Skip to comments.MARK STEYN A memorial disservice to Paul Wellstone
Posted on 11/01/2002 11:21:57 AM PST by Liz
When Liberace died, Frank Sinatra officially said: "That he was a consummate artist is not really as important as my telling you he was one of the finest human beings I've ever known."
A mutual friend asked Frank whether he really meant it or, come to that, whether he'd even seen the press release before it went out. "What the hell," shrugged Frank, "he was an annoying little fag, but I liked the guy."
Personally, I find Sinatra's off-the-record version far more warm and human and specific to the deceased than the on-the-record not-entirely-convincing boilerplate. But on the passing of a public figure the small amount of genuine private grief gets ladled over it a treacly avalanche of ersatz public grief -- and for that, for the most part, no genuine human emotion is required.
So it is with Senator Paul Wellstone, who died on Friday in a plane crash in northern Minnesota. In Canada or Europe, the Senator would have been an unexceptional figure -- a middle-rank Health Minister in your average Continental Social Democratic-led governing coalition.
But in Washington terms that made him the most left-wing member of the United States Senate. How should conservatives remember him? Left to my own devices, I'd have stolen Frank's line: "What the hell, he was an annoying little high-tax statist, but I liked the guy." Which was, broadly, true. I'd barely heard of Wellstone before I covered the Clinton impeachment trial in 1999, but on the three or four occasions I ran into him during the Monica era I found him considerably less creepy than most of his desiccated colleagues, even if he was wrong on pretty much everything.
But the metaphorical press agent in my head kept saying, whoa, man, talk about faint praise; c'mon, it'd be so easy to borrow Frank's other line: "That he was a consummate socialist is not really as important as my telling you he was one of the finest human beings I've ever known." Alas, by the time of Wellstone's memorial on Tuesday, such grudging understatement was no longer acceptable.
On Tuesday, 20,000 close personal friends gathered in the sombre cloisters of the U of M basketball arena to pay tribute to his life and memory in a service that made the Iranian obsequies for the Ayatollah Khomeini seem a model of taste and restraint. There would have been 20,001, but, in keeping with the bipartisan spirit of the event, Vice-President Dick Cheney was told to stay away.
Governor Jesse Ventura, Senate Republican Leader Trent Lott and former Republican Senator Rod Helms were allowed in, but just so the mourners could boo them. If you missed the three-and-a-half-hour live broadcast on all Minnesota channels, here's the short version of the Democratic eulogies:
"Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your votes."
But let's take a look at the longer version. The Reverend Jesse Jackson compared the late Senator to Martin Luther King and Mahatma Gandhi. That sounds pretty impressive, until you remember that, at the memorial for NBA star Len Bias, who died of a cocaine overdose, the Rev. Jesse compared the deceased to King, Gandhi, Mozart and Jesus Christ -- "all young, gifted, strong and militant, all taken in the prime of their lives."
Evidently, Senator Wellstone wound up with the condensed version of Jesse's standard eulogistic shtick, as indeed did Jesse himself when in 1988 he was compared to Dr. King and Gandhi by Jimmy Carter. It would be interesting to know what a Democrat has to do not to get compared to King and Gandhi, though I recall that, at the height of his Monica troubles, Bill Clinton was reduced to comparing himself to Dr. King.
But this is standard guff: With digital technology, there's no reason why Jesse can't go on comparing folks to Gandhi long after he's dead.
Next came Mark Wellstone, the Senator's son, bellowing into the microphone "We will win! We will win! We will win!" as the crowd bayed its approval. This seemed a little off-message, given that his dad had just been seen on video saying, "Politics is not about winning for the sake of winning." But there's an election on Tuesday and right now winning for the sake of winning is what it's all about.
Well, OK, the kid's still in shock. He'll cringe with embarrassment in years to come if they ever show a clip on TV, but cut him some slack, he's under a ton of pressure from the party heavyweights, let it go.
Next came longtime Wellstone sidekick Rick Kahn, who urged everyone to "set aside the partisan bickering" by prostrating themselves before Paul's shrine. In a cheerfully totalitarian moment, he demanded that those political opponents present -- identified by name -- see the error of their ways and help "win this election for Paul Wellstone."
But, OK, Rick Kahn's one of those obsessive political aides who's invested his entire life in some other guy and now that guy's gone and you can't blame him for getting carried away.
So on came Senator Tom Harkin of Iowa to declare that Wellstone "never took himself too seriously" and "never had to proclaim his decency."
What a schmuck! Harkin relentlessly proclaimed Wellstone's and by extension his own decency, and he was deadly serious about it. And round about then you realized it really doesn't matter now who Paul Wellstone was or what he did. That Wellstone has ceased to exist. And what's taken his place -- a stew of beatified Jesse-Harkinite clichés -- is just a bloody shroud to rouse the faithful and bully the rest.
