It says a lot about the character of the new Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid that he would blow off the state funeral of Gerald Ford, the least partisan of our most recent presidents, in order to get in a little holiday sight seeing and engage in some hobnobbing with South American leftists. In fact, I think it a precursor of what we can expect from the Democrats in general for the foreseeable future. Out of power for a decade, I think it safe to say that these ain’t your daddy’s Democrats. In fact, I’m certain that these aren’t the Democrats of the 1970’s either.
The Majority Leader of the Senate during Ford’s tenure as President was Mike Mansfield. The craggy faced Montana lawmaker served in that leadership position longer than anyone in history. Perhaps his greatest moment occurred during the service in the Capitol Rotunda for the assassinated John F. Kennedy when he delivered what is considered one of the most moving eulogies in American political history:
There was a sound of laughter; in a moment, it was no more. And so she took a ring from her finger and placed it in his hands.
There was a wit in a man neither young nor old, but a wit full of an old man’s wisdom and of a child’s wisdom, and then, in a moment it was no more. And so she took a ring from her finger and placed it in his hands.
There was a man marked with the scars of his love of country, a body active with the surge of a life far, far from spent and, in a moment, it was no more. And so she took a ring from her finger and placed it in his hands.
Somehow, I don’t think our Harry quite measures up, do you?
Mansfield was a brilliant man, an accomplished diplomat. Harry Reid is a political hack. But the differences go beyond talent, beyond intelligence. The fact is, Mike Mansfield was a gentleman. Harry Reid is not.
Mansfield could be as hyper-partisan as any politician today but he always behaved in a way that reflected his belief that the feelings and sensibilities of others was something to be considered. In other words, Mansfield demonstrated the number one trait of a gentleman; empathy.
Harry Reid seems to have a dead spot in his soul where empathy usually resides in the rest of us. Blowing off the government of the United States, his colleagues, the Ford family, and history itself is just the latest in series of actions and statements that show Reid to be unfit to follow in the footsteps of giants like Mansfield, LBJ, and the venerable wise man George Mitchell – all of whom would have blanched in horror at the prospect of the Majority Leader of the Senate missing a high affair of state such as a presidential funeral.
Reid has demonstrated on numerous occasions that his rank partisanship gets in the way of him acting like a normal human being; to wit:
Reid made headlines in May 2005 when he said of George W. Bush, “The man’s father is a wonderful human being. I think this guy is a loser.” Reid later apologized for these comments. Reid also called Supreme Court Associate Justice Clarence Thomas an “embarrassment” and referred to Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan as a “partisan hack.”
He also called the President a “liar” and refused to apologize. Whether true or not, the idea that one politician calls out another for lying is loony. It is beyond the pot/kettle analogy, moving into the sublime territory of stratospheric irony usually reserved for Communists when they name their country a “Peoples Republic.”
Reid’s snub may be unprecedented, although I doubt whether statistics about such insults to the United States government are kept. And I doubt whether we’ll hear a peep of criticism from any sitting Democratic politician either. At bottom and with few exceptions, the values of tradition and etiquette mean very little to the left. After all, they’ve spent the last 40 years trying to overturn tradition and violate etiquette in order to “speak truth to power” or “challenge convention” or some other such nonsense that more often denotes agitating for change simply for the sake of change itself rather than any specific goal for improving society.
The fact that Reid’s deputy, my home state senator Dick Durbin is also on the junket (along with Kent Conrad, Judd Gregg, Robert Bennett, and Ken Salazar) means that the task of delivering the eulogy may fall to Senator Robert Byrd, President pro tempore emeritus of the Senate. Byrd, for all his faults, is a creature of the Senate and one who reveres and worships its traditions and precedents. I have no doubt that the West Virginia Senator will do a fine job in eulogizing Ford. But frankly, it’s not his job. It’s Reid’s. And the absence of the new Majority Leader at the state funeral of a former president sets a very bad precedent that I hope Republicans will never take advantage.
Jimmy Carter is no spring chicken. There will come a day in the not too distant future when his remains will lie in the Capitol Rotunda and the Honor Guard will stand their solemn watch. And Members of Congress will gather to pay their respects and deliver eulogies to the dead Commander in Chief. Will the Republican leader recall this insult by Reid and find other pressing matters to attend to? I hope not. For if there is one occasion where partisanship should be left at the door, it is in honoring those special men who took up what the Smithsonian referred to as “A Glorious Burden” and guided the United States and the Ship of State through perilous waters.
I’m with Hugh Hewitt 100%: “Turn. The. Plane. Around.”
What a classless act, and Reid, Durbin, Kent Conrad, Judd Gregg, Robert Bennett, and Ken Salazar should be ashamed of themselves. If Harry Reid can’t figure out that his new position as Majority Leader carries some extra responsibilities, then perhaps the Democrats need to find someone who does understand it.
Amen. Although with the exception of Byrd, I doubt there are more than a handful of Democrats who see anything wrong with Reid’s excursion and would therefore be equally unfit to lead.
And Heather at my blog bud Raven’s site – And Rightly So – wonders “What ever happened to respect?” Indeed.
It appears that the President of the United States will also forgo the proceedings in the Rotunda on Saturday in favor of staying at his ranch for another day.
Less anyone think my displeasure is reserved exclusively for the Democratic LEADERSHIP (Note: The Republicans on the junket are not a part of the leadership in the Senate. Those in the comments who have demonstrated their towering ignorance by not being able to tell the difference between the Majority Leader of the Senate passing on this event and two relatively unknown GOP members skipping out might want to deepen their thinking faculties a bit.) anything I said about Reid above goes double for Bush.
Look, friends. Hearken to me.
A nation is an organism, a life form. And what animates this life form, what gives it the power to unite our people – so diverse, so different – are its myths and legends; in other words, the symbolic over the substantative. The Constitution does a fine job in defining the powers of government. But its real power is in its iconic symbolism in which we have bound up all the hopes and dreams of our citizenry for a better life.
The United States is a very young country by any standard. We are so young, we really have no “myths” or “legends” per se. That’s because even our greatest mythic heroes like Daniel Boone and Davey Crockett left a written record behind along with friends and acquiantances who were able to tell biographers and historians what those two larger than life characters were all about. A “legend” is hardly legendary if we know that the myths surrounding the legend are untrue.
And tied up in these efforts to create legends has been the dominant truth about American public life since George Washington; the presidency as a symbol of nationhood. We have no king, no royal family. Our continuity is the result of civil compact among all of us that the office of the presidency belongs to no man, no party; that it is the one aspect of public life in which we invest enormous power and place enormous trust in the occupant not to abuse that power. Hence, the presidency as a symbolic representation of us, the citizens of the United States imbues the occupant of that office with the status of civic god – especially after he is safely retired and unable to do any damage to our liberties.
I think Bush should be widely criticized for not attending every event related to the Ford funeral rites. The symbolic life of the nation demands that he attend and participate. I believe he and Reid’s failure to take part in the ceremonial, the tradition of laying to rest a former president and former Commander in Chief lessens the hold that office has on our emotional bonds with America – what Lincoln referred to as the “mystic chords of memory” – that allow us to rise above that which separates us and unite in common cause to remember a dead icon.
I fully expect the lefty commenters to belittle this rationalization. So be it. It is probably why in 50 years, long after I’m dust thank god, the way citizens feel about the United States will be unrecognizable to my generation.
(This update has become a separate post.)