This week, Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W. Va.) passed away at the age of 92. By some remarkable feat, he was still serving as a Senator for West Virginia at the time when he died. Memorials and kind words have been plentiful. This article, however, is aimed to point out how Sen. Byrd's story is a thumb in our eye as to how the government in the United States is failing to serve the people.
First, how is it that West Virginia in 2006 could not produce a candidate who could defeat an 88 year-old man in failing health? In my mind, there is something wrong with electing an 88-year old to serve in a position that requires frequent travel, long hours, stressful deliberations and an abundance of energy to communicate effectively with constituents. But, it is a free country, so if this is the man the people of W. Va. wanted, so be it.
Second, Sen. Byrd is widely known as one of the worst perpetrators of pork-barrel spending, maximizing the flow of funds into his districts at the expense of other more worthwhile projects in other states. How is it that this kind of self-serving pandering is still not regulated or challenged for being a terrible abuse of tax-payer dollars? In 51 years in the Senate, did Byrd make any meaningful effort to stop this wasteful practice? Sounds to me like the guy just knew how to milk the system.
Third, Sen. Byrd was a conservative on nearly all fronts. How is it that he has been embraced by the Democratic Party leadership and hailed as some kind of hero? Truly, the difference between Democrats and Republicans is less than the difference in ink spent on printing a "D" or an "R".
Fourth, what kind of ambition causes a person to hold onto power so far into the twilight of their life? Is there no sense of preparing for a smooth transition before one's passing? Is the intoxication of power so strong that one cannot see when they are no longer fit for public service at the level of the Senate?
So, what do you think? Has the media not done a fair job of critically assessing the life and contributions of the late Senator?