"He's from What Virginia?"
Periodically Andrew Sullivan drives me nuts. He's a smart guy, a good writer, he's savvy, and he's a conservative I take very seriously because of these things. However, yesterday he wrote the following (his permalinks are not functioning very well, so I'll just block quote)
DERBYSHIRE AWARD NOMINEE:"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. He would have been right at the great moments of international threat we faced in the 20th century. 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. Certainly today that is not any less true." Senator Chris Dodd, hailing former Klan member and active anti-gay bigot, Robert Byrd, on the floor of the Senate. Byrd would have been perfect during the Civil War? Wrong side, Senator Dodd. Wrong side. How much do you bet that Dodd's remarks will get one smidgen of the media attention Trent Lott's hailing of Strom Thurmond did?Let's see, Andrew: What, precisely, was Lott praising in his speech(es) [he'd done it before] for Thurmond? He was praising Thurmond's actual stances, indeed his actual candidacy, as a Dixiecrat. Byrd's KKK affiliation is loathsome. I strongly oppose his stances on homosexuality. But to ascribe a Civil War view to Byrd is absurd. At the least it is anachronistic. Beyond the fact, of course, that West Virginia (not to complicate things, but WV is Byrd's, you know, home state) broke off from Virginia rather than secede, it is ridiculous to equate what Lott actually said with what Byrd might have thought had he been alive and a political figure 150 years ago. It is even more absurd to implicate Senator Dodd with bad motives for praising a Senator today based on Sullivan's interpretation of the Senator's views on the Civil War as opposed to what Lott had to say about Thurmond's actual views and actions. Never mind on top of this that Lott's statements simply served to cause some to look at Lott's less than savory views on race. If we find that Dodd has Lott's background on the very issues for which he is praising his fellow Senator, then Sullivan's analogy is apt. Since we won't, and since to my knowledge Sullivan has not yet gotten his"Kidnap Current Political Figures, Take Them Back In Time, and Make Them Take A Stance On The Issues" Machine off the ground, let's chalk this one up to bafoonery. Keep this one in mind next time Sullivan goes off shrilly denouncing someone else's supposedly half-baked conceptions.
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Michael C Tinkler - 4/8/2004
Whoops - I meant to post this here. I THOUGHT I remembered this:
Byrd is from North Carolina by birth -- he moved to West Virginia after his mother died.
So that excuse doesn't work very well.
Ralph E. Luker - 4/7/2004
Right. There is also the point that Senator Christopher Dodd, who is under attack by Sullivan, Instapundit, and others on the Right, is not in the leadership position in the Senate that Senator Lott was. Lott continues to be in the Senate and to chair a committee. At worst, Dodd is guilty of a sort of mindless tribute to a fellow Senator. Lott was guilty of saying that the United States would have been better off if Strom Thurmond had been elected president in 1948. I don't think the two situations are at all comparable.
Derek Charles Catsam - 4/7/2004
I agree with Ralph. The reality in the Senate is that if you have a guy with seniority, you hold on to him or her kicking and screaming and fighting for dear life. For one as Ralph puts it, he "brings home the bacon" in a way that relatively fewe Senators can do. For another, in terms of clout, not only can he provide the pork, but with seniority on committees and such, he can fry it up in a pan. Further, I tend to buy the argument from the New Republic a year or so ago that said on actual policies, the difference between Byrd and Lott is that Byrd has been rather good on matters of race, while Lott has been abysmal. Of course, another use of the N word and he needs to be run out on a rail, but the folks of West Virginia are unlikely to do that.
Ralph E. Luker - 4/7/2004
As my colleague, Tim Burke, has pointed out, it seems unlikely that West Virginians will turn out Senator Byrd so long as he continues to bring home the bacon to the extent that he regularly does. It wouldn't surprise me if the whole state were renamed Byrdland at some propitious moment.
Joe O'Malley - 4/7/2004
Sully is an idiot, but it is crazy that an ex-KKK member is in the Senate. If he was a Republican people would rightly shame him out of office.