DrudgeReport says that the memorial service for Martin Luther King's widow Coretta Scott King -- billed as a "celebration" of her life -- turned suddenly bare-knuckles political when a black pastor, Rev. Joseph Lowery, co-founder of Southern Christian Leadership Conference, ripped into President Bush during his short speech ostensibly about Mrs. King.
Mr. Lowery reportedly said of Mrs. King: "She deplored the terror inflicted by our smart bombs on missions way afar. We know now that there were no weapons of mass destruction over there."
The mostly black crowd reportedly applauded, then rose to its feet and cheered in a two-minute-long standing ovation. According to the report, closed-circuit television in the mega-church outside Atlanta showed the president smiling uncomfortably.
"But Coretta knew, and we know," Lowery continued, "That there are weapons of misdirection right down here," he said, nodding his head toward the row of presidents past and present. "For war, billions more, but no more for the poor!" The crowd again cheered wildly.
According to Drudge, former President Jimmy Carter later swung at Bush as well, not once but twice. As he talked about the Kings, he said: "It was difficult for them then personally with the civil liberties of both husband and wife violated as they became the target of secret government wiretaps." (Carter did not mention that this wire-tapping was conducted under Democratic Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson, and was originally ordered by Attorney General Robert Kennedy, another Democrat.) The crowd cheered as Bush again smiled weakly. Later, Carter reportedly said Hurricane Katrina showed that all are not yet equal in America.
Let's keep in mind that Jimmy Carter somehow finds room in his big, magnanimous heart to say nice things in defense of terrorist organizations like Hamas. Carter knows what he's doing when he waves the Hurricane Katrina red flag in light of how the hurricane aftermath devolved into a series of partisan political attacks on the current president. He knows what he's doing when he injects political red flags into his speech and then allows the crowd to use his statement as a springboard for partisan cheers clearly attacking the sitting president in attendance.
Even assuming for sake of discussion that these speeches by Lowery and Carter accurately reflected what Coretta Scott King believed, to inject these remarks into Mrs. King's funeral was tasteless and deliberately offensive.
Compare this to the best of Dr. Martin Luther King's legacy -- winning hearts and minds through peaceful, nonviolent resistance and finding what people have in common, rather than what separates them.
Also compare this to the gentlemanly class that President Bush showed when he had the difficult task of dedicating portraits of Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton at the White House. Despite the Clintons' numerous hateful political attacks on President Bush and his family and the way that the Clintons utterly disgraced the White House through the Lewinsky scandal and other scandals, there was not a hint of malice in President George Bush's speech. Nor was he studiously indifferent. He obviously instructed his speech writers to be as generous and magnanimous as humanly possible without lying, and they came through with lines like these:
"President Clinton and Senator Clinton, welcome home."
"And so beginning today, the likenesses of President William Jefferson Clinton and First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton will take their place in a line that began with George and Martha Washington."
"It's good to see so many who served our nation so ably in the Clinton administration. Thank you all for coming back. Thanks for your service to the country, and welcome back to the White House." (Recall that the Clinton Administration reportedly trashed parts of the White House on the way out. There was no mention or hint of that by the gentlemanly George Bush.)
"As a candidate for any office, whether it be the state attorney general or the President, Bill Clinton showed incredible energy and great personal appeal." (This line referring to "incredible energy and great personal appeal" is actually humorous when you think about the Lewinsky scandal, but Bush delivered it with a straight face and in a gentlemanly fashion.)
"As chief executive, he showed a deep and far-ranging knowledge of public policy, a great compassion for people in need, and the forward-looking spirit the Americans like in a President. Bill Clinton could always see a better day ahead -- and Americans knew he was working hard to bring that day closer." (Bush didn't have to lay it on this thick in praise of a direct political rival. He chose to do so to honor the occasion.)
"Over eight years, it was clear that Bill Clinton loved the job of the presidency. He filled this house with energy and joy." (Oh, yeah. Bill Clinton sure did fill the White House with "energy" and "joy." Again, however, Bush delivered this line graciously, allowing all present for the unveiling of the portraits to focus on the positive side of Bill Clinton, such as it is.)
"People in Bill Clinton's life have always expected him to succeed -- and, more than that, they wanted him to succeed. And meeting those expectations took more than charm and intellect -- it took hard work and drive and determination and optimism." (Again, more generous than was absolutely required.)
"At every stage in the extraordinary rise of Bill Clinton, from the little ranch house on Scully Street to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, he and Roger had a wonderful, loving mother. And I am certain that Virginia Kelley would be filled with incredible pride this morning."
"And so would Hugh Rodham, Senior. Mr. Rodham did have the joy of seeing his only daughter become America's First Lady. And I know he would not be surprised to see her as she is today, an elected United States Senator, and a woman greatly admired in our country. From the earliest days of her youth in Park Ridge, Illinois, Hillary Rodham impressed her family and friends as a person of great ability and serious purpose."
"It takes an extraordinary person to campaign and win the United States Senate. She has proven herself more equal to the challenge. And she takes an interesting spot on American history today, for she is the only sitting senator whose portrait hangs in the White House." (Yes, Hilary does take an "interesting" spot in American history.)
There's more, but you get the idea. Unlike too many on the left, George Bush actually tries to live by the Golden Rule. George Bush set aside his personal feelings and political wounds and spoke of the Clintons with the same generosity of spirit that he would want a political rival to show to him. That doesn't mean that Bush's generosity of spirit will likely be repaid someday. Bush knows that too. He was generous because simply it was the right thing to do.
AP reports (ironically given the above background) that the crowd also used Mrs. King's funeral as an opportunity to deliver "wild cheers" and a long standing ovation to former President Clinton and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton.
Let it be remembered that in yet in another moment in world history that called for grace and dignity, and in a moment when grace and dignity were incredibly easy to come by simply by focusing on the legacy of Coretta Scott King, the following people went out of their way to show gracelessness for temporary partisan political advantage:
1. Rev. Joseph Lowery, co-founder of Southern Christian Leadership Conference
2. All those present at the funeral who deliberately applauded for two minutes Lowery's graceless attack on President Bush.
3. Former president Jimmy Carter.
Entrusted with the responsibility to let Coretta Scott King's good and beautiful light shine in her memory and honor, these people deliberately blew it.
Michelle Malkin has more comments and links.