Monday, February 07, 2005

Senator "Kleagle" Byrd - Digging deeper

After the afforementioned comments by Senator Byrd I decided to do some slight digging. It appears that Mr. Byrd shows up as a racist in only a few places, and not by the NAACP. So what kind of dirt is there? Really? What kind of stuff did he do? Was he party to any hangings? What did he do in the Klan? Is he really out of the Klan now? Should he be afforded a second chance? Should anyone?

Well, I'm going to try and remain as objective about this mess as possible. He's got some real dirt in his past, but is it really in his past? Maybe it is and maybe it isn't. I'll just give you the facts as well as I could dig them up.

The first part that needs to be clarified is that Byrd was not just a card carrying, hood wearing member. He was a kleagle. A what? A kleagle is effectively a recruiter for the Klan. Michelle Malkin did a nice piece on his kleagle days. Far be it from me to paraphrase the source:

This ex-Klansman wasn't just a passive member of the nation's most notorious hate group. According to news accounts and biographical information, Sen. Byrd was a "Kleagle" -- an official recruiter who signed up members for $10 a head. He said he joined because it "offered excitement" and because the Klan was an "effective force" in "promoting traditional American values."

Something that has stirred a lot of people up were the two letters sent to the Klan's Grand Dragon. For historical purposes, let me put the dastardly quotes in full, with dates:

1946 Writing to the Klan's Imperial Wizard - "The Klan is needed today as never before and I am anxious to see its rebirth here in West Virginia...It is necessary that the order be promoted immediately and in every state in the Union. Will you please inform me as to the possibilities of rebuilding the Klan realm of W. Va?"

Here's the second quote:

1947 in a separate letter - "[I would] never submit to fight beneath that banner (the American flag) 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."

These statements were made nearly 60 years ago when he was just starting his political career. They've not really haunted him all this time though. In fact, he announced his abandonment of the KKK in 1943, three years before he wrote the first of the two letters. Should we forgive and forget? Give this former Klan recruiter a second chance? That's up to you to decide.

Digging a little bit deeper, I was unable to find anymore excellent quotes or blatant abuses until the 2004 quote that caught everyone's attention and was quickly swept under the rug:

March 5, 2004, "There are white niggers. I've seen a lot of white niggers in my time; I'm going to use that word."

Of course, we should probably compare the reaction of two prominent Democrats when Mr. Lott made his 2002 derogatory remark:

2002 Bill and Hillary Clinton "I think there is something hypocritical about the way Republicans are jumping all over [Mr. Lott]"...

Gee, that sounds pleasant and reassuring doesn't it? Well, maybe we should finish the quote:

"He just embarrassed them by saying in Washington what they do on the back roads every day."

OUCH! Well, taht wasn't too nice now was it? Just in case that wasn't clear enough Hillary came through a week or so later and redirected things, just so there wasn't any confusion:

"[What Mr. Lott] did was state publicly what many of them have stated privately over many years in the back roads and back streets of the South."

Okay, well I guess that's supposed to make us southern boys a bunch of racists. How very derogatory. Thank you for the fine comments Bill, Hillary, maybe we should turn the mirror around? Wasn't Bill the Governor of Arkansas, a southern state? Is it a coincidence that there was a large influx in the amount of chicken feces produced during his time as governor? I'll let you decide that for yourselves.

So, what did Mr. Byrd do between 1967 and 2004? What nasty things can I bring up? Well, not much. The only thing I can find is his voting record intermixed with a few odd coments. For a good punch let's go back to Michelle Malkin. She's always good for a good verbal rage:

March 8, 2001 - He also opposed the nominations of the Supreme Court's two black justices, liberal Thurgood Marshall and conservative Clarence Thomas. In fact, the ex-Klansman had the gall to accuse Justice Thomas of "injecting racism" into the Senate hearings.

Yep, he voted against the only two black justices to ever sit on the supreme court, citing their appointment as "injecting racism". If that isn't the "white nigger" calling the kettle black I don't know what is.

So what does the NAACP have to say about his comments? What demands do they have for a member of the black Democratic party? Should they kick him out? Do you want him to go through race relations training? What?:

From Project 21, 23 DEC 2002NAACP President Kweisi Mfume denounced Byrd's comments as "repulsive."

Well, maybe they were a bit preocupied with the holidays? Were they just so happy during the holidays that they felt no need to be that volatile? Well, Project 21, a leading voice of the African-American community, has an idea about what's going on:

"I think the way Robert Byrd's racist comments were treated is typical of our current civil rights leadership," said Project 21 member Kevin Martin. "Groups like the NAACP have become nothing more than liberal mouthpieces. They seem beholden to liberal interests and, in this case, will simply issue a statement to make it look like they're doing something. They must hold the Democrats to the same standards they've held Republicans lest it become apparent that they've sold their souls - and credibility - to the liberal cause."

Despite everything, Byrd has continued to climb through the ranks of the Democratic party. Here's a take on his rise to power from The History News Network:

Democrats knew all about his racist past when they elected him their majority whip in 1971 over Ted Kennedy. He moved up to majority leader in 1977, defeating Hubert Humphrey, and led his party in the Senate until 1989. Even now as senior Democrat on the Appropriations Committee he is regularly hailed by fellow Democrats as the conscience of the Senate.

I guess being a recruiter for the Klan is better than being a recovering alcoholic than may or may not have raped and murdered someone at Chappaquiddick.

All of these things do not a racist make though. They could be ex-racist comments. Have you ever been in a group and picked up on the lingo then used it later by accident? Maybe the language and culture from 60 years ago is effecting his language today. Maybe the people that he finds himself around "in the back roads and back streets of the South" today are effecting his speech? I'll let you decide. I'm trying to remain neutral in this. It's probably not working too well, but I'm trying.

Today's most recent comentary went completely missed by the media. I haven't heard one reference to this piece from anyone in the media or elsewhere. Maybe it's nothing or maybe it's a subtle attack from a man who has never released his race hatred.

In the most recent episode Condeleeza Rice had to endure many assaults on her person. Many of the "questions" were not really questions but statements about how miserable a failure she was at her job. Mr. Byrd had a statement that extended several pages. Not a question, or series of questions but a lengthy statement of his opinion. Buried in the statement was something that caught my eye as a bit off. Maybe it's nothing, maybe it's more than that:

More ominously, the level of violence only keeps growing, week after week, month after month, and no Administration official, whether from the White House, the Pentagon, or Foggy Bottom, has made any predictions about when the violence will finally subside.

Okay, so what's the big deal about Foggy Bottom? Why should we care that he made an off-handed reference that doesn't matter to anyone? Well, normally it wouldn't, but Foggy bottom is associated with the Underground railroad. That would be a reference that only like Senator Byrd and Secretary of State Rice would be able to piece together. But, maybe it was just an offhanded comment in a pre-written speech. Of course, as with everything today, there just may be an alternate meaning. Foggy Bottom also holds the Watergate hotel.

All of this presents a case against Senator Byrd. I have done my best to gather all the data to prove Mr. Byrd's racial bias, real, imaginary or inintentional. In my own mind this is not enough to condemn the man outright. There is plenty of circumstantial evidence if you look for it. There is, however, not much in the way of "smoking gun" style evidence, save for the nice photoshop pictures floating around the internet. I am drawing this as inconclusive, but of course I could take the queue from the Clintons:

"He just embarrassed them by saying in Washington what they do on the back roads every day."

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