Robert Byrd has passed away at age 92.
The West Virginia senator had a distinctive career to say the least.
I do not intend to give a blow by blow rundown of his life. If you wish that, you can get it from many sources.
I will just touch on a few of the more significant.
- His filibuster of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. When he first ran for office he opposed civil rights, even going so far as to join the KKK in the 40’s. He came to regret that as the worst move of his life, and feared it would be in his epitaph (which it does).
- His almost 69-year marriage to Emma (who died in 2006).
- His vote against the resolution that gave George Bush the authority to launch the invasion of Iraq. He later said this was the vote “of which I am most proud.”
He was one of only 23 senators to vote this way. Most others (notably Hillary Clinton) voted in favor of expanding presidential power, because they didn’t have the political nerve to vote against it. (Give credit to ‘W,’ he always made sure these votes would be cast uncomfortably close to elections, so opponents could always question the ‘patriotism’ of those who voted against the president.)
Byrd warned that Congress was abdicating its constitutional power to declare war by giving the president what amounted to a blank check.
“We are rushing into war without fully discussing why, without thoroughly considering the consequences, or without making any attempt to explore what steps we might take to avert conflict.”
Years later, he called the invasion “the blunder of the age.”
He was very old by then, and very ill, but his vision was true.
RIP Senator Byrd.