The Current Crisis

Byrd Most Foul

Will the Clintons join in asking Senator Byrd quietly to resign his office before the Republicans break out in full cry against his latest act of racial callousness?

By 12.25.02

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Washington -- Do my eyes deceive me? Is that surly fellow staring at me from the front page of the good old Drudge Report wearing a Confederate General's uniform a United States senator -- a current United States senator? It is indeed, and the senator in the suit that fought under the Stars and Bars of unhappy memory is not Senator Trent Lott, the Democrats' vision of Pitchfork Ben Tillman reborn. No, the grizzled and menacing-looking United States Senator in Confederate drag is Democratic Senator Robert Byrd. He is clutching a sword. Does that not send a chill down the backs of every Democrat in the country? The senior senator from West Virginia -- a border state! -- has a cameo role in Gods and Generals a film about to come out from Warner Brothers.

Fie on both Warner Brothers and the Senator, who incidentally is the only sitting member of the United States Senate to have once served as a member of the Ku Klux Klan, a group whose civil rights record has been even more unsatisfactory than that of the modern Republican Party. Even the Clintons would agree with that. How could Senator Byrd and Warner Brothers be so insensitive? What with all the controversy about the Stars and Bars flying from southern state capitals, there has to be more to it. My estimate is that Senator Byrd is trying to send racists all over the country a message. "I am with you, fellows" -- that is his message, and he probably is. Will the Clintons join me in asking Senator Byrd quietly to resign his office before the Republicans break out in full cry against this act of racial callousness?

Both Clintons were superb last week during the Trent Horror. Hillary publicly pronounced that what Senator Lott "did was state publicly what many of them [Republicans] have stated privately over many years in the back roads and back streets of the South." And Hillary spent a lot of time in the "back roads and back streets of the South," chasing down her errant hubby. But, Hillary, what were the monsters saying in those unlovely purlieus? You lived there for two decades, and I have not heard of your complaints about the indigenes of those back roads, not when they were voting for your husband. You and your husband did very well politically in those regions.

Last week husband Bill was singing the same song. Said he of the foolish senator Trent Lott, Lott "just embarrassed them [Republicans] by saying in Washington what they [Republicans] do on the back roads every day." Back roads again -- well, we now know what our ithyphallic ex-prez is suspected of doing "on the back roads every day." Bubba should talk of back roads. He acted in the White House about the same way he acted on the back roads. So are the Clintons with me? Is it time we send Senator Byrd into the same opprobrious pit we sent Senator Lott.

Senator Byrd is the same galoot who last year erupted with "There are white niggers. I've seen a lot of white niggers in my time, if you want to use that word." Hey wait; I do not want to use that word. But Democrats such as Senator Byrd have used such words for years. They represent the party that enforced Jim Crow. They made up the Dixiecrats. Now they, with their northern Liberal allies, have used and abused the African-American vote as one of their last holds on political power. Rather than bringing the nation together and noting that race is no longer a major issue, these Democrats make it an issue to the discredit of the nation and to the pain of black people.

It is worth noting what researchers on the editorial page of the venerable Wall Street Journal dug up this week. Even after Byrd left the Klan he wrote to the Klan's Imperial Wizard in 1946, "The Klan is needed today as never before and I am anxious to see its rebirth here in West Virginia….It is necessary that the order be promoted immediately and in every state in the Union. Will you please inform me as to the possibilities of rebuilding the Klan realm of W. Va.?" A year later as a member of the West Virginia state senate he 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."

Today the Democrats take warm pride in calling him the great orator of the Senate. He has not lost his touch. But, I think the Clintons will agree with me that it is time that he go. And for that matter so should all those who play the race card today much as old Bobby Byrd played it in the late 1940s. So long Bobby, and for that matter so long Hillary and Bill. Race should no longer be an issue exploited by the bloodless pols of either party.

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About the Author
R. Emmett Tyrrell, Jr. is the founder and editor in chief of The American Spectator. He is the author of The Death of Liberalism, published by Thomas Nelson Inc. His previous books include the New York Times bestseller Boy Clinton: the Political Biography; The Impeachment of William Jefferson Clinton; The Liberal Crack-Up; The Conservative Crack-Up; Public Nuisances; The Future that Doesn't Work: Social Democracy's Failure in Britain; Madame Hillary: The Dark Road to the White House; The Clinton Crack-Up; and After the Hangover: The Conservatives' Road to Recovery.