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Friday, March 04, 2005

Byrd Brains

Despite what you think about the constitutionality of the filibuster of judicial nominations or the parliamentary perspicacity of the “nuclear option,” the wisdom of reaching for the Nazi reference in the rhetorical toolbox is always highly questionable.

Earlier this week, Senator Byrd made a speech in which he said:
Many times in our history we have taken up arms to protect a minority against the tyrannical majority in other lands. We, unlike Nazi Germany or Mussolini’s Italy, have never stopped being a nation of laws, not of men.

But witness how men with motives and a majority can manipulate law to cruel and unjust ends. Historian Alan Bullock writes that Hitler’s dictatorship rested on the constitutional foundation of a single law, the Enabling Law. Hitler needed a two-thirds vote to pass that law, and he cajoled his opposition in the Reichstag to support it. Bullock writes that “Hitler was prepared to promise anything to get his bill through, with the appearances of legality preserved intact.” And he succeeded.

Hitler’s originality lay in his realization that effective revolutions, in modern conditions, are carried out with, and not against, the power of the State: the correct order of events was first to secure access to that power and then begin his revolution. Hitler never abandoned the cloak of legality; he recognized the
enormous psychological value of having the law on his side. Instead, he turned the law inside out and made illegality legal.

And that is what the nuclear option seeks to do to Rule XXII of the Standing Rules of the Senate.

In response to the flak created by the speech, Senator Byrd’s spokesman has rigorously denied that the elder statesmen implied that the Republicans were Nazis. Calling for an up or down vote on judicial nominations isn’t exactly burning down the Reichstag.

Senator Byrd is often wont to summon up his 87 years of experience (including 50 in Congress) to school us all in the lessons of history. So let's ponder history for a moment. I wonder, has a tyrannical majority group in the United States of America has ever used the cloak of legality to overtly oppress a minority? Well that does sounds familiar... Sounds like the Jim Crow laws of the South. Hey, wait, wasn’t Senator Byrd a member of the KKK in his younger days? Weren’t they the advocates and enforcers of opressive and violent race-based segregation throughout the South? In our modern parlance, might we even call them terrorists?

Would Senator Byrd dare call F.D.R. a Nazi for his Court Packing scheme of 1937, a far more insidious affront to the separation of powers than the so-called “nuclear option”? Our “Solon of the Senate" is behaving less like that judicious and wise law-giver of old than the petulant and arrogant Nero.

For his "Byrd brains" I bestow up Senator Robert C. Byrd (D - West Virginia) the first The Idiom - Jackass of the Week Award for the Stupidest Thing Said.


At Friday, March 4, 2005 at 7:07:00 PM EST, Blogger MrSurly said...

Damn! We should have been handing out weekly jackass awards all along! Is it too late to give one to Ward Churchill?


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