Bye, Bye Byrd; Moments of Grace from the King of Pork

Article excerpt


It is customary to avoid speaking ill of the newly deceased, so perhaps the less admirable elements of the life and career of the late Sen. Robert C. Byrd are better left to be examined at a later date. The West Virginia Democrat died yesterday at age 92. Set aside, for now, his background as a leader of the Ku Klux Klan, his outrageous pork-barreling and his general liberal-blowhard tendencies. Instead, Americans today can respect Mr. Byrd's devotion to Senate traditions, even when they ran contrary to his own political desires.

In the 1997 book Integrity, Yale Law School professor Stephen L. Carter related one of Mr. Byrd's finest moments. In 1986, a year before the nomination of Judge Robert Bork, President Reagan proposed former Indiana state Sen. Daniel Manion for a seat on the federal appeals bench. This sparked an intense confirmation battle in the Senate. On the day of the vote, several of Mr. Manion's supporters were away. As was the practice of the time, Democratic opponents agreed to pair with those supporters by withholding their own ballots, ensuring no alteration in the outcome from the absences. …