TCS Daily


Classless Acts

By Lee Harris - February 9, 2006 12:00 AM

Mark Antony in his famous funeral oration in Shakespeare's Julius Caesar says that he came not to praise Caesar, but to bury him. This week, at the funeral for the widow of Dr. Martin Luther King, two of the speakers, Jimmy Carter and Rev. Joseph Lowery, might have opened their remarks by saying that they came not to bury Coretta Scott King, but to bash Bush, which is exactly what they proceeded to do. They exploited a solemn occasion in order to take cheap pot shots at the President, keenly aware that their remarks would be broadcast around the world, and into many American classrooms.

Of course, both Carter and Lowery were also aware that the target of their attack, George W. Bush, was sitting right behind them. Had he not been present on the occasion, their Bush-bashing would have only been an affront to good taste. But because Bush had come there to honor the memory of Coretta Scott King, and not to engage in a debate with his political opponents, the attacks on him crossed the boundaries of mere bad taste, and became low blows. They were deliberately attacking a man who they knew could not, under the circumstances, defend himself against their assault. Their aim was quite obvious -- to embarrass and humiliate Bush in the full knowledge that there was not a thing Bush could decently do about it.

The President, for example, could not do what most people, including myself, would have done. He could not jump up and simply walk out -- that would have created a scandal. Therefore, he had no choice but to sit there and take it. He was hopelessly trapped, and was entirely at the mercy of his assailants -- and they knew it. He had to behave like the President, even when a former President, Mr. Carter, was behaving like a cad.

Carter, for example, used the opportunity to insinuate that Bush's "domestic spying" was like the spying done by the FBI on Dr. King. Carter commiserated with the King family for having been subjected to such an ordeal at the hands of their government, and, by implication, he also commiserated with those Americans who had been subjected to Bush's domestic surveillance. But does this analogy honor the memory of Dr. King and his movement?

Let's make a simple thought experiment to find out.

Suppose al-Qaeda had decided to air its grievances against the United States by holding a massive peaceful "sit in" at the Twin Towers on 9/11. Suppose Islamic terrorists, instead of blowing up innocent human beings, had vowed only to use civil disobedience. Suppose Osama bin Laden, like Dr. King, had struggled with all his might to keep his organization from turning to bloodshed and violence. Would Bush have felt the need to launch a domestic surveillance program on such a pacifistic movement? Maybe; maybe not. But the fact that al-Qaeda embraces violence and celebrates terrorism -- doesn't this small detail destroy the basis of Carter's analogy? If you can equate bin Laden with Martin Luther King, and al-Qaeda to King's non-violent movement, then, by all means, go ahead and draw the same analogy that Mr. Carter drew about Bush's domestic surveillance program. If, on the other hand, you cannot equate the two, then Carter's analogy becomes at best ridiculous and at worst obscene.

The Soviets under Stalin were famous for their "show" trials -- trials that were put on not in order to judge a man's innocence or guilt -- since the verdict of "guilty" was always a foregone conclusion -- but simply as an exercise in propaganda. Bush critics have managed to devise a new ploy -- a "show" funeral, in which, instead of properly honoring the memory of the dead, the occasion is deliberately exploited for its propaganda value.

Shame on them.

Lee Harris is author of Civilization and Its Enemies.

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67 Comments

Jimmy Carter on show trial
Great thought experiment, Lee. What Jimmy Carter actually said was that Martin Luther King had been a victim of illegal wiretapping. Which is the truth.

The point he was making, as a former US President, is that no matter how well intentioned an executive branch may paint its noble goals, our true security requires oversight by the other branches of government. Without this, warrantless wiretaps inevitably come to be used for political purposes.

This is a point I think you seek to submerge by introducing the flame-word Osama. It's like making a "thought experiment" about Adolf Hitler. Very mature.

aRe-Ee-eSs-Pee-Ee-C-Tee
I took Mr. Harris' point to be exactly about what both Mr. and Mrs. King had in spades - personal dignity. The many, and some quite photo-opportunistic who came to "honor" them, clearly had self serving notions, an area where the Kings demonstrably exercised restraint.

