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.
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.