Thursday, December 12, 2013

Senior Funeral Exploiter

I don't really have anything to say about this, other than to say that it's not the first time. Or the second time. In fact, the evidence strongly suggests that there is, somewhere (at the RNC? Fox News?) a Senior Funeral Exploiter whose job it is to carefully monitor all funerals, memorial services, and other potentially solemn occasions in which Democratic politicians are expected to attend with the goal of finding some "inappropriate" behavior. And once it's identified, it spreads rapidly through the GOP-aligned press.

The classics of the genre are the Paul Wellstone funeral, and Bill Clinton at the Ron Brown funeral. I seem to recall others, too, but don't have any handy citations.The Ron Brown one was classic...Republicans basically spent all eight years of the Clinton Administration trying to get everyone to accept what they thought was self-evidently true, that Clinton was a phony and a usurper; "catching" him "faking" grief at Brown's funeral, they thought, would convince everyone. Oh well.

Anyway, what I wonder about it, as I tend to do about these things, is whether this is supply or demand driven. Is there something about the consumers in the conservative marketplace that makes Funeral Exploitation particularly lucrative? Or is this something that conservative elites just are certain will resonate, and so they're constantly pushing it. 

I don't recall any equivalent on the other side; please remind me if I missed anything. Surely Democrats have exploited similar "gaffes," but none of them I can think of were funeral-based. 

So I have no idea of why the pattern exists, although I'm pretty sure it's not about Democrats actually being a bunch of rude jerks (I assume good manners are equally distributed among politicians). Ideas?

34 comments:

  1. "Cheney brought my mother up to the casket, so she could pay her respects. She is in her 80's, and she has glaucoma and has trouble seeing. There were steps, and he left her there. He just stood there, letting her flounder. I don't think he's a mindful human being. That's probably the nicest way I can put it." - Ron Reagan Jr.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2004/06/27/magazine/27QUESTIONS.html

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  2. There was another a small frenzy because Cheney wore a parka in Auchwitz memorial ceremony too.

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    1. Being freezing, he was old, I wasn't sure what exactly the decorum was.

      Yeah, I wouldn't mind if he froze to death, but I certainly wouldn't have let myself freeze, either.

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    2. It's a funny looking picture, certainly.

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    3. I came here to mention that. I remember that fairly clearly, but nothing springs to mind.

      Some googling brought up two (possibly, slightly) interesting points:

      A blog post about GWB kissing his wife during John Paul II's funeral as an example of his lack of decorum. Written 2005, and perhaps not entirely convincing.
      http://cosmicwheel.blogspot.com/2005/04/george-w-bush-master-of-decorum.html

      Another example of the genre you discuss: an OTB post about Coretta Scott King's funeral (warning: includes Malkin quotes).

      http://www.outsidethebeltway.com/coretta_scott_king_funeral_/

      I'm sure one could come up with more, if they had a stronger inclination to dig up indignation.

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  3. Peggy Noonan putting herself in the shoes of Paul Wellstone (and, I presume, instantly bursting into flames) is a classic of the genre.

    Leviathan's recollection there is an excellent example of Cheney Derangement.

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  4. Here's the bizarre WaPo article on Cheney's purported lese-majeste.

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  5. So far, the biggest mistake of Obama's presidency is that he hasn't engaged in hanky-panky. If only he'd get busy with an intern, Repubs could forget all about repealing Obamacare and the 20th and 21st Centuries and get down to what they do best. While they're chasing his privates all over town, the EPA can pass carbon regulations, people can sign up for Obamacare without running a bro-gauntlet urging them to go bareback and we can make peace with Iran and Syria. House Dems can promise to vote for impeachment if Boehner will hold a vote on immigration, and Senate Dems can waive the nuclear option for the impeachment vote. ("You like supermajorities, don't you?")