For those of us who are of the age range where funerals become more common, it's about honoring the deceased and paying respects - there's no accident the word "respect" is in there.

It is always inappropriate for a speaker to insult another invited guest at any occasion. But, on the spectrum of social gatherings, funerals are not like dinner parties for debate societies. They are the most solemn and reflective rituals - the place where such lowly behavior would be least expected. Loss and grief deserve condolences.

I would like to add that perhaps this funeral demonstrated something that many suspect has always underlied the "liberal" mind as opposed to the "conservative" mind. The former, at least at this funeral, stretched the limits of manners and dignity to satisfy a personal whim, or to hungrily speak to the camera and say whatever in order to obtain admiration from like-minded people or notoriety from those who would think such comments were over the top given the context. That's about attention-seeking behavior and self-gratification, A.k.a. "if it feels to - TO ME - then do it."

That behavior is rather infantile at it's core, but not to excoriate Rev. Lowery or Mr. Carter, but they are products of some of the "philosophy" of their limited times. May I suggest, for the next show-funeral an equally effective childish response?

This is a toughie for a high-functioning narcissitic type when a camera is present, but pay your respects, then pick up your marbles and go home.

What "insults"
Nobody called Bush any names. Nobody.

Two people made reference to United States policies that Mrs. King and her husband would clearly have objected to, on causes they spent their lives furthering. These were Mr. Bush's policies, and clearly relevent to the ceremony, to the life being remembered, and to the group gathered.

The cheap shot about "liberals" being camera hungry touts is particularly obtuse. What was Bush doing at the ceremony if not exactly this, seeking a photo opportunity -- remember "Mission Accomplished?"

This is, moreover, a President who consistently refuses to appear before any group not pre-screened to ensure all will agree with his message. How big does the bubble have to be?

As for this:
"this is a toughie for a high-functioning narcissitic type when a camera is present, but pay your respects, then pick up your marbles and go home."

By all means send these words to the White House, where they should be studied and followed.

Stalinist show funeral???
This is hyped and distorted to the point of schizophrenia.

"Bush critics have managed to devise a new ploy -- a "show" funeral, in which, instead of properly honoring the memory of the dead, the occasion is deliberately exploited for its propaganda value."

1. Bush critics did nothing of the kind. Two speakers at an event made comments directly relevent to the concerns of the person being honored that noted events that Mrs. King was in fact concerned about during her life. The criticism seems to be that the presence of the President should have muffled any discussion of this.

2. The Bush administration has made a continuing practice of, precisely, soviet style ceremonial p.r., ranging from the notorious 'mission accomplished' landing. But not two comments in a six hour program represent "stalinist show trials."

However, Mr. Harris is to be commended for one thing. Unlike a recent furious, over-the-top column, based on a total factual misunderstanding of another "insulting" utterance (Hillary Clinton called the HOuse of Representatives a 'plantation,' not as Mr. Harris said, the White House) at least he remembered whose funeral it was.

No Subject
Thank you for your comments.

You know, I have to say you may be on to something to state the political policies were fair game for discussion. The error in going on about decorum at a funeral was mine.

I'm not being facetious at all, but you illuminated something and I need to sharpen my lexicon in order to follow your train of thought.

This was not a funeral - my mistake entirely. Not a funeral at all. This was a political event with a deceased woman in a coffin in the same room.

Funeral etiquette
It seems to me it is entirely proper to talk about the beliefs and legacies of the person being honored. If ongoing current events intersect with those beliefs and legacies, it is surely appropriate to bring the fact up.

Speaking of a political dimension: it was surely a political act for the President to attend so visibly.

Inappropriate Comments
Fornicato,

If you cannot grasp the notion that Carter's comments were completely inappropriate for the occasion, then this says a great deal more about you than any of your tired and erroneous attacks against Bush can.

As an aside, let's see what exactly this makes you look like.

