Paul Jacob
  Just when the nomination of John Roberts for the Supreme Court was looking sure and civil, Senate Democrats have found a way to smear him. Yes, it now appears West Virginia Senator Robert C. Byrd will support Roberts.

Drat! What better way to taint someone as a potential lunatic or extremist than for Byrd to alight at his side?

This is not just a matter of levity. Other reactions are also apt: sadness, incredulity, and disgust, for instance. It is simply the case that this nomination will be confirmed or rejected by a political body containing men like Senator Robert C. Byrd.

We'll learn more about Judge John Roberts, Jr. in the coming months. But why do so many Americans still know so little about Senator Byrd?

After all, this man has occupied space in the United States Congress for longer than any other person in our history. George Washington may be "the Father of our Country," but he served just two terms as president. Byrd has been Congress's "crazy uncle" for three years more than half a century. And during that time he's wielded tremendous power.

Robert C. Byrd is not just any Senator. He's a leader. Respected (pardon my French) by his colleagues . . . apparently. He has been elected by his fellow Senators numerous times to be Majority Leader, Minority Leader, and chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee. He has been president pro tempore of the Senate three times. That's third in line to the presidency, after the Vice President and Speaker of the House. (Thank goodness for the Secret Service.)

Do his Senate colleagues not know much about him, either?

To those Americans who follow politics, Byrd's pork-barreling feats are legend. The veteran charlatan has pilfered taxpayers nationwide of billions to place his name on dozens of highways, government programs and public buildings in West Virginia.

While taxpayers despise Byrd, his pork-barreling actually earns him kudos from much of the mainstream press. A recent Sunday front-page story in the Washington Post called Byrd "venerated," and spoke of "his achievements."

Venerated? Ugh. Achievements? Is pork now an achievement? With all the Senator's pork, West Virginia still ranks 48th in per capita income. Funny, how the constituents of the various High Knights of Pork never seem to cash in, to escape poverty. Only the porkers themselves seem fatter.

But in recent years, more Americans have begun to learn a shocking tidbit about Byrd's past: He was a member of the Ku Klux Klan.

Paul Jacob

Paul Jacob is President of Citizens in Charge Foundation and Citizens in Charge. His daily Common Sense commentary appears on the Web and via e-mail.