A grand old wizard

What do you call a former member of the Ku Klux Klan who tied up the world's oldest deliberative body for 14 hours to oppose the Civil Rights bill of 1964, and voted against the Supreme Court appointments of both Thurgood Marshall and Clarence Thomas? What do you call a man who on Wednesday will vote to reject the confirmation of the first black woman to the post of Secretary of State, a position first held by the author of the Declaration of Independence?

Why you call that man a Senate Democrat, that's what you call him. You can also call him by his given name, Robert C. Byrd.

Because of the double standard that the mainstream media has established for matters of race, politics, and racism (i.e. only white Republicans can possibly be racist and black Republicans aren't really black), most people don't know — or need to be constantly reminded — that the self—proclaimed historian of the Senate who is again passing negative judgment on a black candidate for federal service was indeed a member of the Ku Klux Klan.

Sen. Byrd was a 'Kleagle,' a recruiter who earned $10 for each new member he signed up for the sheet brigade. Although Byrd was intelligent enough to cut official ties with the Klan in 1943 (today he calls it a youthful mistake), he wrote, in a letter to the Grand Wizard in 1946, that

'The Klan is needed today as never before and I am anxious to see its rebirth here in West Virgina.'

Once Byrd was elected to the West Virginia state senate, he wrote a letter decrying the integration of the nation's armed forces, saying he would never fight

'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.'

One wonders what George Washington, who was enormously impressed with the heroic performance of black soldiers in the Revolutionary War, would have said in response.

As Sen. Byrd rose to speak against the confirmation of Dr. Condoleezza Rice, there were no breaking news flashes interrupting regular programming to express astonishment that a former Klansman was opposing in the Senate the ascendance of a black woman to the Cabinet's most visible position. Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton were not camped out on the steps of the Capitol building, fulminating for a battery of cameras in outrage as they read Byrd's letters aloud and reviewed his voting record. Julian Bond was not on hand to say that Byrd's remarks made him think he was living in the year 1859. On cable news outlets, there was no black—and—white footage of crosses being burned, hoses being turned on blacks, or the bodies of little girls being carried out of a bombed church — one of whose bodies belonged to a friend of Dr. Rice's in Birmingham, Alabama. None of these images were juxtaposed with Byrd speaking on the floor.

Of course, Sen. Byrd couched his opposition to Dr. Rice by parroting the current Democratic mantra — Dr. Rice was complicit in misleading the entire world about the 'rush' to war in Iraq, her belief in the strategy of preemption (though chided her for not doing enough to prevent the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001), and her record as National Security Adviser is wanting. Of course, the Senate's amateur history professor lectured about how important the role of Secretary of State is to the government and the position of the United States in the world.

He even cited Alexander Hamilton in The Federalist Papers and the Constitution's language about what advice and consent really means, and that the Senate is no rubber stamp for the President's nominees. Byrd paid tribute to Sen. Barbara Boxer and Sen. John Kerry and their pathetic performances during the committee hearings. Boxer and Kerry are two people who will never, ever be confused with Webster or Calhoun in the annals of the Senate. Of course, to ward off criticism, Sen. Byrd reminded everyone that he voted to confirm Colin Powell as Secretary of State in 2001, as if that makes his past irrelevant.

No doubt Sen. Byrd believes everything he said in criticizing Dr. Rice and opposing her nomination. Despite his obtuse, anachronistic view of the world, there is no doubt that Sen. Byrd takes seriously his role in the Senate, as he does the history and importance of the Senate. Senators are by all rights permitted to review the record of nominees and to criticize them and to vote against them if they wish. Yet it is no small irony that the former Klansman adds the name of Condoleezza Rice to the list of black American giants whom he does not see as qualified to serve the nation, and it is no small irony that if Byrd happened to be a Republican, you'd never hear the end of it.

