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Robert Byrd's 'Losing America': The Late Senator's Thoughts On George W. Bush And Politics Today (New York Review)

First Posted: 06/28/10 04:24 PM ET Updated: 05/25/11 05:55 PM ET

Robert Byrd

Senator Robert Byrd, the longest-serving U.S. senator ever, died on Monday at 92. To remember the senator, here is a 2004 New York Review of Books article by Russell Baker on Byrd's book "Losing America."


Troublemaker
Russell Baker

The New York Review of Books, August 2004

"Losing America"
by Robert C. Byrd
Norton, 269 pp., $23.95

Robert Byrd, Democrat of West Virginia, learned how to be a United States senator under the tutelage of serious men. When he arrived in 1959 Lyndon Johnson was majority leader and in some ways as powerful as the President, who was General Eisenhower. Committees were run by shrewd old tyrants who had been senators almost forever. Carl Hayden, chairman of the Appropriations Committee, had been a sheriff in the Arizona Territory before it entered the Union.

Mostly Southerners and deeply racist, these chairmen were still perpetuating segregation nearly a century after Appomattox. Only greenhorns and a few warrior liberals like Paul Douglas of Illinois dared challenge them. I vividly recall the august Richard Russell of Georgia, the only human being I have ever seen who could actually look down his nose when compelled to notice someone unworthy, disposing of a young corn-belt colleague who had challenged him in debate. Such ignorance of the Constitution as this fellow had just displayed, said Russell, was only to be expected from "a senator who comes from a state that was not a state before there was a Union."

Senate roll calls filled the floor with men destined to be known to millions--John F. Kennedy, Barry Goldwater, Hubert Humphrey, Stuart Symington, Everett Dirksen, Strom Thurmond--and a dozen others whom no sensible president dared offend, among them Robert Kerr of Oklahoma, J. William Fulbright of Arkansas, Styles Bridges of New Hampshire, Clinton Anderson of New Mexico, John Stennis of Mississippi, Russell Long of Louisiana. Serious men.

Read more at the New York Review of Books website.

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Filed by Jessie Kunhardt  |