How close is this:

1. You are unemployed.

2. You are Canadian.

3. You have, on more than one occasion, 'experimented' with illegal substances (drugs, dude).

3. You live with your parents.

4. Your net worth is a negative number.

Please understand that this is not a personal attack on you. These are merely comments directly related to the concerns of the person being discussed. I am sure you would agree that your presence here should not muffle any discussion of these issues.

Remember, all I am saying is, your many predictable comments throughout these forums has generated a certain perception. If the perceptions are inaccurate, that is no fault of the perceiver.

Bad Manners
The indignities shown by Jimmy Carter and Preacher Lowery, as well as Bill Clinton using the funeral service of Coretta Scott King as a political platform for Hillary, should be a wakeup call to all blacks that the democrats have no respect for them in life or in death.

Having said that, I did not watch the entire 6 hour service, but I was unimpressed with the conduct of former president George H.W. Bush. It is hard to imagine laughing so hard at a funeral eulogy that one nearly falls of the chair. And what is it with the drinking of the water. Less con****uous would be to have a lozengen/lifesaver to pop into a dry mouth.

Funeral Etiquette
Is there a way to go to a funeral unvisible. President Bush was probably the only prominent body there attending out of respect for the accomplishments of Coretta Scott King. I don't believe Bush uttered one political word.

Surely funerals are not to be spectacles and the Democrats have managed to make two just that--the funerals of Wellstone and Coretta Scott King.

Thanks again
Fortunato-

Thank you for your comments. Curiously, they sort of demonstrate the etiquette of artful disagreement.

Telling you you were correct was disingenous on my part, I do not agree with you nor will either of us ever be able to convince each other of the opposite viewpoint. So, by telling you you were correct that politics were relevant, it was a friendly, manners-mindful concession.

Fortunato, you have every right to have issues with this President and formulate your own opinions accordingly. (I must confess, had he stayed away from the funeral I wonder if you'd have applauded that?) In respectful, interpersonal communication you may want to ponder that when people politely hand you a verbal victory, insincere or otherwise, that it's a Miss Manners signal that you are to take the spoils and enjoy them in confidence or in doubt.

A Canadian Opinion
I can not understand the anti-bush movement. So far he has reacted in a way that I feel is deserving of the situation. He is merely a victim of bad press. I find it moraly lacking to use a funeral of such a respected citizen to attack Mr. Bush.

From Canada;
-Stanislaw

Mimi -
thank you for your polite rejoinder, which contains good advice I will take to heart.

Buy yourself some clues.
Wesley, here's a shocker: I'm not the subject here.

the topic is whether Lowery and Carter's comments were appropriate. You think they weren't, without saying why.

Your speculations about me are ludicrously off base.

>If the perceptions are inaccurate, that is no fault of the perceiver.

That's not the way the game in science, sales, poker, law, medicine or most other fields. Perception that isn't accurate (and yours are totally off the wall) are not perceptions but delusions.

Mr. Carter
Mr. Carter does A fine job building houses.You would think the mess he made as president.He would stick to that. Remember the shaw of Iran our friend that Mr. Carter failed to support Now look at the mess we have over there. So please Mr. Carter justkeep building houses and leave the important things in more capable hands.

Clueless
You're forgetting one very important point. Warrantless wiretapping of Al Qaeda isn't illegal. Osama bin Laden's declaration of war against the U.S. in 1996 instantly gave the President of the United States the authority under the Constitution to wiretap Al Qaeda. And Congress cannot pass a law saying that it is illegal.

Carter is truly de****able

more capable hands?
You mean, like FEMA under Bush appointees?

You forget that warretless wire taps are being used to spy on Quakers.
What does Osama bin Laden have to do with that?

real point
As Jimmy Carter was well aware, there already was oversite on the NSA program.
And govt has never required warrants for security related spying.

insults
Being called a liar and a criminal is not an insult?

Then again, given that your heros are all liars and criminals, I can see why you would have no problem with such labels.

Clinton
I don't believe B. Clinton fell off the wagon this time.

quakers
The only quakers being spied on are those talking with al-queda.

grasping concepts
eric like most liberals, is incapable of grasping the concept that they are not entitled to everything they want.

