December 09, 2006

Farewell Conrad Burns

The farewell speech by Senator Conrad Burns caught my attention, largely because he has served in that capacity in my adopted state, Montana, for the past 18 years. I've only lived here for ten of those years, but these were enough to make me very happy that he was recently defeated by Democrat Jon Tester.

Burns was not what one  would call clever with language. He was once asked how he could stand to live in Washington DC "with all those niggers." Burns replied, "It's a heck of a challenge." In 1999 he publicly referred to Arabs as "ragheads." He also claimed that one or more of the 9/11 hijackers came into the US from Canada, riling the Canadian government with a charge that was later proved untrue.

Then there is his association with the Jack Abramoff scandal (including a $150,000 campaign gift), leading the Citizens for Responsibility in Ethics (CREW) in Washington to list him among the 20 most corrupt members of congress (for more on this, see here). The last straw for Montana voters may have been Burns' sharp criticism of a group of firefighters that he ran into at the Billings airport when they were on their way home, after successfully containing a 92,000-acre forest fire near Billings. A reporter present wrote that the senator told them they had done a "piss-poor" job and that they hadn't done "a God damned thing" and just "sat around." Uh-oh. Most Montanans are deeply grateful to the firefighters who come from all over the country to contain our many summer fires. And Burns lost any hope he have had  for the taxicab driver vote when he said that the "faceless enemy" of terrorists "drive taxicabs in the daytime and kill at night."

I guess I wouldn't expect Burns to mention any of these language goofs in his farewell address, much less to apologize for them. Instead he lists his many accomplishments in the Senate, then says:

But we have now opportunities now and they've opened up and I'm proud to say that it was me and my office that led the way on most of those changes. It is said it is not bragging if you done it. I was fortunate enough to attract a staff that shared the same vision of change and change we did ... I know what it is like to be in the minority. And you know what it is like to be in the majority. One of the great statements said, "The majority is more funner." I've enjoyed my work with some of the best men and women in the Senate who represented both sides of the aisle, from different regions of our country and diverse cultures of our country. I will miss them, but we have welded some friendships that will last forever. The same can be said of nations, which we've traveled and met national and international leaders.

Now isn't that a great speech? As it is said, him and his office really done it. More parsing could be made but maybe that's enough for now. Farewell, Senator Burns.

Posted by Roger Shuy at December 9, 2006 01:41 PM