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Byrd: Clinton legacy is lower standards, GOP Congress

Sen. Robert Byrd is interviewed on "Fox News Sunday" at their studio in Washington  

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The Senate's senior Democrat blasted former President Clinton on Sunday for "lowering of the standards of our culture" and leaving as his legacy a Republican Congress.

West Virginia Sen. Robert Byrd made the remarks on "Fox News Sunday," calling President Clinton's last-minute pardons "malodorous" and a distortion of presidential power.

"They stink," Byrd said. "I think he abused the constitutional power that is there for purposes when there's a need to make justice out of injustice, to correct an incorrection. But they were abused."

The interview was also marked by Byrd's use of a racial slur during a discussion of civil rights and U.S. race relations, a statement for which he later apologized. (More on Byrd's comments.)

Byrd, 83, is a stickler for Senate parliamentary rules and an avid student of history. Colleagues watched him closely during Clinton's 1999 impeachment trial.

Byrd eventually voted against removing Clinton from office, but he had nothing kind to say about the former leader of his own party.

"I didn't care for him," Byrd said. "His lifestyle didn't match mine. I'm not saying that I'm an icon of perfection, but I didn't care for him."

Since leaving office, Clinton has come under heavy fire for incidents ranging from his initial selection of pricey office space in Midtown Manhattan, to a dispute over furniture he and his wife took from the White House, to the pardons.

And many Democrats have joined Republicans critical of the pardons -- particularly that of Marc Rich, a billionaire financier who had been listed as an international fugitive by the Justice Department, wanted on tax and fraud charges.

Byrd acknowledged that he never attended any of Clinton's State of the Union addresses before Congress, but he did attend President Bush's recent budget speech before lawmakers.

Asked about Clinton's legacy to Democrats, Byrd said, "You can see it right here on Capitol Hill and down at the other end of the avenue."

"We have a Republican House, a Republican Senate and a Republican White House. That's part of his legacy," he said.

Byrd added that Clinton presided over a lowering of cultural standards.

"I've been in Washington now 49 years. And in these past few years, I've seen a more rapid deterioration in the country's culture than ever before," he said.

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