Jonah Goldberg

It is a good rule of thumb not to speak ill of the dead. But what to do when a man is celebrated beyond the limits of decorum or common sense? Must we stay silent as others celebrate the beauty and splendor of the emperor's invisible clothes?

You probably know why I ask the question. Robert Byrd, the longest-serving member of the Senate in American history, died Monday. It was truly a remarkable career. But what's more remarkable is how he has been lionized by the champions of liberalism.

On Thursday, Byrd's colleagues took the unusual step of honoring him with a special service on the Senate floor, where he would lay in repose -- with some irony -- on the Lincoln Catafalque, the bier used to hold the slain body of the president who freed the slaves. The irony stems from the fact that for much of Byrd's life, his allegiances were with Lincoln's opponents in that effort. More on that in a moment.

Glenn Beck

Not long ago, the assembled forces of liberalism were convinced that the Senate was "broken," that the anachronistic filibuster impeded progress. The Senate itself, with its arcane rules and procedures, had become undemocratic and was in need of vital reform, according to all of the usual voices. John Podesta, president of the Center for American Progress and a sort of archbishop of liberalism these days, drew on his deep command of political theory and social science to explain that the American political system "sucks," in significant part due to the unwieldiness of the Senate.

Well, who better represented those alleged structural problems than Byrd? Nearly every obituary celebrates his "mastery" of the rules. This is from the first paragraph of the Washington Post's obituary: Byrd "used his masterful knowledge of the institution to shape the federal budget, protect the procedural rules of the Senate and, above all else, tend to the interests of his state."

Yes, what about his tending to his state's interests? For several years there's been a lot of bipartisan indignation over the perfidy of pork and "earmarks."

Who, pray tell, better represented that practice than Byrd? The man emptied Washington of money and resources with an alacrity and determination not seen since the evacuation of Dunkirk. There are too many of these Byrd droppings in West Virginia to count, but we do know there are at least 30 buildings and other structures in that state named for him. So much for Democrats getting the message that Americans are sick of self-aggrandizing politicians.


Jonah Goldberg

Jonah Goldberg is editor-at-large of National Review Online,and the author of the forthcoming book The Tyranny of Clichés. You can reach him via Twitter @JonahNRO.
 
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