Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

The Coretta Scott King funeral

While it didn’t rise, or rather sink, to the level of the Wellstone rally, two speakers tossed barbs at George W. Bush. I can almost forgive Joseph Lowery, who has the preacher’s right to make his congregation squirm in their seats, even if, like many preachers, his sentiments tend to outrun his facts.

But Jimmy Carter is another story. He still is a politician who shouldn’t be hiding behind a pulpit: if he wants to dish it out, he has to let his target respond. Fortunately, on this occasion the President showed more class than his predecessor, as his gracious remarks demonstrate: one can acknowledge past and present injustice, while celebrating a life well-lived, and, above all, without directly casting aspersions on those who are sharing as brothers and sisters in the celebration.

Here are the WaPo story, a page of links from the Atlanta paper, and this story, in particular, describing an even more political memorial service at Ebenezer Baptist Church.

If you regard my commentary as insufficiently spirited, you can go here and here.

One last point, before I leave: While his remarks aren’t as well-wrought as his successor’s (Gerson and McGurn are extraordinary craftsmen), Bill Clinton puts Jimmy Carter to shame, especially when he observes that "we’re here to honor a person" and then says this:

We’re always going to have our political differences. We’re always going to have things we can do, and I must say, this has been brilliantly executed, and enormously both moving and entertaining moments. But we’re in the house of the Lord. And most of us are too afraid to live the life we oughtta live because we have forgotten the promise that was made to Martin Luther King, to Coretta Scott King, and all of us, most beautifully for me stated in Isiah, “Fear not, I have redeemed thee. I have called thee by thy name. Thou art mine.”

Words fitly spoken at a funeral, coming out of anyone’s mouth.

Discussions - 40 Comments

Lowery’s comments are unforgivable.
Since when does a preacher have a special license because he’s supposed to stir the crowd? It seems to me that a man of the cloth has special limitations, not a special license to rabble-rouse.

Lowery’s comments were spot on. What more appropriate place to attack the very devil than in church. As for Kippenberg, professor of con law, at Oglethorpe [is it accredited?], with professors of con law such as this dunce, we won’t have a constitution much longer. You bunch of blackshirts!

Apparently, the comments of Carter, Clinton, and Lowery were greeted with a great deal of acceptance and appreciation by the majority of listeners at the ceremony.

Why is it inappropriate to remind us that MLK’s home was illegally wiretaped? That would not have been a problem if it had been mentioned during Clinton’s administration, nor Carter’s. But, it is somehow impolite during Bush’s?

Once again, I think that your anger is misdirected. I would also point out that once again, the Right is disconnected from the perceptions of Black Americans and those who are sympathetic to current inequalities (at least those who were represented at this memorial.)

Clinton, for instance, was applauded before he even opened his mouth!


I’ve actually seen Bill Clinton (post-presidency) speak to a largely African-American audience at Ebenezer Baptist Church (the new sanctuary, not the old). He was very well received then, as could have been predicted. And he made a political speech.

I have no objection to making political speeches and to criticizing past and current government practices. It strikes me that there’s a difference between a funeral and a political occasion, one that Bush and Clinton recognize, and that Jimmy Carter apparently does not. That many of the folks in the sanctuary share Carter’s view doesn’t justify it. I hasten to add that their behavior is no necessary reflection on New Birth Missionary Baptist Church, where the funeral was held, since it’s unlikely that most of them were members there. (Bernice King is on staff there, and its sanctuary holds 10,000, quite a bit more than Ebenezer.)

Joe, do you really expect the Left to have any sense of decency or propriety? Why not use a dead woman to score cheap political points? The Left is shameless, and I think Bush should have snubbed the whole affair.

And Fung, as for black folks and their perpetual grievance machine, white Americas have grown suspicious and cynical. There are many other "hated" minorities who have done much better than African-Americans, and with half the bitching. The well of "white guilt" is running dry, buddy, and it’s time for black people to look for their oppressors in the nearest mirror.

Notice how the right wing media, talk radio, Fox News MUST tamp down the political expression at Coretta’s funeral--though Coretta’s life was ALL ABOUT politics and getting things done. The right MUST NOT let this ’public expression’ of opposition to Bush’s policies go unchecked! And omg! Bush was actually FACED with those who oppose him--unlike all the well-chosen audiences he’s had to face before!!! This must NOT be allowed!

The king must be protected from the consequences of his actions! And the left MUST be crushed at all turns!

in my oppinion geoge bush had absolutly no busness speaking at this arena his policies have done nothing to help the minorites or the poor or the sick or anybody who needs help in this country jimmy carter and bill clinton where the apropiate speakers bercause there lives have been dedicated to every american regardless of race or social standingEnter text to make boldEnter text to make bold

Yea, I agree that Bush shouldn’t have gone to this, but for a different reason. Why lower yourself to go to a funeral for someone who milked a dead man’s rep for nearly 4 decades? She had a great gig and now it’s over...’nuff said.

