The Paradox of Robert Byrd

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), September 29, 2005 | Go to article overview

The Paradox of Robert Byrd


Byline: THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Sen. Robert C. Byrd, 87, officially announced this week that he's going for it one more time. The so-called "conscience of the Senate" didn't surprise anyone Tuesday, when, to the usual crowd of rowdy supporters in West Virginia, he said, "Show me another 87-year-old man who's got the energy that I've got, and I'll eat your hat." More on that in a moment, but first, it's worth noting that Mr. Byrd's historic ninth - and most likely his last - Senate campaign will surely be his toughest. Not willing to let the "King of Pork" walk away with it as he did in 2000, conservatives are rallying, as well they should.

Mr. Byrd is in a precarious position politically. He will enter the 2006 race holding a Democratic seat in a state which twice voted for President Bush. Normally, this would mean that Mr. Byrd is more to the right than his blue-state peers, but the senior senator is something of a political paradox. His great popularity in West Virginia owes much to the fact that, as a former chairman and current ranking member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Mr. Byrd has been bringing home the pork each and every year. That, as well as the tendency of neglected states like West Virginia to look fondly on their nationally recognized politicians, means Mr. Byrd has been able to wade skillfully through the ideological battles of the 1980s and '90s, and survive his troublesome past association with the Ku Klux Klan. …

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