Susan Jones | Senior Editor | Wednesday, February 8, 2006
Stoking anger about the federal response to Hurricane Katrina, former President Carter said, "The struggle for equal rights is not over. We only have to recall the color of the faces of those in Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi, those who were most devastated by Katrina, to know that there are not yet equal opportunities for all Americans."
The crowd roared its approval.
And in a reference to President Bush's much-criticized NSA surveillance program, Carter brought up the "secret government wiretapping" of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. many years ago.
Many in the crowd stood to applaud Carter.
The Rev. Joseph Lowery, a civil rights leader who is now 85 years old, drew cheers when he criticized the U.S.-led war in Iraq.
He began by mentioning that Coretta Scott King "extended Martin's message against poverty, racism and war:
"She deplored the terror inflicted by our smart bombs on missions way afar. We know now that there were no weapons of mass destruction over there, but Coretta knew, and we know, that there are weapons of misdirection right down here.
"For war, billions more -- but no more for the poor!" Lowery added.
President Bush and his father, sitting on the dais, shook their heads slightly at some of the criticism. Video footage of the president showed the political criticism made both him and his wife uncomfortable.
But press reports noted that President Bush shook Lowery's hand when he finished his speech.
Former President Bill Clinton and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton traveled to the funeral with the Bushes on Air Force One.
While Bill Clinton confined his remarks to the life and legacy of Mrs. King, he drew a thunderous ovation from the crowd, a stark contrast to the polite applause for President Bush.
Some Republicans and conservative radio hosts were quick to criticize liberal Democrats who used Mrs. King's funeral to send a political message to President Bush.
In turn, liberal, anti-Bush blogs expressed fury at Republicans who would dare to complain.
"So African American mourning does not meet with Republican approval," one blogger wrote on the anti-Bush Daily Kos website.
"Is there anything we do that they do approve of?" another blogger responded - "besides continuing to give birth to self-hating Toms like the Condoleeza (sic) Rices, Clarence Thomases, Kenneth Blackwells, and Lynn Swanns of the world?"
"They [Republicans] are up against the wall," one blogger wrote - a recurring refrain among Democrats who are reassured when they think liberals are scoring points against Republicans.
"It's amazing that the freepers (conservative bloggers) are up in arms because Bubble Boy got a taste of true public opinion today," another anti-Bush liberal wrote. "If the Cowardly Cowboys' public appearances were truly open to all, he'd find out that the standing ovation that highlighted his incompetence today is how the majority of Americans feel about this simpletons [sic] leadership."
"ANYONE who trashes the King funeral in the press should be jumped on by us ALL," another liberal blogger wrote on the Daily Kos website. "Time to teach those vermin some MANNERS."
People on both the left and the right made comparisons to the funeral of the late Sen. Paul Wellstone, a liberal Democrat from Minnesota.
Wellstone, his wife and daughter died in a plane crash in October 2002. His memorial service, according to Republicans, turned into a three-hour political convention, just days before the 2002 midterm election.
Wellstone had been campaigning for re-election to a third term against Republican Norm Coleman, who now holds the seat.
See Earlier Story:
Minn. GOP Chair Wants Equal Time After Wellstone Memorial (30 Oct. 2002)