The Magazine

Coretta's funeral, Merkel, and more.

Feb 20, 2006, Vol. 11, No. 22 • By THE SCRAPBOOK
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Bobby, Martin, and John

The funeral of Coretta Scott King last week in Lithonia, Ga., brought together two of The Scrapbook's favo-rite statesmen, Sen. Edward Kennedy and former President Jimmy Carter, on the same podium for the first time since--oh, maybe it was the 1980 Democratic Convention, when Kennedy effectively declined to endorse Carter for reelection.

Well, that was then, and now the two old warriors are united by a common adversary, George W. Bush, who sat on the very same podium at Mrs. King's funeral. The president was soon to be taught an interesting history lesson. First up was Kennedy, who regaled mourners with the story about how Martin Luther King had been "jailed in October 1960 and given an incomprehensible sentence of four months of hard labor in a rural penitentiary for a minor traffic violation. The situation was ominous, and many feared for his life. I remember my brother, President Kennedy, calling [Mrs. King] to say he would do whatever was necessary to help. Robert Kennedy called the judge the next day, and miraculously Martin was released!"

Actually, he was Senator, not President, Kennedy at the time; but when Edward Kennedy said that "Robert Kennedy called the judge," the congregation erupted in a loud, prolonged, even raucous ovation--so prolonged, in fact, that Kennedy was obliged to repeat the phrase and, presumably, instill in the minds of Mrs. King's mourners the idea that the Kennedy brothers had been champions of civil rights.

Then came Jimmy Carter. The Scrapbook has long since given up expecting a modicum of dignity from the winner of the 2002 Nobel Peace Prize, even at a funeral, and he didn't disappoint us. In a finger-wagging allusion to the Bush administration's policy of eavesdropping on suspected al Qaeda terrorists, Carter told the congregation that "it was difficult for [the Kings] personally--with the civil liberties of both husband and wife violated as they became the target of secret government wiretapping, other surveillance, and, as you know, harassment from the FBI.''

Carter, too, was rewarded with pro-longed applause. But here's the history lesson: Who, as attorney general of the United States, authorized the "secret government wiretapping, other surveillance, and, as you know, harassment from the FBI" of Martin Luther King? The answer is Robert Kennedy, the very same Robert Kennedy who "called the judge" in October 1960. The Scrapbook does not expect an ovation for clarifying the record, but readers are welcome to savor the irony.

Bombing Obama

Democratic senators Harry Reid and Barack Obama tried to pull a fast one on John McCain and got hit with the literary equivalent of a B-52 strike. McCain's been working on a bipartisan lobbying reform bill. Obama, Reid's designee on reform, told McCain he wasn't a partisan hit man and wanted to help out. So, at McCain's invitation, Obama attended a meeting on the bill and let McCain know the next day that he appreciated working together. But that night Obama's office, evidently at Reid's request, emailed, and released to the press, a letter to McCain, then en route to Germany, mourning Wash-ington's "culture of corruption," and lamenting that a bipartisan reform wouldn't be "effective"; only the Democratic leadership's bill, which has no Republican cosponsors, "represents a significant step in addressing many of the worst aspects of corruption."

McCain arrived back in his office on February 6 and responded with his own letter, also released to the press:

I would like to apologize to you for assuming that your private assurances to me regarding your desire to cooperate in our efforts to negotiate bipartisan lobbying reform legislation were sincere. . . . Thank you for disabusing me of such notions with your letter. . . . I'm embarrassed to admit that after all these years in politics I failed to interpret your previous assurances as typical rhetorical gloss routinely used in politics to make self-interested partisan posturing appear more noble. . . . But I understand how important the opportunity to lead your party's effort to exploit this issue must seem to a freshman Senator, and I hold no hard feelings over your earlier disingenuousness.

Ouch!

Merkel Rising

First she met with President Bush and spoke of the importance of German-American friendship. Now she's taking a strong stand against Iran's threat to go nuclear. And all the while she manages to hold together a fragile coalition government. Is there anything Angela Merkel can't do? Speaking at the Munich Conference on Security Policy earlier this month, the new German chancellor did not mince words: