Late last week and most of the weekend were dominated by memorials for Aretha Franklin and John McCain; a great singer and a great Senator. Eulogies are to funerals as hot dogs are to baseball games for most Americans. There were some that were well worth listening to. Let’s explore a few of them.
On Thursday in Phoenix the bar was set by one of the best in the “business” – Joe Biden. I have privately joked that Biden should be Vice President for life because a major duty of the office is to attend the funerals of foreign dignitaries and express America’s condolences at them. (Of course, having America represented by someone who actually knew the dignitaries and their countries for decades helped. Think of the personal knowledge of a Biden and either Hillary Clinton or John Kerry team compared to Mike Pence and Rex Tillerson or Mike Pompeo.)
Biden stood in front of a crowd of mainly Republicans honoring a Republican icon and started his speech with two sentences. “I’m Joe Biden.” “I’m a Democrat.” Each line generated a laugh. Everyone in the North Phoenix Baptist Church knew who Biden was and his political affiliation. Those lines did more than generate laughter; they set the theme for his entire eulogy and John McCain’s philosophy of legislating – respect both sides and the other guy has to get something out of the deal too. Ask Russ Feingold, John McCain actually knew how to make a deal.
In Detroit on Friday the life of Aretha Franklin was honored. When Al Sharpton took his turn at the microphone he used the opportunity to apologize for misspelling respect on television. Then he brought the house down when he used the occasion to, “Correct President Trump and teach him what it means.”
Saturday, at the National Cathedral in Washington three eulogies of significance occurred. I will admit I was wondering if the great orator Barack Obama could outdo his former Vice President. I also planned to listen to the eulogies delivered by Meghan McCain and George W. Bush. I did and none disappointed.
Obama did his usual good job mixing humor and lessons. I hate to tell my old boss this, but you didn’t finish in first place for the weekend.
George W. Bush, (who I’ve never been a cheerleader for – no pun intended), actually looked, acted and sounded presidential. Maybe it is a sign that a progressive like me somewhat misses W. when I am confronted with Trump on a daily basis. Both former presidents took thinly veiled but well deserved shots at the current occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
The most impactful eulogy of the weekend came from McCain’s daughter Meghan. I have observed her for some time and find her to be, like her father, a legitimate conservative (not someone who stole the label) that is willing to listen, discuss and compromise for the good of the country. Keep in mind that while the National Cathedral respects and welcomes all faiths it is an Episcopal house of worship. Having been raised Catholic (very similar) I know that means be very polite and very quiet. Over the services I observed that Meghan was genuinely (and understandably) distraught. There were many pauses for composure and to wipe away tears during her talk. One moment of just as genuine anger came through when she talked about her and her father’s vision of a great America then ended witha rebuke of Trump by declaring, “America was always great.”
I’m not in the business of advising Republicans but if I were I’d tell the Arizona GOP to have Governor Doug Ducey appoint McCain’s widow Cindy as the “caretaker” of his seat, beg Meghan to move back to Arizona and run her in 2020. I know they have an extreme element trying to take over their party as represented by Kelli Ward and Joe Arpiao in the recent Senate primary. Especially in what is trending toward a purple state that would be the death of the Republican Party. A somewhat moderate conservative that has frequently appeared on television and with the surname McCain in Arizona will be tough for the Democrats to beat.
When Trump used the “Make America Great Again” theme in 2016 my question was: When did America cease to be great? In 2020 the Democrats may be able to “steal” it and add two words on the end – vote Democratic. While I often disagreed with him on policy there is no denying that John McCain was a great American. Like many great Americans before him I hope he continues to influence America well after his passing. Oh, and listening to some Aretha Franklin isn’t all that bad either.
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