There's nothing for the Republicans in this, except the certainty that their hopes of taking back the Senate are being interred with Mahatma Luther Wellstone. Democrats have perfected the art of being simultaneously maudlin and vicious, ruthlessly partisan in their pious denunciations of partisanship. By Saturday, Walter Mondale had been tapped to replace Wellstone.
You remember -- Vice-President under Carter, linchpin of the Administration that gave America energy crises, double-digit inflation, Cuban troops in Angola, American hostages in Tehran, the good old days. When Republicans began cautiously dusting off Mondale's résumé, the Democrats' hatchet men stopped sobbing long enough to turn up on CNN and berate the GOP for being so tasteless as even to mention the election. "Couldn't they wait until Paul is in the ground?" Nevada Senator Harry Reid demanded. "And his wife and his child?" Thou shalt not speak ill of the dead, or the old guy we found to substitute for the dead.
But here's the thing. Even as Senator Reid was huffing, the Democrats were already filing their first election lawsuit against Minnesota's Secretary of State: Ask not for whom the chad hangs, it hangs for thee! Palm Beach comes to International Falls!
The Democrats are already suing because the post-Wellstone supplemental ballot, among other deficiencies, doesn't include instructions in Russian or Hmong, which is, as I'm sure you know, the language of the Hmong people. Couldn't the Dems wait to go to court until Paul is in the ground? And his wife and his child?
Silly question. Even now, Jesse is working on rhymes for Hmong, and Ted Kennedy is practising denouncing Republican hate-Hmongers without sounding like he's hiccuping.
Of all the many memorials Jesse Jackson has attended, he never spoke truer words than at the service for Ron Brown, Bill Clinton's Commerce Secretary, who also died in a plane crash: "When a ghetto boy with a dream rises above his predicament, and when he dies, billionaires become 'others,' " said Jesse, "that's a long journey." The Rev was referring to the brutal billing of sudden death: Ron Brown was the star on his fatal flight, and news reports listed the CEOs travelling with him only as "others."
Just so. In a celebrity plane crash, there's only room for one Patsy Cline, everyone else is Cowboy Copas, her fellow passenger that day. Wellstone died with his wife, his daughter, three aides and two pilots, and in death as in life billing prevails. It might have been nice if, in among all the partisan rallying, the speakers had managed to spare a thought for those caught up by a quirk of fate in this circus. But Senator Harkin didn't bother mentioning them and to David Wellstone they were simply "the pilots." For the record, they were Richard Conry, 55, and Michael Guess, 30.
But they didn't matter to Senator Harkin and nor, in the end, does Paul Wellstone. He's an abstract now. It says something that, of the two Senate Democrats not to make it to election day, there was more honesty in the ghastly emotional masturbation of sleazy Bob Torricelli's resignation speech than in Paul Wellstone's "memorial" "service." To paraphrase Senator Reid, even if Paul's not yet in his grave, I'll bet he's turning in it.
© Copyright 2002 National Post
It's schadenfreud all over again since Wellstone treated innocent human life as non-persons. He ignored the humanity of the unborn and hastened their status as non-entities with his nuumerous pro-abortion votes.
Sorry, but I can't drum up the necessary sympathy over his demise..........and apparently neither could those who attended his "memorial."
"What the hell," shrugged Frank, "he was an annoying little fag, but I liked the guy."Indeed. There's nothing quite like an honest tribute.
But there was room for the Big bopper, Buddy Holly and Ritchie Valens.
Wellstone has ceased to exist. And what's taken his place...is just a bloody shroud to rouse the faithful and bully the rest.
Even now, Jesse is working on rhymes for Hmong, and Ted Kennedy is practising denouncing Republican hate-Hmongers without sounding like he's hiccuping.
It says something that, of the two Senate Democrats not to make it to election day, there was more honesty in the ghastly emotional masturbation of sleazy Bob Torricelli's resignation speech than in Paul Wellstone's "memorial" "service."
Steyn bump. Man, if he's ever had an off-day, I missed it...
Who cares about their ages or names? These are Democrats. What was their race and sexual orientation?
I don't know much about Wellstone outside of his completely wrong-headed political bent. The guy was at least consistent from what I gather - consistently far-left. The terrible truth is, that considering Wellstone was a Marxist-Leninist, one more dead commie is always good news, but I know there are a thousand little cockroaches just like him crawling out of the woodwork to take his place. And like the roaches, commies are just as difficult to get rid of.
Maybe so, but he is sloppy. Look again. The former Minnesota senator was Rod Grams, not Rod Helms.
Truly the scariest thing about the "event" was the reich-mindedness of the crowd. Was there no Democrat squirming in his seat at what he was witnessing? Was there no Democrat appalled at the vicious, hateful drumbeat playing at the podium? Apparently not. After Clinton et al, Election 2000, the NJ debacle, and now the funeral-rally, I honestly believe there is no soul, shame, or decency left in someone who can still label himself a Democrat.
It's a minor point, but Bias never played in the NBA. He died while celebrating his selection as the #2 pick in the NBA draft by the Boston Celtics.
I wish I had thought of that line.
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