Sunday, November 2, 2008

Challenging the Chairman

Usually the days following major national elections are the days flooded by news of political change. The country is introduced to new leadership, be that in the White House or in the statehouse. The main political parties face a power struggle, a struggle of chairmanships and other leadership positions. Usually the power struggle begins after the battle to election day passes.

Not this time around. Leave it to the national leadership of the Democratic Party to begin the power struggle before the last weekend push before the election begins.

Word came Thursday from Senator Robert Byrd, in response to Tuesday's speculation on the part of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's aides that Byrd would be ousted as Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, that the speculation about him stepping down as chairman is premature and irresponsible of Senator Reid.

At the age of ninety, Senator Byrd's role as chairman of this powerful committee is in constant question. However, as recently as May of this year Senator Byrd has been animated and knowledgeable while chairing meetings of the Appropriations Committee. He has, as reported, relinquished some of his duties to other members of the committee and aides as any chairman is wont to do.

Sure, Senator Byrd's age puts him in a unique position, not just as an elderly statesman leading one of the most powerful committees in the United States Senate, but as a respected member of the Senate.

His recent antics on the floor of the Senate have been questionable and laughable. Though in the span of his career Senator Robert C. Byrd, as he often refers to himself, has always been animated and lively. He is the man who will take to the floor of the Senate to congratulate his fellow long-serving colleague (and now indicted) Ted Stevens for the smallest of feats. He is the man who ventures to the floor of the Senate every September 17th to sing his praises of the United States Constitution.

Regardless of age or the wheelchair he now requires to get to the floor of the Senate, Senator Byrd's floor speech opposing the invasion of Iraq in 2003 will remain one of the greatest speeches given in the history of the United States Senate. It will be included in many publications in years to come, publications of great speeches and great documents of American history.

Whatever Senator Reid thought he was doing discussing the future of Senator Byrd's chairmanship, he was out of line allowing that to hit the presses before this historic election even takes place. And is it so hard to admit that despite his antics, Senator Byrd loves his country and the United States Senate and he is an asset and voice of honesty in both?

Good thinking, Senator Reid. Oh, and congratulations on annoying the logical among us who realize Byrd's departure would bring in an oh so much younger chairman--Senator Inouye of Hawaii. Senator Inouye is eighty-four years young.

Keep fighting the good fight, Senator Byrd.

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