FEMA
Eric can't resist repeddling disproven lies.

Carter should hang his head in shame.
I cannot understand what Carter is trying to prove.And I relly dont understand to whom he thinks his message is reaching. It's a chilling thought. We are all Americans and if people dont like it they are free to find a country better than ours if they can. It' about time for us all to pull together for the betterment of us all istead of bashing, bashing bashing. To bad some of our elected rather get publicity and feel important than to honestly help this great nation of ours.


Sam..........Mass

The former President and long since gentleman, the embittered Jimmy Carter
Jimmy Carter was a woefully ineffectual and inept president. Through his continued and persistent whining regarding leftist causes while wading with liberals of his ilk, he was awarded the NPP.... Oh yes the former president has built a few homes for people who did little or nothing to deserve them, he was even a submarine commander at one time, shocking as that might seem. Back in the middle 80's my company offered to transport him his lovely and charming wife Roselynn, and his personal aid and SS contingent from Albany Ga. to Sullivan County airport in lower upstate NY.... I drew the unpleasant task of crew chief for this flight... During the mercifully short 1.5 hour trip he acted in a condesending and arrogant manner, was cranky, and impossible to please.... If not for his aforemention charming intelligent and witty wife, the trip would have been a total drugery.
Jimmy Carter definitely rose to my expectations of him and if his behavior on that flight is any indication of how he treated his staff and other direct reports its a wonder he ever got a hot cup of coffee while he was the laughing stock president he was.... Jimmy Carter should kiss the ground that GWB walks on and thank his stars as all liberals should that regardless of how classless and crassly alleged elder statesmen like JC and the rest of his crowd act, that the current president will continue to do the all the things necessary to keep our country safe from the people Carter more often than not now defends (I guess if he couldn't whip their behinds back during his administration he may as well defend them now).... He (president Bush)will not fail and he will do it like a gentleman as long as he is able.... Jimmy Carter deserves a swift boot in is pompous old behind, its too bad he is too old for W to have obliged him....

Where's the Compassion Mr. Carter?
You know, next to GWB, Jimmy Carter probably had his share of headaches due to problems with and threats from terrorists. There were the hostages in Iran which seemed like forever, it just went on and on these captives in Iran were news headlines for over a year, yet, somehow they could not be rescued. I also remember the failed attempt, which cost American lives, to rescue them.

So, Mr. Carter knows the headaches, knows the quiet moments of desperation of the office, its weighty responsibilities. For a person who claims to be religious (if I had a dime for every time he said the word "pray" in a speech I'd be able to buy his silence) his compassion is con****uously absent.

If anything, one would think he'd be more supportive now than reproachful. As a twenty something during his Presidency, he lost my confidence with the fuel embargo, no credit, high mortgage rates near 20%, stagflation and telling me it was my fault, due to malaise, that it was costly to be warm in my own home. When he admitted he consulted his 7 year old daughter for matters of state, he lost my support. Now, with his harsh criticism, as an outsider, of the office through which he struggled, he has lost my total respect.

"unprovable lies???"
What planet is this from? One where Brown was promoted? One where everyone thought FEMA did a heckuva job? Where everyone points to Katrina as a textbook example of effective and compassionate government? What planet do you live on?

concept ...
is a concept that Mark doesn't seem to have.

who is eric?

thank you for sharing...
..even though you don't have an argument

Excuse me, what did he say that was so offensive?
That government was failing in the areas where Coretta King and her husband had spent their lives calling for action? Is the idea that government under Bush was succeeding? Or just that nobody should mention the problems, even though they were crucial to the person whose funeral it was?

as far as "bashing bashing bashing," try listening to AM radio for a while and see how talk show hosts are uniting the country by calling people they disagree with traitors.

details, please
I'm sure we're all interested.

>uring the mercifully short 1.5 hour trip he acted in a condesending and arrogant manner, was cranky, and impossible to please....

In what ways. Please be specific. What did he ask for? What demands did he say weren't met? I'm sure you remember: I mean, you were there.

