Wednesday, April 07, 2004

Rights and Reason: Why is Chris Dodd Praising Robert Byrd's Racist Past?

Sen. Chris Dodd thinks Sen. Robert Byrd is a man for all times; including times of bitter racial strife. [Hat tip: Harry Binswanger]

On the occasion of Byrd's 17,000th vote in the Senate, Dodd offered the following testimonial:

"It has often been said that the man and the moment come together. I do not think it is an exaggeration at all to say to my friend from West Virginia that he would have been a great Senator at any moment. Some were right for the time. ROBERT C. BYRD, in my view, would have been right at any time. He would have been right at the founding of this country. He would have been in the leadership crafting this Constitution. He would have been right during the great conflict of civil war in this Nation. ... I cannot think of a single moment in this Nation's 220-plus year history where he would not have been a valuable asset to this country".
Dodd thinks Byrd would have made a great leader during the US Civil War? Yes, but only for the Confederacy.

Byrd was a former Kleagle in the Ku Klux Klan. In his early political career, Byrd opposed racial equality for blacks and was an outspoken opponent of racial integration in the armed forces. In 1947, as a member of the West Virginal state senate, Byrd wrote that he would “never submit to fight beneath that banner (the American flag) 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.”

As a US Senator, Byrd led a fourteen-hour filibuster against the Civil Rights Act of 1964 on the grounds that the races should be kept separate. And let we think that Byrd has undergone a dramatic personal transformation on the issue of race, as recently as 2001 was complaining about the existence of "white niggers."

"There are white niggers. I've seen a lot of white niggers in my time; I'm going to use that word," said Byrd on the Fox News Sunday show.

When Republican Trent Lott praised Sen. Strom Thurmond at Thurmond's retirement party, saying that former segregationist would have made a great president, Lott was removed as Senate majority leader. So why then do the Democrats continue to tolerate Robert Byrd, and why Chris Dodd get a pass for praising Byrd's odious (and not so distant) past? Do Democrats condemn Republican racism, while winking at the racists within their own ranks?

There has never been an accounting for the racism in the Democratic Party. The question for it is the same one we put to the Republican Party during the Lott fiasco: will the Democratic Party tolerate racial bigots and those who think racial bigots make great leaders. If such men are fit to serve as senators, then the Democratic Party is the party of racism. If the Democratic Party aspires to be the party of equality under the law, such men have no place within its ranks.

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