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RIP Robert Byrd

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Rest in Peace, Senator Robert Byrd (D-WV), who died early this morning  at Inova Fairfax Hospital:

“He played a unique role as a prime defender of the Senate during decades of increasing power of the presidency,” said Thomas E. Mann, a congressional scholar and senior fellow at the Brookings Institution.

In his book and on the Senate floor, he was scathing in his contempt for the Bush administration’s doctrine of “preemptive war” and “regime change.” He castigated his fellow lawmakers for swiftly delegating to the president the decision to go to war.

On March 19, 2003, he delivered the first of what became regular attacks on the Bush administration’s decision to invade Iraq. “Today I weep for my country,” he said in a speech on the Senate floor. “I have watched the events of recent months with a heavy, heavy heart. No more is the image of America one of strong yet benevolent peacekeeper. The image of America has changed.”

Dour and aloof, a socially awkward outsider in the clubby confines of the Senate, Mr. Byrd relied not on personality but on dogged attention to detail to succeed on Capitol Hill.

Now, in less than a year, the U.S. Senate has lost its “lion” – Ted Kennedy, who died last August 25 – and its Dean – “the oldest current member of the Congress, and is the first person to serve uninterrupted for half a century as a U.S. senator.”  Even if some may not realize it, we are all the worse for the absence of these two men from the halls of Congress.  Condolences to Robert Byrd’s family, friends, colleagues and constitutents.

UPDATE: Jim Webb’s Communications Director, Jessica Smith, writes on Facebook:

RIP, Robert Byrd. Your contagious passion, pocket Constitution, anti-war posture, love of dogs, annual Father’s Day speech, and fiery theatrics will be missed on the Senate floor.