President Obama, we learned from Josh Earnest, won’t be honoring the late Justice Antonin Scalia by attending his funeral, and the Presidential spokesman couldn’t even say what weekend activity Obama deems more important. Already, conservative commentators and pundits are calling the odd decision an intentional snub, and many on the left are also obviously puzzled, causing them to make up excuses, like suggesting that the Scalia family told the President of the United States to stay away.
It’s not a snub, of course. It’s just a willfully lost opportunity to show some non-partisan class and leadership, or in other words, Obama being Obama. We’ve seen this kind of irrational, arrogant, toxic conduct from him before, as when he was the only world leader who wouldn’t deign to join with other heads of state in the mass support of France following the Charlie Hebdo terrorist attacks. This is Obama’s “It’s my Presidency and I’ll be a jerk if I want to” streak, unattractive, petty, and a major reason why the United States is as culturally, politically and societally fractured as it is.
In no other field is Yogi Berra’s famous quote about funeral attendance more wise: “Always go to other people’s funerals, otherwise they won’t come to yours.” It is critical that politicians and elected officials signal their respect for each other as citizens and colleagues at every opportunity, to demonstrate to the public that everyone is at heart an American with a single purpose, that our leaders respect one another, and that disagreements are principled and professional, not personal. Without that message being made regularly and convincingly, democracy doesn’t work, government doesn’t work, communities don’t work, nothing works, and hate and distrust prevails….you know, like in the United States today as remade by Barack Obama.
President Obama made all the right noises in his recent comments about Scalia, but talk is cheap, especially for him. After all, he also said that he had drawn a red line, would make transparency a priority in his administration, would build a bi-partisan coalition, would be a President of all races, and was surprised to discover that the Secretary of State that he e-mailed 18 times using her private e-mail address was receiving official communications on her private e-mail address—we all know, or should, what Barack Obama’s words are worth.
What matters is what he does, and while he indicated that he respected and valued Justice Scalia, a U.S. President who actually did so would show it by of course attending his funeral, or better yet, speaking at it, as President Bush did the last time an important Justice, William Rehnquist, died in the service of his nation and its laws.
This is obvious, or would be to someone who isn’t a pathological narcissist and who doesn’t habitually allow his swollen ego to get in the way of doing his job. Even Chris Hayes, a host on a network, MSNBC, that sees itself as Obama’s equivalent of the little janitor at the end of the “Mister Peabody” cartoons, sweeping up the litter and horse manure after the parade of history passes, couldn’t brush this off. He said, “Some amazing advice my mom gave me once: ‘If you’re wondering whether you should go to the funeral, you should go to the funeral.”
Exactly, except that for a President of the United States reflecting on the sudden death of an iconic Supreme Court Justice, there isn’t even a good reason to wonder.