Should President Obama Attend Scalia’s Funeral? Of Course.

NICK SCHNELLE/JOURNAL STAR Pastor Larry Zurek leads a funeral mass for former Peoria Fire Cheief Ernie Russell on Friday morning at Sacred Heart Catholic Church. Russell was 74.

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.

15 thoughts on “Should President Obama Attend Scalia’s Funeral? Of Course.

  1. Someone already compiled a list of Supreme Court funerals and whether the President or the Vice-President attended, and I was surprised to learn that it’s not uncommon for the Vice-President to go instead. Personally, I think both the President and Vice-President should go to all Supreme Court funerals — that’s the classy and respectful thing to to do. It’s also the wise thing to do in this current political climate.

    The ONLY reason not to go is if the family requested that he not come. I can’t imagine that’s the case, but you never know. (I was once at a funeral where my aunt kicked her ex-husband in the crotch — classy!)

    The President is going to view Justice Scalia in repose at the Supreme Court on Friday so it’s not as if he is blowing this off entirely, but he should go to the funeral as well.

  2. Like everything else that Obama does, he has made the funeral of a sitting Supreme Court Justice 100% political. Big surprise.

    Maybe Obama could submit a nomination before Justice Scalia is even buried that would also show more of his contempt for Scalia and pile on more political fuel to the fire of division.

  3. It’s a snub. I know the family, they are not that way. It’s not unheard of for the president not to attend the funerals of RETIRED justices, but this would be the first time in 65 years for the president not to attend the funeral of a SITTING justice. Obama will send representatives to the funerals of thugs, robbers et al, if the melanin is right, but he won’t send them to the funerals of cops murdered in the line of duty, nor will he himself attend the funeral of the highest ranking officer and first general killed in action since Vietnam. Figure it out for yourself.

  4. Jack,
    “… like suggesting that the Scalia family told the President of the United States to stay away.”

    Do we know for sure they didn’t? I realize its unlikely but, if they did, that would seem a valid excuse for missing out.

    Also, while I agree with your take that the President has a duty to attend such functions, Yogi Berra’s advice (as with a lot of what he said) always struck me as silly. I’ve skipped every funeral I have ever been invited to — even that of my own father — and I similarly hope that, when I die, my family and friends (should I be lucky enough to shave any) will realize they have better things to do with their lives than to wallow in sadness about one more having ended.

        • Well, for the living who love, care about and respect the dead. My parents knew few people in the DC area when they moved here in their 80s, so when my Dad died, my mother was convinced that the funeral at Arlington was going to be unattended and an embarrassment. But people who knew about my dad through me filled the place, in part for me, yes, but also for my dad, to show the woman he loved so much that his life was appreciated. She was absolutely blown away—it meant everything to her. It might have been the last thing she was happy about for the rest of her life.

          • This is the reason I love when strangers attend the funeral of a veteran. They have very little in the way of family and friends, and yet the ceremony is well attended; in recognition of their service and that of others who may be in a similar situation.

    • 1. Until there is evidence that they did, it is worthless and dishonest to suggest they did, and Obama would be obligated to say so.

      2. Of course it was silly–it was a joke, but also with underlying truth, like all of Yogi’s twisted wisdom. The point is that you should go to your friend’s funerals, for the same reason you would want them at yours. The Golden Rule.

  5. When I read the title, I assumed that maybe the idea was being bandied about by pundits, when I read the first line, my jaw dropped. But it shouldn’t have. We know better. Fish gonna swim, Obama gonna.. Is there a single word? Sulk, perhaps?

  6. I’m also confused by this choice but if I were writing that novel then chapter four could be the president meeting Scalia in secret during the funeral.

  7. Not surprised. This is the same man-child who, among other things, likes to prop his head up with his middle finger while glaring at people he doesn’t like.

  8. He’s probably got a golf date during which he can yack with his buddies about his plans for his trip to Cuba to buy cigars and Che T-shirts.

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