The Eagle Byrd Soars
Ancient warrior Robert Byrd donned his buckler and shield and rode forth to do battle with the wily Tim Russert on this Sunday morning's Meet The Press over the future of this Constitutional republic.
Showing his age, Byrd still gave as good as he got, setting an example that lily-livered Tom Daschle and too many other Democrats could learn from.
Tilting his lance as steadily as he could, he ventured out as the champion of democracy in America. Confronted by Russert over the motives for blasting George W. Bush in his latest book, Losing America: Confronting a Reckless and Arrogant Presidency, Byrd had this to say:
He doesn't like to answer questions. He doesn't like to build a consensus. He doesn't like consultation. He is a man who's governed by his instincts, he says. That's fine. I don't believe, however, that we should have a national leader who is governed by his instincts.
I hope that the world will listen.
And he carries the little book in his pocket that the world still hears while the Republican Party clamp their ears and sing "La-la-la' so that that they don't have to be reminded of it's message.
Russert immediately went into Republican Defense mode (That's attack for the uninitiated) by trying to make the case that Senators John F. Kerry and John Edwards are cowards. Byrd stood up to him, giving ground but not giving in:
They were misled. I'm confident of that. And I have a feeling that that is why they voted as they did, misled by this administration, misled by this president, misled by Mr. Rumsfeld, misled by the CIA.
I can't say it was the intention, but it was what caused many senators, I'm sure, to vote as they did. And we have to remember that this was in an atmosphere where to vote against it and to speak out against this administration took courage. And many senators were fearful that they would be called unpatriotic if they did not vote with the administration.
The wizend warrior hit the Daschle on the head. Twenty-four years after Ronald Reagan began the use of patriotism slurs as a weapon, the Democratic Party is still shying away from confronting this. This in a nutshell describes why the Republican Party is able to get away with the outrages that they do. But I digress.
Russert latched onto this theme, as if this was the trap he'd laid for Byrd, asking if this didn't mean that Kerry and Edwards lacked courage..
No, I'm not saying that. I'm saying they lacked the facts. I didn't have the facts any more than anybody else.
Byrd then exposes the cynical use of the military as a political tool by the Republican Party.
I had studied this administration; I had listened to what Karl Rove had said in Austin, Texas, when he addressed the Republican National Committee in January of 2001 when he indicated that this war, this homeland security subject, all of this, was a horse on which they could ride right through the upcoming election. He indicated that the people trusted the Republicans more to defend this country, and it was his suggestion that the Republican strategy should be to use this in order to win the election. I read about that.
And then, as a result of my reading that, every time I saw the president on camera with the backdrop of the military, of the National Guard, I remembered what Karl Rove said. And I think the administration was carrying it right through on his advice.
This has certainly been the case. Bush - AWOL from the National Guard - now stands as the Commander-in-Chief, and the military sits obediently at his feet. So what makes Bush more worthy than Clinton? Clinton's actions to avoid Vietnam were at least not going to put him in the brig! But I digress again.
Russert immediately atttempted to spring another trap, trying to get Byrd to state that the US should totally abandon the Occupation of Iraq, but Byrd didn't get the appropriation worm by sleeping in late. He stood his ground, and waited for the moment to counterattack:
No, we made a mistake. It was wrong to enter this war. This was Mr. Bush's war. I was against it. It was a mistake, I said at the time. I say now that it is a mistake. I'd never say that we should pull our troops out. I think we should work, having entered into this, to bring about an honorable way to bring our troops home.
Asked if leaving Iraq wouldn't make it a haven for terrorists, implying that the Bush (mis)Administration has the country under control, Bush hit - hard:
It is already a haven for terrorists. It was not before Mr. Bush attacked this country that had not provoked this country by an attack. We attacked Iraq.
This was part of the Bush doctrine of pre-emptive attack. It was wrong. That's a dangerous doctrine. [T]he Bush administration insulted some of our friends and referred to old Europe, and they turned the back of their hands to the U.N. And so we have to go it alone, almost, because we're losing the support that we have over there with other countries.
