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Byrd speaks about opposition to war at Democratic dinner

October 29, 2005|By PEPPER BALLARD

pepperb@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Of the more than 17,000 votes U.S. Sen. Robert C. Byrd, D-W.Va., has cast in his record eight terms in office, his vote against shifting powers to declare war was "the best vote I ever made," he told an audience Friday night.

Byrd talked politics to the more than 150 people gathered Friday in the ballroom of the Holiday Inn at a mini-Jefferson-Jackson dinner sponsored by the Berkeley County Democratic Executive Committee.

There were two reasons why Byrd said he voted against shifting the power to declare war from Congress to the president: The U.S. Constitution and a speech made by Karl Rove, who said the war on terrorism was a political strategy.

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Byrd said 23 senators, including himself, voted against it. The others "were afraid they'd be called unpatriotic, so they voted to shift that power," he said.

Byrd began his speech by talking about his wife, Erma, who he said is struggling with several health problems, including Alzheimer's disease. He told members of the audience that she would have wanted to be there with them.

Byrd also talked about Social Security, Medicaid and No Child Left Behind and the problems he said have been created with those programs by the Bush administration.

Shaking a little booklet, Byrd frequently returned to the importance of the Constitution.

"This is the greatest document of its kind that was ever written," he said.

Byrd talked about the war in Iraq.

John Kerry, in his campaign for president, should have said one thing, he said.

"All he had to say was, 'We were misled,'" Byrd said. "If John Kerry had only said that."

"They're still trying to find reasons for why they went in," Byrd said. "But I remember what they told us - weapons of mass destruction."

Byrd said the country has spent "billions" in Iraq.

"There will be 2,000 empty chairs at over 2,000 kitchens this year for Thanksgiving. And for what?" Byrd said. "For what?" he shouted angrily. "We were misled," he retorted in a soft voice.

John Fink, chairman of the Berkeley County Democratic Executive Committee, said Byrd was chosen as the keynote speaker for the fundraiser because he "is the longest serving U.S. senator and he is very kind to the Panhandle."

Byrd is running for a ninth Senate term in the 2006 election.

Fink said Byrd has brought millions of dollars for roads, most notably W.Va. 9, and to establish government institutions in the Eastern Panhandle.

The dinner was held Friday to "accommodate his schedule," he said.

Tickets for the dinner were $40 and a raffle was held, helping the executive committee to raise "a few thousand" dollars for candidate promotions, education and radio spots, Fink said.

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