What was the insult?
I only saw parts of the (many) speeches on TV, but all I saw Carter say was that the Kings were both spied on by wire taps, which I took as a gentle dig against the current wiretap controversy. Besides, some thought GWB, never a strong civil rights guy, was at the funeral for a photo-op, not really out of respect.

Anyway, respect is earned, not just a given.

Disingenuous
Something ironic happened at this funeral. President Bush was condemned for conducting a terrorist surveillance program. A former president & others attempted to knock him for it, by comparing this program to previous surveillance programs conducted by previous presidents.

The irony: Dr. King, Malcom X, & a number of others were spied on, however, they were spied on by John F. Kennedy, & his Attorney General brother Robert Kennedy.

Both, Democrats.

Democrats conducted spy programs on Americans. Bush is conducting a spy program on terrorists, those connected to those terrorists, or based on previous information, are suspected of association with those terrorists.

In the end, attacking the president at a funeral lacked good judgment. Additionally, the real issue in what the president is doing is not to spy on ordinary Americans, but TERRORISTS who want to kill any & all of us!

Hypocrisy on Display
let me get this straight Pres. Bush is the issue re: "domestic spying" at the King funeral when it was Senator Edward Kennedy's brother's who spied on MLK for purposes of ruining his marriage to Mrs. King? I would have had respect for Pres. Carter if he had at least hauled that little chestnut forth from the coals.

What are you talkinga about?
Who called Bush (or anyone else) a war criminal or liar at the King funeral?

Read the constitution
The Bill of Rights doesn't apply just during peacetime.

>Osama bin Laden's declaration of war against the U.S. in 1996 instantly gave the President of the United States the authority under the Constitution to wiretap Al Qaeda.

not without a warrant. Maybe in another country, not in the U.S.

>And Congress cannot pass a law saying that it is illegal.

I suggest you buy a copy of the constitution and read it. Or perhaps the idea is we just do away with the courts and the congress and just have the president do whatever he wants, to whoever he wants, any way he wants to.

So it was an insult to the Kennedys, not to President Bush
By the way, here was the (phony) justification used: not "terrorism" but "communism."

The FBI conducted its investigation of Dr. King and the SCLC under an FBI manual provision -- called COMINFIL -- permitting the investigation of legitimate noncommunist organizations, suspected by the FBI of having been infiltrated by communists, to determine the extent, if any, of communist influence. The FBI's investigation was based on its concern that Dr. King was being influenced by two persons -- hereinafter referred to as Adviser A and Adviser B -- that the Bureau believed were members of the Communist Party.

Officials in the Justice Department relied on the FBI's representations that both of these advisers were communists, that they were in a position to influence Dr. King, and that Adviser A in fact exercised some influence in preparing Dr. King's speeches and publications. Burke Marshall, Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights from 1961-1965, testified that he "never had any reason to doubt [the FBI's] allegations concerning [Adviser A]."

He recalled that the charges about Adviser A were "grave and serious," and said that he believed Attorney General Kennedy had permitted the investigation to proceed because:
"stopping the investigation in light of those circumstances would have run the risk that there would have been a lot of complaints that the Bureau had been blocked for political reasons from investigating serious charges about communist infiltration in the civil rights movement. "

The spying was a national disgrace, and yes, we don't want to go there again with Kennedy, Bush or anyone else as President, and saying so at the Kng funeral was absolutely appropriate.

Heh
Well, it's nice to see a libby once again unwittingly admit that his fellow libs are delusional looney toons:

"Perception that isn't accurate ... are not perceptions but delusions."

Awkward grammar aside, the above statement is the very epitome of the left today.

Unless you think nutjubs like sheehan are accurate.. ;)

heh yourself
Wesley, you seem to be unclear on the concept.

You posted some "perceptions." They aren't perceptions: they have nothing to do with reality. This is simple fact: your description of me assembled from your "perceptions" is wrong all the way through, top to bottom. That doesn't make me the deulusional one. Look in the mirror.

