President Obama’s refusal to attend conservative Justice Antonin Scalia’s funeral is “shameful,” according to Charles Lipson who writes for RealClearPolitics.
Lipson writes that in many cases, such as sending a bill to Congress, issuing an executive order, or campaigning for a senator, it is permissible for the president to take a partisan approach, but when acting as “head of state” he must be able to put aside partisanship and speak for the whole nation in honoring a great leader.
NBC News reports that Obama will pay his respects to Scalia on Friday while his body lies in state in the Great Hall of the Supreme Court building. Vice President Joe Biden will attend Scalia’s funeral on Saturday.
When questioned about Obama’s decision to not attend Scalia’s funeral, White House press secretary Josh Earnest reiterated that "the president will pay his respects at the Supreme Court on Friday and he'll be joined with the first lady when he does that."
According to NBC News, four out of the past seven funerals for a Supreme Court justice have been attended either by the president or vice president.
Lipson cited Ronald Reagan’s presence and speech after the Challenger explosion as an example of the kind of leadership he believes Obama should exhibit by attending Scalia’s funeral.
After the tragic event of the Challenger explosion, Reagan said: “We come together today to mourn the loss of seven brave Americans, to share the grief we all feel and, perhaps in that sharing, to find the strength to bear our sorrow and the courage to look for the seeds of hope.”
Lipson stresses the phrase “we come together,” stating that “President Obama need not reach these rhetorical heights. But he ought to behave with quiet dignity and represent our nation at Scalia’s funeral. He does not have to pretend he agreed with Scalia’s decisions. He does not have to praise the justice’s judicial philosophy. But he ought to honor the life of a man who spent three decades on the Supreme Court and five years before that on the U.S. appellate bench.”
Publication date: February 18, 2016