only get worse. Here are some of the things our fellow news outlets ought not to forget:

• Filibustering the 1964 Civil Rights Act for over 14 hours straight. To this day, the American left vilifies Sen. Barry Goldwater for voting against this legislation but where is criticism of Byrd? Goldwater had a strong pro-civil rights record coming out of the 1950s that included voting for civil rights legislation and working with the Arizona NAACP to desegregate Arizona’s public schools. Goldwater voted against the 1964 Act only because he believed that Title II was not within Congress’ power to regulate interstate commerce and was also an abridgement of the 10th Amendment.

Robert Byrd did not have the same civil rights record, far from it he was a Klansman. And, Byrd was never able to make a legitimate argument that he rejected the 1964 Act on constitutional grounds alone because while he filibustered the bill he quoted The Mind of Primitive Man by Frank Boaz. He cited Boaz’s study which concluded that the white man’s brain weighed more than the black man’s brain and therefore the white man is smarter. He also insisted that the writers of the Declaration of Independence did not intend for their words to be taken literally because they must have understood that all men are not created equal … that the darker man is clearly inferior.

• Having the guts to talk down to Martin Luther King Jr.  Today Martin Luther King, Jr. is praised as a fine statesman who led a crusade for a colorblind society, and rightfully so. King was gaining strong support from both sides of the isle; Republicans helped push through the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and President Johnson signed it into law. It would have taken a lot of chutzpah to denounce Reverend King on the Senate floor, but Robert Byrd sought to do just that. In early 1968, he contacted the FBI, offering to denounce King on the Senate floor. Byrd said it was time Dr. King “met his Waterloo.” The FBI did not take him up on that offer, but imagine the uproar if evidence came to light that Barry Goldwater or Trent Lott offered to speak ill of King on the Senate floor.

• Using the “N” word on live cable television. While on Tony Snow’s “Fox News Sunday” in March 2001, Sen. Byrd, speaking in reference to race relations in the U.S., said:

“They’re much, much better than they’ve ever been in my lifetime … I think we talk about race too much. I think those problems are largely behind us … I just think we talk so much about it that we help to create somewhat of an illusion. I think we try to have good will. My old mom told me, ‘Robert, you can’t go to heaven if you hate anybody.’ We practice that. There are white niggers. I’ve seen a lot of white niggers in my time. I’m going to use that word. We just need to work together to make our country a better country, and I’d just as soon quit talking about it so much.”

Sen. Byrd did not use this word with malevolence but one should not forget how Trent Lott’s career was tarnished when he complimented Strom Thurmond during his 100th birthday party by simply speculating that “this country may be better off today if Strom had been elected back in 1948.” Lott was not trying to advance a segregationist agenda, he was more upset over the expansions of the federal government that took place under Truman and the role Truman played in flushing out the so called “do-nothing Republican Congress.”

• Criticizing “presidential wars” only when the President happens to be a Republican.  Byrd voted for the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution which gave President Johnson the authority to commit U.S. troops to Vietnam. Byrd hung tough in his support of the Vietnam War as he himself said, “I was the last one that ran out of Vietnam. I supported President Johnson to the end.” Once the Reagan Administration came into office, Byrd ran from the staunch anti-Communist “Scoop Jackson” wing of the Democratic Party to the non-interventionist “William Fulbright” wing. Byrd opposed almost all of Reagan’s military initiatives. He strongly opposed fighting Central American Marxist insurgents and protested the Strategic Defense Initiative just as ardently. In 1990, Byrd voted against authorizing President George H.W. Bush to commit troops to the Persian Gulf. Then Bill Clinton came to the White House and Byrd morphed back into a war hawk as he voted to give the Democratic administration authorization to intervene in Haiti, Bosnia, and Kosovo. Byrd kept in the war-hawk state of mind during the early George W. Bush years.

In 2002 he said, “We are confident that [Iraqi President] Saddam Hussein retains some stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons, and that he has … embarked on a crash course to build up his chemical and biological warfare capabilities. Intelligence reports indicate that he is seeking nuclear weapons.”

After the November mid-term elections of 2002, Byrd became critical of the resolution authorizing the President to intervene in Iraq. In June 2003 he decided to change his mind on the threat posed by Iraq:

“Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction remain a mystery and a conundrum. What are they, where are they, how dangerous are they? Or were they a manufactured excuse by an administration eager to seize a country?”

Byrd went on to bash the Bush administration and the Iraq War in his book entitled Losing America: Confronting a Reckless and Arrogant Presidency. In 2007, the once staunch hold-the-line senator, who wanted “to finish the job” in Vietnam; voted for two separate acts intended to pull all U.S. troops out of Iraq immediately.

No Republican could ever get away with such utter hypocrisy.

Cartoon courtesy of Brett Noel