Thursday, June 28, 2007

Byrd: You'll Have to Carry Me Out in a Pine Box

That appears to be the message in this piece about West Virginia's senior Senator:

The state of Byrd's health has become a topic of intense but whispered speculation among senators and staff this year, not merely because of his advanced age and noticeably frail condition, but because of the enormous power he continues to wield. Byrd, who first came to the Senate during the Eisenhower Administration, is chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, which oversees nearly $1 trillion in federal expenditures. And as the longest-serving senator of the majority party, Byrd is president pro tempore of the Senate -- which puts him in the line of presidential succession behind Vice President Cheney and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).

But Byrd, who won re-election easily last November to his ninth term, declined to publicly address his failing health until an Associated Press report about his slowing condition landed on the front page of the Charleston Daily Mail, the most influential paper in his home state. That story was filed June 14 - almost a year to the day that Byrd surpassed the late Sen. Strom Thurmond (R-S.C.) to become the longest serving senator in the history of the republic...

"The news stories in recent weeks [have] pointed out the shocking discovery, yes, shocking discovery that I am growing older. Did you get that? Shocking discovery that I am growing older," Byrd said in a mocking tone to a largely empty Senate floor, prompting laughter from the galleries.

As he spoke, his hand holding a microphone trembled wildly, and he needed help from an aide in getting through the pages of his floor speech. He appeared to cut short his speech after a coughing spasm.

It's interesting that Senator Byrd has reached this age and this condition with none of the mockery from the mainstream media that the late Strom Thurmond had to endure.

Apart from that, it's clear that his mind is still there. He's the same old coot that he's been for years. And once he is no longer physically able to execute the duties of the office -- a point that seems to be approaching -- he ought to step aside.

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