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Blog Buzz: Byrd on the blogs

Liberals, conservatives and those in between express condolences for the passing of Sen. Robert Byrd. Some examine various aspects of his legacy, both positive and negative, while others speculate on the fate of his now-vacant Senate seat.

Hot Air’s Ed Morrissey commented on the future of Byrd’s seat, as well as his long and varied Senate career. Regarding the political atmosphere surrounding Democratic Gov. Joe Manchin’s chosen successor for the seat, he wrote, “Manchin, reportedly wanted a shot at the seat himself when Byrd left the Senate. That would be a difficult maneuver now, at least in terms of the interim appointment. Had Byrd died a week later, Manchin could have appointed himself to what would have been a two-year term and hoped to ride Barack Obama’s coattails, such as they will be, into a full term in 2012. Now the election will have to be held this year in a midterm cycle poisonous to Democrats, especially in coal country while the Senate attempts to revive cap-and-trade.”

On Byrd’s legacy, Morrissey noted some sordid aspects of his early days in Congress: “Byrd’s history as a KKK recruiter and the man who filibustered the Civil Rights Act was routinely cited by Republicans and excused by Democrats. Ironically, he was the last member of the upper chamber from those days. Byrd also attracted controversy as one of the biggest practitioners of pork-barrel politics in Congress, which endeared him to many West Virginia voters but made him the scourge of clean-government and fiscal-responsibility activists. The media treated him with a bit of amnesia regarding the earlier portion of his career, focusing mainly on his self-described expertise on the Constitution and his work as a historian of the Senate.”

Writing at Reason Magazine’s blog Hit & Run, Nick Gillespie called comments about Byrd’s Klan past “a cheap shot because he did apologize for and disown his participation in the group. Better late than never, I suppose, even if it does make you wonder about all those politicians of his generation, even ones from the Deep South, who never felt a need to recruit for the KKK.”

He added that “it's Byrd's status as the Babe Ruth of pork-barrel spending and taxpayer-funded narcissism that is his real legacy and the one we should never forget or forgive. Here lies a man who pushed his home state to build a statue of him in defiance of a rule that such honorees be dead for 50 years.”

NRO’s Jim Geraghty laughed at an attribute of Byrd’s pointed out by Newsweek’s Eleanor Clift: “He kept an ongoing tally of his friends, using his power to convene and adjourn the Senate to accommodate an ally with a fundraiser to attend or, conversely, adjusting the schedule to make opponents think twice about the decision.”

“Aw, what a guy,” Geraghty wrote. “Don’t we all wish we had a buddy who could adjourn one chamber of the legislative branch when we absolutely, positively had to be at a fundraiser that night?”

Liberal blogger John Cole at Balloon Juice wondered about the future of Byrd’s seat: “One of the weird things about West Virginia is that Rockefeller and Byrd loomed so large that there sort of seems to be a vacuum of politicians of any stature on either side of the aisle at the state level. I’d imagine that if Gov. Manchin ran, he would have a very good chance of replacing him, because he is quite popular and connected and seems to fit in with the sensibilities of WV voters. The state has been trending Republican for a while, so I’m sure with the absence of a strong Democratic candidate, no matter who the Republicans run, it would be a toss-up.”

On his specific bets, he wrote, “I actually wouldn’t be surprised to see Mac Warner, the man who lost to [David] McKinley in the Republican race to unseat [Rep. Alan] Mollohan, try to run for the seat. Likewise, I can see [Rep. Shelley Moore] Capito deciding it is time to move up. We’ll see. I just don’t know how this will play out.”

On succession, liberal blog Daily Kos’ David Waldman considered Gov. Manchin’s nominating himself to the seat. “No one relishes the optics of a governor nominating himself for the job. But neither are most people enthralled with the idea of appointing a caretaker to temporarily occupy a seat to which Byrd attached such immense power and influence over in over 50 years in the Senate.”

But appointing a caretaker is exactly what the Washington Monthly’s Steve Benen thinks Manchin will do, given his Senate aspirations: “It’s in his interest, then, not to declare the seat vacant until after Saturday, after which point Manchin can name a placeholder until the 2012 election.”