Hey, where are Hal Holst and Death’s Jester? Don’t you guys need to accuse "roger" of being a troll or something? If Mack Sandpaper and Fat Mike must be liberal creations, then surely roger’s 4th-grade level writing is a conservative’s fantasy.

Sgt. Bilko- how exactly did King’s widow "milk a dead man’s rep for nearly 4 decades?"

But Joe, when the funeral is Coretta Scott King’s, how can you remember her life without making political references? What remains to discuss, if you cleanse her history of every theme that would make Bush squirm?

Dain, thanks for demonstrating how connected you are to the non-white vision! I love your world: Boy, these rioters sure are surprising! Wow, what a bunch of whiners these Blacks are! Why don’t they just accept my assessment of how good they’ve got it, and smile and say "Thank you!"? If they were only realistic, like me, then they would be loving George Bush, and hating Bill Clinton! What a curious state of affairs! I wonder why I keep getting surprised by these people?

...mmmm, "surprised by THESE peple"....hoping was facitious but rather doubt and surprised not a little by those disgruntled by political inserts ...obviously fail to comprehend just how much of the political landscape the Kings helped to change..or perhaps DO realize and find it "regrettable" and would prefer the OLD status quo was yet in place where THOSE people were well regulated to be in particular places/placements/etc....LOL...well, not really for the true racist attitude is not hidden nor has it dissapated alkl that much . Find whatever excuses to whine you wish...the messengers sent proper messages at the service, some are just too dense to fully appreciate or simply can not tolerate such TRUTH TO THE POWERS be spoken out loud and therefore whine umbragedly!!! There is a heavy burden to shoulder, too many hope it ALL fails and it shows in the many whiney comments!!!

Phil Thompson:

I too thought Mrs. King profited from her husband. If she had not been married to him it is very likely no one would have cared much about her death. Also, she commercialized much of King’s legacy, much to her shame. I read an op-ed piece in Saturday’s Dispatch written about this. Mrs. King used copyright laws to copyright King’s speeches and the like. The most famous example being her suit against USA Today when it published the "I have a Dream" speech on its 40th anniversary. Although it seems the law allows this (although I argued it should not in my copyright class), sometimes people should not use the law to commericalize things.

I too thought Mrs. King profited from her husband. If she had not been married to him it is very likely no one would have cared much about her death.

Steve, that might be news to Mrs. King’s children. Also, couldn’t the same be said of any president’s wife? For example, if Jackie O. hadn’t been married to JFK, most of the country wouldn’t have cared about her death.

I haven’t read the op-ed piece to which you’re referring, so I won’t try to debate you on that, but the use of copyright laws and whether or not it was indeed "shameful" would depend on Mrs. King’s intent. If she sought to earn a buck from MLK’s speeches, that’s one thing (though hardly exceptional), but if she only intended to prevent crass/tacky use of her husband’s words, that’s something else entirely. I don’t KNOW what her intent was, so I’m not arguing either way, I’m just saying that it would make a difference.

Also, I realize that in my last comment, it may look like I thought MLK was President at some point, but I promise that my grasp of history is a little better than that. My sentence should have read "Couldn’t the same be said of any president’s wife as well?"

Nice point, Steve S! I would also point out that Nat Turner profited from slavery, as did Harriett Tubman. Had it not been for slavery, no one would have cared much about them, either. Darn those profiteering wives! I bet Coretta had her sights on MLK from the very moment that it was obvious how he was headed for greatness. This is why Ghandi, Jesus, and Buddha never married. They could never be sure if the love and attention they got was authentic, or just gold-digging.

I turned the TV on at lunch just in time to catch Lowery’s comments and I was steamed. Are they TRYING to resurrect the true bigotry of the past? It’s like they need it, can’t live without it.

Though I assumed all the networks would lead with the story, I was happy to see they did not. CBS News skipped the nasty bits entirely. Thank God. We don’t need any more in-your-face grandstanding to try to convince average Americans things are worse than they really are.

Mr. Carter showed an insensitivity that is truly un-Christian. Making a political rally from a funeral is as low-class and vindictive as you can get: not a real Christian attitude, I think.

If Mrs. King had passed away during the Clinton Administration, how likely is it that former president George Bush would have used the opportunity to score debating points against the sitting president (who, after all, had defeated him at the polls)? If you don’t think he would have done that, then there is a measure of distance between Bush and Carter, when it comes to partisan edge.

So Carol, you don’t think it would have been odd to eulogize the wife of the most famous American Civil Rights leader without mentioning bigotry? And let me guess, this "average American" you speak of- he/she is probably just like you, right?

Will, nice hypothetical- If we don’t THINK Bush would’ve done that, then that proves something, huh?

These news reports simply cannot be true. Everybody knows that Chimpy Bushitler the Evil Dictator has silenced all dissent in Amerikkka. Rove must have planted these stories to fool people. Curses!

