From Jon Garcia
Saying their goodbyes to the longest serving member of Congress, Presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton recalled Sen. Robert C Byrd’s lengthy career in public service but didn’t leave out his tainted past.?
“Like the Constitution he tucked in his pocket, like our nation itself, Robert Byrd possessed that quintessential American quality, and that is a capacity to change, a capacity to learn, a capacity to listen, a capacity to be made more perfect,” Obama said.?
Clinton expounded on that quality by reminding the audience of Mountain State citizens that Byrd once belonged to the Ku Klux Klan—a membership the Senator regretted later in life.?
“He was a country boy from the hills and the hollers of West Virginia. He was trying to get elected. And maybe he did something he shouldn’t have and he spent the rest of his life making it up and that’s what a good person does. There are no perfect people. There are certainly no perfect politicians,” Clinton said.?
?But most of the memorial service—nearly three hours of it—was dedicated to honoring Byrd’s years of service and his incredible knack for funneling millions upon millions of federal dollars back to his home state.?
The 92-year old senator spent nearly six decades in Congress and was known for his long speeches on the Senate floor and for his strict adherence to Senate rules.?
?Obama said he read the four-volume Senate history Byrd gave him, scared he’d be quizzed on it later. ?
“His passion for the Senate's past, his mastery of even its most arcane procedures, it wasn't an obsession with the trivial or the obscure. It reflected a profoundly noble impulse, a recognition of a basic truth about this country: that we are not a nation of men, we are a nation of laws. Our way of life rests on our democratic institutions. Precisely because we are fallible, it falls to each of us to safeguard these institutions, even when it's inconvenient, and pass on our republic more perfect than before,” Obama said. ?
Obama and Clinton weren’t the only ones to eulogize Byrd. So did VP Joe Biden, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Senator John D Rockefeller IV, Rep Nick Joe Rahall and Victoria Kennedy, wife of the late Sen Edward Kennedy, a long-time friend of Sen. Byrd.?
?They carried Byrd’s flag-draped casket out the ceremony by to a sing-a-long to West Virginia’s adopted state song: John Denver’s ‘Take me Home, Country Roads.’?