Byrd pleads for an honest, humble president

/ Source: The Associated Press

The nation's longest-serving U.S. senator tells candidates John McCain and Barack Obama that to be the great president America needs they need to be what George W. Bush was not.

Be humble, honest and contemplative, Sen. Robert C. Byrd writes in his latest book, "Letter to a New President: Commonsense Lessons for Our Next Leader."

Seek dissenting opinions. Reject the politics of fear. Admit and learn from your mistakes, the 90-year-old West Virginia Democrat advises.

Byrd has long been a critic of the president, and his latest book offers a scathing assessment of Bush: a "son of privilege and dynasty who had defined himself as the president of only that fraction of the country which shared his world view."

But with Bush's departure comes opportunity, says the senator who has served under 11 presidents, including his favorite, Harry Truman. The book, released June 28 with little fanfare, is intended to be read by Bush's successor on inauguration day, Jan. 20.

Byrd hopes to hand-deliver a copy to Obama, the Democratic candidate, spokesman Jesse Jacobs says.

"Sen. Byrd doesn't believe Sen. McCain is going to be the next president," Jacobs adds. "But if Sen. McCain is interested in receiving a copy of the book, we'd be happy to get him a copy."

Known as a scholar and orator, Byrd delivers homespun wisdom in "Letter to a New President." He quotes philosophers, poets and Founding Fathers in equal measure, championing values that may seem old-fashioned but are, he argues, needed more than ever.

The 10 chapters include "A Big Lie is Still a Lie: Tell The Truth" and "Let the Press Do Its Job, Even When That Might Sting."

As an object lesson, Byrd points to an April 2004 news conference in which Bush could not answer a question about what mistakes, if any, he had made while in office.

"I would submit that a president who is unable to learn from his or her own mistakes, and then to articulate for a curious public what he or she has learned, is not prepared for that office," Byrd writes.

Bush "banished himself to the ignominious position of worst United States president ever," Byrd says.

The White House did not immediately comment, and Byrd's office says it has received no response from the administration.

The Bush administration, Byrd charges, "built much of its program around a basic commitment to lying." Yet lying has become so common, so culturally accepted, that no stigma is attached, according to Byrd.

"We cannot continue down this path, new president," Byrd writes. "We must rebuild a culture of intolerance to lying, and that must start close to home."