I find most of these responses very disturbing the Kings were very much political figures and anybody who claims to be a christian person and backs the bushs dosnt know the true christian way which is to help those who are in need even if that means to pay a few more taxes rewards will come to those who give freely

Phil Thompson:

The op-ed was written by Leondard Pitts Jr. I believe he won a Pulitizer for commentary, or some equivalent award, and was the youngest person to win it, or maybe the youngest black man to win, I forget. I saw him on the Charlie Rose show on PBS. The article can be found here. Its title is "Family’s avarice smears the King legacy." Read it and decide for yourself. Article

A paraphrase of Milton Friedman seems apropos here: Any politician who advocates robbing Peter to pay Paul can reasonably expect the support of Paul.

Can we have a funeral without attacks on Pres. Bush?

As I wrote before, Mrs. King was a very nice lady who spent her life doing good things. It was nice that Pres. & Mrs. Bush went to the funeral. I’m glad that the other former presidents were there too.

However, I am very disappointed with the partisan attacks. Watch Pres. Carter:

Why didn’t Pres. Carter apologize to the King family? Why didn’t he say that it was Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy who ordered the wiretaps on Rev. King.?

Pres. Carter needs to read about it. Here is the link:

This is amazing. The Democrats can not go to a funeral and show their respect for a nice lady.


A funeral is an appropriate place to discuss the politics of the DECEASED, but the politics of those in attendance should remain unspoken. Period!

Rats. I had more to say, but watcher has imposed a period. It was good, too. Would have resolved the entire issue, and made everybody happy.


There’s nothing wrong with giving freely to charity. Paying high taxes, however, is not the same as giving freely. That is being compelled to give.

With every utterance, Carter becomes more foolish and bufoonish. He and calypso Harry should do a song and dance act in Vegas.

I’ll refer to President Clinton as President Clinton though I did not vote for him. However, Carter has lost all my respect. "Goober Boy"..............baaahhh!

Very good comment by watcher. I wonder how many attendees at funerals would like to be subjected to ridicule or debasement? Not many, I suspect, but apparently Mr.Carter is more self-righteous then charitable and could not contain himself. The cheering at a funeral seemed very out of place to me. Anyhow, God bless the lady.

And this has what it comes down to -- if you accuse blacks of running a grievance machine (a fact) and say that "white guilt" is almost out of steam (also a fact), you’re a bigot. That’s my case, in fact. Every time anyone stands up to black folks and calls their bluff they are immediately smeared with labels like "bigot" and "racist" and "clansmen." Well, bite me, one and all. I’ve been called those names before, in public, and I LIVED THROUGH IT. Just like the boy who cried wolf once too often, the use of "racist" as a weapon has lost much of its potency (from overuse).

Don’t be afraid of their name-calling, brethren. Stand up for your own self-interests, and if they want to call that racial hatred then let ’em. It’s just an attempt to squeeze ever more money and power from you. Believe me, ignore them and you will persevere.

Dominick- Taxation without representation is being compelled to give. This is still a democracy, even if you are willing to believe that we can buy wars, roads, schools, security, without taxes.


I’m not denying that Congress and the states have the power to tax me. Surely they do and, though I may disagree with the level of taxation that they levy, I pay those taxes without hesitation and with minimal griping. But paying taxes is not the same as "giving freely." There is no great virtue in paying one’s taxes. Giving charitably is indeed virtuous because it is giving of one’s time or property without any legal compulsion. It is voluntary. Paying taxes is a legal duty, not a virtue. Too many people in this country believe that they do all that they need to do to alleviate poverty or solve whatever social ill is on the cover of their favorite political magazine simply by paying their taxes. Paying taxes should not be confused with being charitable and generous.


I volunteer to help people pay their taxes. Do the two cancel each other out? Or do I lose points?

This is still a democracy, even if you are willing to believe that we can buy wars, roads, schools, security, without taxes.

And we still have a Constitution, one that doesn’t say a thing about welfare programs (or roads or schools for that matter), but which does explicitly mention war as a legitimate function of government.

John Moser:

I’m curious if you are serious concerning your argument? Its pretty well settled, legally, that Congress may "Spend for the general welfare" (that clause is in the constitution). Courts never interfere with what Congress considers the general welfare. I do not like most social programs, but I think you would have a hard time convincing anyone that they are unconstitutional.

The problem with the constitution from a conservative perspective is that it is too broad and indefinite. The commerce clause allows anything, as does the spending clause.

I understand that, Steve. I wasn’t being more than about 1/4 serious. I was reacting to Fung’s argument that, because we have a democracy, there’s no point in trying to delineate the proper functions of government. Vox populi, vox dei!

Maybe it just is me, but did you notice that the "right" reverend J. Lowery bears a resemblance to Col. Harland Sanders? Sorta as the ol sayin’ goes............"takes one ta know one"

"Now don’t that beat all?" - Sheriff Andy Taylor, High Constable of Mayberry,NC.

Regarding comment 39, it certainly read like you were more than "1/4 serious" in comment 37. Back-pedaling?

Read it any way you like--what I wrote is still absolutely true. That various politicians and judges have read other things into the Constitution, through a tortuous reading of the commerce clause, doesn’t change that fact.

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