    But, Obama is just too classy to go for an intern - you can imagine Biden riding around in an El Camino with astroturf in the back, hustling chicks and swilling Bud Lite, but not super-cool Barry O. No, if Obama's going to get some strange, it's going to be with a peer, not some floozy. Who better than the "voluptuously curvy" Prime Minister of Denmark? She wears nothing on her legs but stockings and a skirt (hotsie-totsie!), and sometimes leans in just inches from her companion to talk to him (who needs Viagra?). Plus, Denmark itself is cool - it's got social mobility, mermaid statues, and have you ever walked through Tivoli park on a sunny summer day and seen people sunning topless?

    Hell, if Obama doesn't make a move, I'm going to.

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    1. The super majority requirement for impeachment trials is specified in the Constitution.

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  6. I know it wasn't a funeral, but nothing beats the Bush - Merkel backrub....

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  7. Dems also jumped on the Romney press flack for yelling expletives at them at a concentration camp (or something like that)

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  8. whether this is supply or demand driven.

    I see no reason to chose. It's a genuine viscous circle.

    JzB

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    1. Maybe it's a "structural deficiency" built into Republican DNA?

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  9. The Tuscon memorial service after the Gabby Giffords shooting.

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    1. Oh, I hadn't heard that one. I guess tchotchkes are okay, but t-shirts are beyond decorum.

      Do they complain about memorial bumper stickers as gauche, too?

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  10. Just wait, this will all be forgotten tomorrow when the plot to kill the man who OKed the presidents birth certificate hits the news.

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  11. I suspect it's cultural. Most of the Republicans I know live in the South and all of them are "values" conservatives. They're very concerned about anything having to do with death and sex. These issues are extraordinarily important to the base of the Republican Party.

    Hence, opposition to:
    -Abortion
    -Gay marriage
    -Contraception/HPV Vaccine
    -Sex Education
    -The "Death" Tax

    And hence their embrace of capital punishment.

    Ok, I know I'm generalizing like crazy here. But I think there may be something to this. And I just think "flirting at a funeral" is just the perfect thing to feed into some conservatives' morality obsession.

    Godless, hedonistic, pot-smoking, gay-sex-having, bleeding-heart, adulterating liberals, and all that...

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    1. You sure are generalizing like crazy. We New Jersey Republicans dislike the death tax because we want to leave our fortunes to our children and grandchildren. Many of us retire to Florida because, unlike New Jersey, Florida has neither an income tax nor an estate tax. It's heaven for rich geezers!

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  12. If you subscribe to Haidt's moral foundations theory, there might be an effect on conservatives' outsized sanctity/degradation dimension. Of course this sort of assume these funeral outrages are mostly sincere.

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  13. Another symptom of being post policy maybe? It would be one thing to attack Obama on say his handling of Africa, but since there's not much there for the GOP to make hay with (nothing really) funeral stuff comes up. I'd also say it might be another legacy of Nixon who worked night and day to prove how dirty hippies ect where. Maybe there is some institutional memory of that still.

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  14. It's driven by the Internet and the obsession with momentary "viral" items, and filters down to the equivalent of barbershop discussion (online probably more than off) among the likeminded. I've noticed that newspapers now--in print as well as online--are prioritizing stories on what's most popular on the Internet. The momentary provocation is also why these stories are featured at the top of progressive as well as rabid right sites.

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  15. I should add the obvious: that Gresham's law applies.

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  16. Perhaps I'm a simpleton, but I often evaluate these things with reference to my own life first. That is, I imagine myself as a participant in the scene, and I try to anticipate how those in my own milieu would react.

    So, if I had been interacting with the leggy Danish prime minister in the manner of those photos, my wife would have made Michelle Obama look positively chipper by comparison.

    Maybe y'all look at those photos and see no "there" there - perhaps yours are the spouses who hang on your every word and indulge your every move. If so, my congratulations!

