Robert Byrd

A Possible Unintended Effect Of Robert Byrd’s Passing: A Republican Senate In 2011!

With the death last week of Senator Robert Byrd of West Virginia, the dean of the Senate, and its longest serving member in history, the possibility arises that his passing could have an unintended effect on that chamber: a Republican Senate majority in 2011! πŸ™

With 59 Democrats (57 plus Independents Joe Lieberman and Bernie Sanders) in the Senate presently, one would think that the Democrats are safe from a GOP takeover!

But if one goes by recent polls, the possibility arises of major Republican gains, with eight to nine seat gains seen as possible!

However, even with nine seats gain, the Republicans could not organize an evenly divided Senate, because of Vice President Joe Biden’s ability to break a tie in organizing the Senate!

But if West Virginia is required or decides to hold a Senate race to replace Byrd in November, the strong possibility exists that a Republican could win Byrd’s seat!

If the Governor, Joe Manchin, a Democrat, rumored to want the seat for himself in 2012 when the six year term ends, has the opportunity to make an appointment until 2012, then the seat will remain Democratic until 2012 at least! But he does not intend to appoint himself now, and instead have an appointed replacement for two years!

There are discussions, however, that with two and a half years left in the term, it is appropriate to have an election now, and with the GOP tide seemingly apparent, the seat could go Republican, and give that person the upper hand in the 2012 full term race!

So it would be ironic if Byrd’s passing brought about a ten seat gain by the Republicans, and them having an absolute majority in the Senate as a result!

One must remember that John McCain won the state, and that it is still a heavy majority WASP state, not the best territory for President Obama to seek support in 2012!

Meanwhile, West Virginia could turn the political tide, if all the worst prognostications for the midterm elections for the Democrats holds up! πŸ™

Senator Ben Nelson Personally Responsible For Defeat Of Extension Of Unemployment Compensation! :(

Senator Ben Nelson of Nebraska is clearly the most conservative of all Democratic Senators!

He tends to vote with Republicans a good deal of the time, since he represents a state which is more conservative than most!

It is understandable that Nelson is often on the fence on party issues, but it is unconscionable that he would block the extension of unemployment compensation to millions of people who are desperate, many of them out of work for nearly two years in the worst economic conditions since the Great Depression! πŸ™

These people will lose their homes or apartments; many will go hungry; their children will experience the horrors of total poverty; and the health of these unfortunates will deteriorate under the stress! πŸ™ The Great Recession is still raging! πŸ™

And yet Nelson, and the entire Republican party in the Senate, with the exception of the two Maine woman senators–Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins–seem unconcerned about the human suffering they are causing! πŸ™

The longer people in the millions are out of work, the longer the deep recession will last, as if one does not work or have disposable income, then it brings down the economy for other Americans! This hardheartedness on the part of Nelson and the GOP is incomprehensible! πŸ™

And ironically, as Robert Bryd left the Senate chamber for the last time after being in a casket in the legislative body he loved, the Senate Republicans and Ben Nelson dishonored their colleague, as had he been alive and able to vote on unemployment compensation extension, it would have passed in time for the July 4 holiday! πŸ™

Now, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid will have to struggle to find a 60th vote to overcome a filibuster, and that cannot be done until the Senate returns on July 12 after the holiday break! πŸ™

How can Ben Nelson and his GOP colleagues enjoy their break on the backs of the unemployed and needy? πŸ™

This whole situation is absolutely a disgrace! πŸ™

The Passing Of Senator Robert Byrd: A Mixed Legacy!

Democratic Senator Robert Byrd of West Virginia, the longest serving Senator in US history, and the longest serving Congressional member in American history, passed away this morning at the age of 92 years and seven months!

There is no question that Senator Byrd was a path breaking and historic Senator in the history of that chamber! He served nearly four years longer than Senator Strom Thurmond of South Carolina, who had set the longevity record! By serving 51 and a half years in the Senate and six in the House of Representatives, he broke the record late last year of Senator Carl Hayden of Arizona, who had served 56 years combined in both houses of Congress!

Senator Byrd also showed a tremendous amount of growth in his half century in Congress! He came in as a former Ku Klux Klansman in his youth and as an opponent of civil rights, and conducted a long filibuster against the Civil Rights Act of 1964! πŸ™ But he came to recognize the wrong of what he had done and believed, and changed his mind and his actions in later years, and even said he was wrong in 1964!

This was a man who came up from poverty and poor white heritage, went to law school later in life, and never forgot what it was to be poor, and he showed it toward his home state’s poor!