As a matter of fact, you're wrong.
>govt has never required warrants for security related spying.

Not for spying on U.S. citizens whether or not suspected of terrorist links. It's simply not true. Not according to the constitution, and not according to laws duly passed by congress.

Oh, I thought this was a funeral?
Tell me roy, how was it showing respect to Mrs. King by discussing wire tapping? This was an occasion to eulogize Mrs. King, not to use it for political soapbox. What did wire tapping Martin have to do with Coretta. Yes, she was there, but this was the time to say good & positive things about the woman who was lying there in the casket. By the way, the illegal wire tapping was done by the Kennedy and Johnson administration. Both democrats.

Carter really needs to retire
Carter has broken the unspoken rule of bad mouthing the current president, or inserting his "has been" opinion in what the current president is doing. He has done both on numerous occasions. If he feels the need to open his mouth again in public, why not try explaining WHY he gave away the Panama Canal?? Another democrat just giving our security away to the Chinese.

Falling off the wagon
I believe you would be wrong on this. He gave this speech word for word about a mummy back in 1996.

Again, so it was an insult to President Kennedy, not President Bush
The point is, the spying was a national disgrace, and yes, we don't want to go there again with Kennedy, Bush or anyone else as President, and saying so at the Kng funeral was absolutely appropriate.

By the way, here is a detailed account of what happened and the (phony) justification used: just subtitute "terrorism" for where it says "communism"

"The FBI conducted its investigation of Dr. King and the SCLC under an FBI manual provision -- called COMINFIL -- permitting the investigation of legitimate noncommunist organizations, suspected by the FBI of having been infiltrated by communists, to determine the extent, if any, of communist influence. The FBI's investigation was based on its concern that Dr. King was being influenced by two persons -- hereinafter referred to as Adviser A and Adviser B -- that the Bureau believed were members of the Communist Party.

Officials in the Justice Department relied on the FBI's representations that both of these advisers were communists, that they were in a position to influence Dr. King, and that Adviser A in fact exercised some influence in preparing Dr. King's speeches and publications. Burke Marshall, Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights from 1961-1965, testified that he "never had any reason to doubt [the FBI's] allegations concerning [Adviser A]."

He recalled that the charges about Adviser A were "grave and serious," and said that he believed Attorney General Kennedy had permitted the investigation to proceed because: 'stopping the investigation in light of those circumstances would have run the risk that there would have been a lot of complaints that the Bureau had been blocked for political reasons from investigating serious charges about communist infiltration in the civil rights movement. '"

A funeral is an occasion to talk about the ideals someone fought for..
One of which was civil rights, as in right to have rights enforced not invaded by authorities.

"What did wire tapping Martin have to do with Coretta. "

It was used to gather information to destroy her marriage.

As for "democrat" thing -- as noted below, this means that it was an inslt not to President Bush, but to the late President Kennedy, whose brother was present

Rush Limbaugh said this
Which doesn't make it either true or classy.

Actually, I thought ..
Actually, I thought F.E.M.A. did a reasonably good job.


But then I'm a disinterested outside observer with no political agenda who has done some work and considerable study of potential disaster response to a remarkably similar scenario.


For some twenty years now my colleagues and myself have been looking at the New Orleans situation as an example of an unavoidable disaster for which an effective response would be almost impossible. We considered it a good case study when evaluating our own disaster response requirements because of many similarities. (except we could expect killer cold rather than killer heat).


And yet there for all to see was an incredible response as well coordinated as could be expected, with tremendous resources delivered in a timely and organised manner with almost no loss of life. We didn't believe it was possible.


Of course it was a complete balls up but we are speaking of a governmental response which is how it must be judged. Comparing the the Katrina response to the response in Hollywood movies or initiatives undertaken by private agencies is pointless. F.E.M.A.'s actions during and after Katrina are the gold standard by which other governmental crisis response should be judged.


That being the case credit should be given to those in charge especially at the highest level.


northernguy

Dr. Lowrey and Jimminy Carter
..

why do you lie eric
Check your history. It's easy, assuming you know how.

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