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    1. You're seeing one sort of photo. Check this story at TPM with another photo taken at roughly the same time, that shows Michelle Obama smiling and chatting with the Danish PM. http://talkingpointsmemo.com/livewire/photographer-who-actually-attended-mandela-service-undermines-columnist-s-premise

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    2. Two things: first, what was the sequence of photos, and second - my wife would have smiled in exactly the same way as the First Lady. Actually, in that second photo on the TPM link - do any other photos exist where Michelle Obama's smile looks so forced and strained?

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    3. I saw a story that quoted the photog who took the "unhappy" photo saying that it was just a snapshot like that, and not reflective of her demeanor for the whole event.
      As someone with a rather sour demeanor (seats next to me on Southwest go untaken until the very end), I can say that pictures can mislead.

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  17. Wow. Thanks for the tip. I so needed to read about a good bodice-ripping scandal. I shan't forget it for a long time.

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  18. Actually, if its true that Peyser's column is incorrect in its evaluation of Obama's behavior as "unseemly" (in particular the last photo, the one of Michelle Obama having inserted herself between the flirts), does it follow that the President's behavior was, in reality, "seemly"?

    Is your argument that what you saw in those photos - in particular that final one - is de rigueur for the funeral of a world leader? I tell ya, the times they have a-changed.

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    1. From the photographer:

      "Anyway, suddenly this woman pulled out her mobile phone and took a photo of herself smiling with Cameron and the US president. I captured the scene reflexively. All around me in the stadium, South Africans were dancing, singing and laughing to honour their departed leader. It was more like a carnival atmosphere, not at all morbid. The ceremony had already gone on for two hours and would last another two. The atmosphere was totally relaxed – I didn’t see anything shocking in my viewfinder, president of the US or not. We are in Africa. "

      http://blogs.afp.com/correspondent/?post/Selfie

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    2. You know, that's a very interesting comment thread, for several reasons, not the least of which is the myriad offers to skype about doing news broadcasts. There's a whole bunch of discussion about African folks liking to have fun, and a few claims that Michelle was partying too (from that one out of 12 photos with the three where Michelle was, er, "smiling"), and lots of treatment of Michelle's hostility in the selfie as an isolated data point. Oh, and, in comment 89 Brutus asked about the elephant in the room: why do you think they switched seats?

      The thread floats around, from African folks having fun to perseveration on the selfie to offers to Skype. When it finds its way back to Brutus' question, the speculation is pretty much uniformly negative.

      Sort of a Rorschach test for the times, it seems to me. There are details, and analysis, and fortunately, there are also always folks who just want to have fun, in the event perceptions of details and analysis otherwise don't go your way.

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    3. It's the difference between observations of someone who was there and the projections of someone who wasn't.

      And maybe the difference between a superficial politically motivated sensationalist idiot like Peyser and people who can see through that.

      And maybe just maybe the difference between commenters and trolls.

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    4. When a good friend of mine died here in California, I told a funny story about him at his memorial service and people seemed to really appreciate it. Laughing and joking are appropriate at a wide variety of memorials. I'm glad we can acknowledge here that's not a problem.

      More importantly, if Obama had a behavior problem, we'd have more evidence than the nothing that is one photo of people interacting during a four-hour period. If you can find a pattern, that might be a problem, but otherwise it's a nothingburger.

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  19. To the original question -- supply- or demand-driven? -- I think there's now a continuing demand for daily "memes" that people can repost on Facebook. There are apparently whole organizations devoted to serving these up, including FreedomWorks but also "Chicks on the Right" and others, including one called "Anyone But Obama." I see that my one most obnoxiously right-wing "friend" on Facebook, who is my bellweather on this kind of thing, has already reposted the latter organization's photo-meme on the alleged funeral flirt. Facebook's new role in spreading this kind of thing, and its impact (if any) on political discussion, might be a good dissertatipn topic for someone in political science.

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  20. Vin Weber is the culprit from the Wellstone funeral. I did extensive research at the time and Vin was quoted extensively in the St. Paul paper.

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