He was Senate Majority Leader for a period of time, and long time Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, where he diverted billions of dollars to his home state, one of the poorest in the nation, something that his home state deeply appreciated!

But of course, this was highly controversial, and Byrd became known as the Senator of “pork” or what is now called “earmarks”, which he saw as perfectly legitimate, but is now decried even by those who utilize it the most, and are showing their hypocrisy! πŸ™

Byrd became infamous for inappropriate comments over the years, but he was also acknowledged as an expert on the US Constitution, and published four volumes on the history of the Senate! He revered the institution, and always made it clear that he served WITH eleven US Presidents, NOT UNDER them!

He believed that the Congress had to stand in the way of too much presidential power, and was bitterly opposed to Richard Nixon during Watergate, and George W. Bush during the buildup to the Iraq War!

Byrd was not afraid to speak his mind, and did not care how the media or his colleagues in either party reacted to his thoughts and ideas! He was truly a man of courage and principles, even though many might not agree with some of them!

He was, by his longevity, Senate President Pro Tempore, which meant he was technically third in line of Presidential succession under the Congressional law of 1947!

This is a man who had been against liberalism and everything it represented, but over time became close to the “Liberal Lion”, Senator Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts! Byrd wept when Kennedy was ill and when he passed away ten months ago! He became well respected and honored even by those who did not share his viewpoints and partisanship!

Senator Byrd was NOT a great Senator in the sense of creation of legislation or having a tremendous effect on the evolution of the Senate, but he added a lot to the chamber by his presence and his wisdom as the years went by!

He will be missed, despite his mixed legacy, and this is a time to honor him with a state funeral worthy of one of the leading figures in Senate leadership history!

The Sad Ending Of The Career Of Helen Thomas

Helen Thomas had a long, distinguished career at United Press International, and was the dean of the White House Press Corps, always allowed in recent years the opportunity to ask the President of the United States the first question at White House press conferences. She has reported on every President since John F. Kennedy took the oath of office!

She entered the journalism field in 1943 when she was 22 years old, and therefore, had a run of 67 years in journalism, certainly the longest career anyone has ever had in print journalism, with only a few exceptions such as Mike Wallace, Walter Cronkite, and Daniel Schorr in electronic journalism able to match her longevity!

But Thomas made a fatal mistake when she was recorded, and later spread on You Tube, asserting that the Jewish population should leave Israel for the Palestinians and “go back to Poland, Germany, America” and elsewhere!

This statement bordered on being anti Semitic, and it brought up the Lebanese Christian heritage of Thomas’s parents. It was a totally inappropriate and outrageous declaration by Helen Thomas, and it led to a firestorm of protest coming from such people as Ari Fleischer, former Press Secretary to President George W. Bush, and the present Press Secretary to President Obama, Robert Gibbs.

Very quickly, Thomas profusely apologized, but the damage was done, and the Hearst News Service, her most recent employer, announced the end of her service with them, and she announced her retirement.

It is certainly time at age 89 for someone to retire, but not under such circumstances! It brings up the issue of how does one recognize it is time to leave any job or profession, and in a graceful way! Unfortunately, there are many examples of people unwilling to deal with retirement, including politicians of both parties who, like Strom Thurmond and Robert Byrd, resist the inevitable!

This is a growing issue for the future as America ages, and the need for counseling to understand when it is time to give others a chance to enter as you leave gracefully!

Robert Byrd Longest Serving Member Of Congress On November 18

Democratic Senator Robert Byrd of West Virginia will set an impressive record this coming Wednesday: longest serving member of Congress ever, with 57 years, 51 in the Senate (already longest service), plus six years in the House of Representatives.

Congratulations to Senator Byrd on his longevity! Having said that, will Senator Byrd be seen historically as one of the “great” Senators of all time? Not a chance!

Byrd had an early history of being involved in the Ku Klux Klan and opposed civil rights for a long time. He often has said embarrassing or outrageous statements during his years in Congress, and he obviously is in poor health now at almost age 92, and should really retire from his seat, but will do no such thing until he has taken his last breath, or the people of West Virginia retire him, which is highly unlikely since he is famous for “bringing home the pork” to his state.

He can be admired as a poor young man who went to law school while in Congress, and set a record for consecutive roll call votes that will never be broken. He mellowed as the years went by, and is now considered a reliably consistent Democrat in backing his party and his President.

Like anyone in public life, he has his definite foibles and shortcomings, but still, on this anniversary, we can wish that he is able to stabilize his poor health (a result of Parkinsons), and continue to serve his constituents, which he certainly has done very well.