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Sen Byrd Speech -- People Deserve the Truth / 09-30-04

Remarks by U.S. Senator Robert C. Byrd

September 30, 2004


The People Deserve the Truth

Senator Byrd delivered the remarks below in the Senate, highly critical of a flyer paid for by the Republican National Committee that suggests that Democratic officials want to ban the Bible.

Byrd sees the flyer as the latest in a pattern of distortions from the Administration, the Republican National Committee, and the Republican Leadership -- and points to the situation in Iraq as evidence.

Growing up, we all heard the legend of young George Washington. As the story goes, his father, after seeing a tree chopped down on their land, approached young George and asked if he were responsible. The story continues that the boy responded, "Father, I cannot tell a lie. I cut down that cherry tree."

The boy who grew up to be president knew the value of truth. Unfortunately, when it comes to presidential politics these days, telling the truth is seriously out of style.

That point was brought home sharply to me last week when I learned of a scurrilous campaign being waged in West Virginia to scare voters into registering and voting Republican. Incredibly, the weapon being brandished is the Holy Bible itself. If ever there were one book that should never be used for political gain, if ever there were one book that should never be the subject of lies and deception, it is the Bible. Yet, that is exactly what is happening today. Two weeks ago, the Republican National Committee sent a mass mailing to West Virginians suggesting that liberals -- in other words, everyone but Republicans -- are out to ban the Bible. Can you imagine? Ban the Bible? What a ridiculous claim. It is a flat-out, no-doubt-about-it, silly, sophomoric charge. The Republican National Committee is spreading this tripe to smear Democrats, and the President ought to demand that the Republican National Committee apologize to the people of West Virginia.

The hypocrisy of the Republican National Committee's desperation tactic is an insult to the intelligence of voters in my state. The Ninth Commandment, passed down from God to Moses, states: "Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor." What could be more false than an advertisement implying that so-called "liberals" want to ban the Bible? The political hacks behind that blasphemous flyer should be required to re-read the Book of Exodus. There is no free pass from the Commandments in an election year.

All West Virginians should be insulted by such dirty tricks. Paid henchmen who talk about Democratic politicians who are eager to ban the Bible obviously must think that West Virginians are gullible, ignorant fools. They must think that West Virginians just bounced off the turnip truck. They must think that spreading nonsense about banning the Bible is a sure-fire way to get votes in an election year. But the people of West Virginia are smarter than that. We are not country bumpkins who will swallow whatever garbage some high-priced political consultant makes up. West Virginians are smarter than that, and they deserve an apology from the Republican National Committee for this insulting mailing.

As a Senator, I am appalled by the Republican National Committee's utter ignorance of the Constitution. Our Constitution protects this Bible. The First Amendment begins, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof." And yet, a flyer paid for by the Republican National Committee features a picture of the Bible with the word "banned" stamped across its cover. The people of West Virginia should not have to put up with such trash. It is a crass insult to the people and to their faith.

But false claims seem to the modus operandi in politics these days. The truth gets tailored to fit the occasion. No where is this more evident than on the subject of Iraq. Whether it be weapons of mass destruction or an imminent threat or mushroom clouds, the reason for the war changes faster than the weather. Talk about flip-flops!

The White House said that our troops would be welcomed with flowers; yet, our soldiers saw mortar attacks and suicide bombings. The White House said the world would be with us in the war and the reconstruction in Iraq; but the Coalition of the Willing was never that large, and it has become the Coalition of the Wilting. How can the American people trust an Administration that can't get its stories straight? The flipping and flopping from this slippery fish crowd is a sight to behold.

Even now, the White House is trying desperately to portray Iraq as a nation that is getting back on its feet. But yesterday's New York Times reports that there have been 2,300 attacks by insurgents in Iraq in the last month. There are an average of 80 attacks against our forces each day. The situation in Iraq is far more dire and the future far more uncertain than Administration officials are ever going to admit. The lives of our sons and daughters are on the line in Iraq, and still we hear happy talk about success right over the horizon.

Misleading scenarios about Iraq or ludicrous nonsense about banning the Bible insult the values and the intelligence of West Virginians, and the millions of other Americans who share their beliefs. Such stuff must not be tolerated. The people of this country know about honesty, and they must start demanding it from their leaders.


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