Matt May can be reached at matthewtmay@yahoo.com; his blog is mattymay.blogspot.com

What do you call a former member of the Ku Klux Klan who tied up the world's oldest deliberative body for 14 hours to oppose the Civil Rights bill of 1964, and voted against the Supreme Court appointments of both Thurgood Marshall and Clarence Thomas? What do you call a man who on Wednesday will vote to reject the confirmation of the first black woman to the post of Secretary of State, a position first held by the author of the Declaration of Independence?

Why you call that man a Senate Democrat, that's what you call him. You can also call him by his given name, Robert C. Byrd.

Because of the double standard that the mainstream media has established for matters of race, politics, and racism (i.e. only white Republicans can possibly be racist and black Republicans aren't really black), most people don't know — or need to be constantly reminded — that the self—proclaimed historian of the Senate who is again passing negative judgment on a black candidate for federal service was indeed a member of the Ku Klux Klan.

Sen. Byrd was a 'Kleagle,' a recruiter who earned $10 for each new member he signed up for the sheet brigade. Although Byrd was intelligent enough to cut official ties with the Klan in 1943 (today he calls it a youthful mistake), he wrote, in a letter to the Grand Wizard in 1946, that

'The Klan is needed today as never before and I am anxious to see its rebirth here in West Virgina.'

Once Byrd was elected to the West Virginia state senate, he wrote a letter decrying the integration of the nation's armed forces, saying he would never fight

'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.'

One wonders what George Washington, who was enormously impressed with the heroic performance of black soldiers in the Revolutionary War, would have said in response.

As Sen. Byrd rose to speak against the confirmation of Dr. Condoleezza Rice, there were no breaking news flashes interrupting regular programming to express astonishment that a former Klansman was opposing in the Senate the ascendance of a black woman to the Cabinet's most visible position. Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton were not camped out on the steps of the Capitol building, fulminating for a battery of cameras in outrage as they read Byrd's letters aloud and reviewed his voting record. Julian Bond was not on hand to say that Byrd's remarks made him think he was living in the year 1859. On cable news outlets, there was no black—and—white footage of crosses being burned, hoses being turned on blacks, or the bodies of little girls being carried out of a bombed church — one of whose bodies belonged to a friend of Dr. Rice's in Birmingham, Alabama. None of these images were juxtaposed with Byrd speaking on the floor.

Of course, Sen. Byrd couched his opposition to Dr. Rice by parroting the current Democratic mantra — Dr. Rice was complicit in misleading the entire world about the 'rush' to war in Iraq, her belief in the strategy of preemption (though chided her for not doing enough to prevent the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001), and her record as National Security Adviser is wanting. Of course, the Senate's amateur history professor lectured about how important the role of Secretary of State is to the government and the position of the United States in the world.

He even cited Alexander Hamilton in The Federalist Papers and the Constitution's language about what advice and consent really means, and that the Senate is no rubber stamp for the President's nominees. Byrd paid tribute to Sen. Barbara Boxer and Sen. John Kerry and their pathetic performances during the committee hearings. Boxer and Kerry are two people who will never, ever be confused with Webster or Calhoun in the annals of the Senate. Of course, to ward off criticism, Sen. Byrd reminded everyone that he voted to confirm Colin Powell as Secretary of State in 2001, as if that makes his past irrelevant.

No doubt Sen. Byrd believes everything he said in criticizing Dr. Rice and opposing her nomination. Despite his obtuse, anachronistic view of the world, there is no doubt that Sen. Byrd takes seriously his role in the Senate, as he does the history and importance of the Senate. Senators are by all rights permitted to review the record of nominees and to criticize them and to vote against them if they wish. Yet it is no small irony that the former Klansman adds the name of Condoleezza Rice to the list of black American giants whom he does not see as qualified to serve the nation, and it is no small irony that if Byrd happened to be a Republican, you'd never hear the end of it.

Matt May can be reached at matthewtmay@yahoo.com; his blog is mattymay.blogspot.com