Sen. Robert Byrd has endorsed Barack Obama for president, calling him a “noble-hearted patriot and humble Christian” who “has my full faith and support.”
The West Virginia Democrat, a former Ku Klux Klan member who campaigned against civil rights legislation in the 1960s, is an outspoken critic of the Iraq war. He said in remarks reported by the Charleston (W.Va.) Gazette:
“As people all across the nation know, I have been one of the most outspoken opponents of the Bush administration’s misguided war in Iraq and its saber rattling around the globe.”
He said on Monday that he formerly had “no intention of involving myself in the Democratic campaign for president,” but added that “the stakes this November could not be higher.”
As Ben Smith pointed out in Politico, Obama wrote in his book “The Audacity of Hope” about meeting Byrd for the first time as a U.S Senator:
“I pondered the fact that, according to his own autobiography, Senator Byrd had received his first taste of leadership in his early twenties, as a member of the Raleigh County Ku Klux Klan, an association that he had long disavowed, an error he attributed — no doubt correctly — to the time and place in which he'd been raised, but which continued to surface as an issue throughout his career.
“I thought about how he had joined other giants of the Senate, like J. William Fulbright of Arkansas and Richard Russell of Georgia, in Southern resistance to civil rights legislation. I wondered if this would matter to the liberals who now lionized Senator Byrd for his principled opposition to the Iraq War resolution…
“Senator Byrd's life — like most of ours — has been the struggle of warring impulses, a twining of darkness and light.”
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