Wednesday, February 8


To his credit and the traditions of dignity and decorum that mark most funerals, President George W. Bush eloquently eulogized Coretta Scott King during a six-hour tribute to her yesterday, then took the abuse heaped on him by former president Jimmy Carter and Rev. Joseph Lowery in stride, with aplomb and Christian restraint. The President was at Mrs. King's funeral to represent the nation in honoring her memory and in paying tribute to her work and leadership in the cause of civil rights. That he had to endure political salvos instead of the respect that the office of the presidency deserves was a slight to all Americans.

Jimmy Carter and Reverend Lowery were grossly out of line yesterday (nothing new for either). For their patent disrespect of the president and the office he holds, as well as for their insufferable behavior in politicizing a funeral, both are deserving of rebuke. And I'll go a step further. Many attendees at the funeral, seated in the House of the Lord, applauded the egregious remarks made by Carter and Lowery. In doing so, they, too, were complicitous in turning a solemn event into a political rally and in trying to embarrass the president.

The King family would do well to censure those specific remarks, but I don't expect this to happen. After all, the family made the selections of who would speak and knew full well that Carter and Lowry were predisposed to attack the president. Ironic, isn't it, that it was the President of the United States who best exemplified yesterday the Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King legacy of turning the other cheek and persisting in doing the right thing even while others pilloried them.

Sadly, civility was nowhere to be found at a memorial service honoring a splendid woman whose cause was civil rights and whose demeanor was the personification of civility and grace. Harry Truman said: "If you can't stand the heat, then get out of the kitchen." Regrettably, this nation has become so polarized and ill-mannered that former president Truman's exhortation must now include "the church."

FOLLOW-UP: Ben Johnson provides the particulars -- distressing particulars -- in this piece in of the Democratic Party's political rally that passed for a funeral in Atlanta yesterday. Do read this piece in its entirety!