Pointed eulogies won’t shift Trump
It was a week when two contrasting funerals captured the spotlight in the United States.
While there was universal grief for the queen of soul Aretha Franklin, the funeral of former Senator John McCain was turned into something of a political event.
Franklin’s extended panegyric was well deserved for a woman who was not only one of the greatest vocalists of all time, but was immersed in both the civil and women’s rights movements.
McCain was farewelled as an American hero who survived five years of captivity in Vietnam and returned to serve six terms as a senator for Arizona. He was the Republican candidate for president in 2008, losing to Barack Obama.
President Donald Trump was pointedly not invited to the funeral although three ex-presidents, two of them Democrats, were present.
Trump was criticised for lack of respect in avoiding comment after a brief tweet following McCain’s death, and as the White House flag seesawed between half and full-mast. On the day of the funeral he spent the morning tweeting then went off to play golf.
At the funeral there were veiled attacks on Trump led by McCain’s daughter Meghan, although no one mentioned Trump by name.
Obama called on Americans to live by McCain’s principles of patriotism, while George W. Bush said McCain recognised his opponents were still patriots and human beings. Former top US diplomat Henry Kissinger praised McCain’s opposition to America’s withdrawal from the world.
None of this is likely to faze Trump whose administration took another isolationist step by withdrawing support from the UN relief agency for Palestinian refugees, for which the US has provided about a third of the ?$1 billion annual budget.
The US ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley said this was in response to increasing hostility by the Palestinians towards the US, which would have been made greater by its recognition of Jerusalem as the Israeli capital.
It will take more than a few pointed eulogies to shift Trump from his agenda or reduce the antagonism now inherent in American politics.