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2004-08-02

Sen. Robert Byrd on Losing America and Confronting A Reckless & Arrogant Presidency

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Although he is the most senior member of the Senate, Robert Byrd did not speal during the Democratic National Convention. However, he did speak in Cambridge during the convention and issued a call for on citizens to save the country and preserve the Constitution. [includes rush transcript]

Last week, on Democracy Now! we reported on the vetting process for the speeches given at the Democratic National Convention and looked at who was asked to speak and who wasn’t.

One of those not invited to speak was the Senator who has been the most outspoken critic of the invasion and occupation of Iraq, Sen. Robert Byrd. Byrd may not have been at the podium in Boston last week, but he was in the city, promoting his new book "Losing America: Confronting a Reckless and Arrogant Presidency."

He spoke at an event where he was introduced by Senator Edward Kennedy. Kennedy said of Byrd, "I can imagine him signing the Declaration of Independence, taunting King George with a big florid signature. I can picture him throwing the tea in Boston harbor." Byrd said he wrote his book to save another one as he held up his ragged and worn copy of the US constitution.

  • Sen. Robert Byrd speaking last week at the First Parish Church in Cambridge.

Transcript

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: Byrd said he wrote his book to save another one as he held up his ragged and worn copy of the U.S. Constitution. Senator Byrd is the oldest member of the senate, and the longest serving. Here is senator Robert Byrd speaking last week at the first parish church in Cambridge.

SENATOR BYRD: We will soon mark the third anniversary of the terrible tragedy that struck this nation on September 11, 2001. Three years ago, yet it seems like yesterday. We can close our eyes and see those tall towers as they stood. We can hear the voices that have been stilled. I pray for those souls, and I pray for this country. Three years ago, I didn’t dream of writing this book, but in the days that have past since that fateful fall morning, more than our soldiers have fallen under attack. The foundations of our government have suffered. The liberties enshrined in constitution of the United States have been designed by a presidency that is bent on a ruthless pursuit of power. A President that sees himself above the law a president, a Presidency that sees itself… a presidency that relies on secrecy and manipulation in order to advance its own partisan agenda. It is the Constitution of the United States that has been undermined, undercut, and is under attack. It is the American people’s liberties that is in jeopardy. That is why I wrote, "losing America." I wrote this book to save this book. [holding Constitution of the United States] God save the constitution of the United States. God save the Constitution of the United States. In the federalist papers, James Madison reasoned that in framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed, and in the next place, oblige it to control itself. Accordingly, Madison and the other framers of constitution divided power so that no one person or branch of government could gain complete advantage. As Madison explained it, ambition must be made to counteract ambition. That is why the framers viewed the separation of powers with such importance. No single man, no single branch of government was to be given absolute power. No single man was to have sole authority to decide the fate of the nation. Oh, how different — how different today. The separation of powers and the checks and balances in the constitution are the ultimate guarantor of the liberties of the people. It was the separation of powers upon which the framers placed their hopes for the preservation of the people’s liberties. Despite this heritage, the congress has been in too many cases more than willing to walk away from its constitutional powers. We have turned a blind eye to the bush administration’s ruthless pursuit of power. We scorn those nations that have long been our friends. We call them the old Europe. Members of congress, especially those in the majority party do whatever the president wants them to do. What has happened to the courage of men? God give us men. If the president says, jump, they ask, how high? And sadly, too many in our own party remain silent. Our founding fathers struggled to escape the heavy yoke of one King George. We must not submit to the dictates of another. As Brutus said to Citero, when Citero was attempting to toady-up up to Anthony, our ancestors would have scorned even a gentle master. We are at a dangerous time in our republic. The Constitution — the very foundation of this great country is under attack. It is under a tack by a presidency that is bent upon secrecy, that has to be dragged kicking and screaming to answer questions, and that follows a path of utter recklessness. Its policies have changed the face of America around the globe from that of a giant peacemaker to that of a schoolyard bully. People who once declared a strong allegiance with America now question our purpose. That is not America. I have been in congress for more than a half century. I have lived through times of fear and times of hope. Of despair and of achievement. I have seen our government at its best, but today I fear that we see our government at its worst. I have never seen such extreme partisanship, such bitter partisanship, and such forgetfulness of the fate of our fathers and of the Constitution. I say enough is enough! We cannot sit silently by and witness the dimming of freedom’s flame! Hallelujah. Hallelujah. Make way for liberty. Let me say once again, we cannot sit silently by and Ted Kennedy and I haven’t sat silently. We’re not going to sit silently. You and I, we cannot sit silently by and witness the dimming of freedom’s flame. To the American people I say, awaken to what is happening. It is the duty of each citizen to be vigilant, to protect liberty, to speak out, left and right and disagree lest be trampled underfoot by misguided zealotry and extreme partisanship. So, at a time when dissent is dismissed as being unpatriotic, when one’s beliefs are subject to ridicule or investigation, the strength of the individual is all the more important. If the individual’s voice is drown out, if the spirit is extinguished and the fire of freedom dies, then who — who — tell me, who — shall be left to carry on the legacy of this Republic? We can turn the tide. You and I and ked Kennedy and general Clarke and others like them can turn the tide. We can turn the tide for the individual mind remains an unassailable force. The individual voice can inspire others to act. A single act of bravery can lead an army against great odds. The strength of a single individual can give hope to the hopeless, voice to the voiceless, power to the powerless and the precious light of liberty will once again turn brightly. Thank you, my fellow Americans. I have seen America today, and I shall not forget you. There is an inscription on a statue in Atlanta, Georgia, dedicated to the memory of the late Benjamin Hill, United States senator from the State of Georgia. "Who saves his country saves himself. Saves all things and all things do bless him. Who lets his country die lets all things die, dies himself and all things die and curse him." my fellow American, we have work to do. Let’s work to save our Country. Thank you.

AMY GOODMAN: Senator Robert Byrd, the democrat from West Virginia, the oldest member of the senate, the longest serving member of the senate, and the most outspoken member speaking out against the invasion and occupation of Iraq.

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