Russert took a quote from Byrd's book to try to show that, as far as being president is concerned, George W. Bush is just one of the guys:
Bush's power has been wielded with arrogance, calculation, and disdain for dissenting views. The Constitution's careful separation of powers has been breached, and its checks and balances circumvented. Behind closed doors, schemes have been hatched, with information denied to the legislative branch and policy makers shielded from informing the people or Congress. In fact, there appears to be little respect for the role of Congress. There is virtually no attempt to build consensus through the hard work of reaching across the aisle to find common ground. Real consultation does not exist.
"You've worked with 11 presidents. Is that any different than with the previous 10 presidents?"
It's very different. I have never seen such secrecy. I have never experienced such a feeling of disdain for the Congress by this administration. I see it in the Appropriations Committee, where the administration continues to try to seek more power, grasp more power. This administration does not like oversight by the Congress. And it is exceedingly dangerous. I've never seen anything like that in my experience.
But Nixon was secretive, protests the Timster! This is worse?
Far worse. I've never experienced anything like this. I've never felt as afraid of where we're headed as I feel now.
Robert Byrd has been in the Senate over 40 years. He saw Vietnam and the Cold War. He saw Watergate and Iran-Contra. He's seen a lot, and if he's scared it must be bad.
Russert tried to dump the blame off onto the Democrats, to which Byrd countered with a defense-in-depth:
There's no question about it. It isn't the president and this administration alone. Our own Congress lost its backbone when it voted to shift the constitutional power to declare war to this president, to this one man.
The framers must have been spinning in their graves because they intended for such a decision to be cast by--not just by one house of Congress but by both houses of Congress.
Congress was weak, and I was ashamed of the Senate for the first time in my 45 years, that it would shift this power and remove itself and take away its voice. It turned over to this one man the decision to use our military forces as he would, when he would, where he would, and there's no sunset provision in that.
But not only has the Congress failed, the American people have been unthinking and they've not asked questions.
And finally, the press, the media itself, bought into this once the president's drums of war started. [T]his leader, when he loosed the dogs of war, the press fell in line and the press failed to ask the questions that it should have asked.
So there are a lot of people at fault here.
Russert tried to take a cheap shot at Kerry, trying to imply that West Virginia's coal issues would run counter to Kerry's environmental positions, but Byrd took the arrow intended for Kerry:
Look, I'm the son of a coal miner. I married a coal miner's daughter. I know a lot about coal. I know a lot about the Depression.
Yes, coal is a dirty energy source. But look what we're trying to do. We're trying to clean it up. I've appropriated moneys over the years for coal research to make it cleaner. So, yes, he can carry West Virginia. He will carry West Virginia if he continues to stand up for the liberties of the people.
Then, as his finest moment that day, he reached into his shirt pocket and withdrew his most powerful weapon - the Constitution of the United States, and with a voice more firm and steady than he was able to muster up to that point, he waved it at Tim Russert and had this to say:
And we've got to remember that it's the people back home who are to be remembered, and this Constitution.
John Kerry believes in this Constitution. I've talked with him. I've told him he should go to West Virginia. He should shake hands with the people. He should be at their level and get a little coal dust on his hands, get some of that dirty dust on his hands and on his face and live in spirit with the working people of this country, the coal miners, and always remember that sovereignty rests, John Kerry, sovereignty rests with the people of this country.
And it's this book here--why I wrote Losing America--was to help save this book, the Constitution.
That is the book that must be saved, and to their shame, the Democrats are letting one of their oldest members stand alone in its defense in the face of great adversity.
But stand he does - proudly.
There is a clear and present danger, and more must see what Senator Byrd sees. But more - Democrats, Republicans, Members of Congress - must take off the Bush blinders and reopen their eyes to the real dangers we face as a nation.
This danger is not the one man, or even his (mis)Administration. It's the danger to the very foundation of this country, clearly stated by Senator Byrd in his closing remarks. Sovreignty is placed into the hands of We, the People, and our government is to serve us. We are it's power and it's greatness, not Halliburton and Bechtel.
We must reclaim our political heritage. If we are going to allow the 1% to dominate the 99%, then we do not deserve the title Americans.
If it is all surrendered without a word raised in oppositiion, without a shot fired, then we would deserve the title Sheep.
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