There is no question that the Federal Government has been divided along partisan lines for a long time. This is not the normal division of political ideology, but a crippling wall barring the ability to compromise on non-core political beliefs. Many have argued that this separation has hit a new plateau during the Obama Administration with the announcement on February 17, 2016, of the failure to attend the funeral of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. But it is not debatable that easily since 2006 the division has been apparent to even the most uninterested of the general public.
Eliminating this lack of compromise was one of the promised goals of the Obama Administration. That promise failed early in 2009, with the use of the Democrat supermajority to shove Obamacare through Congress without any of the Republican suggestions to improve the health care system in the US. Ultimately this led to President Obama’s repeated statements, in his 2nd term when he no longer had a concern about being re-elected, at the State of the Union Address to act without the consent or approval of Congress. This is the backdrop of the current partisanship in Washington DC.
Now add to this hyper-negative environment the fact that President Obama will not attend the funeral of Justice Antonin Scalia. As has been reported, while President Obama will attend the mass for Justice Scalia he will not go to the funeral services. VP Biden will attend the funeral though. The move is so controversial that even Democrat supporters have raised eyebrows. Steven Rattner, the former lead of the Presidential Task Force on the Auto Industry (commonly called the car czar) in the Obama Administration from February – June 2009, posted a tweet stating,
“If we want to reduce partisanship, we can start by honoring great public servants who we disagree with.”
This is of course not the first high profile funeral that the White House has caused a stir with. President Obama chose not to attend the funeral of former Prime Minister Margret Thatcher, and instead sent a delegation equal to that for Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez. The combat fatality of Army Major General Harold Greene, the highest ranked combat death since Viet Nam, failed to earn a press release and had the very visible non-appearance at the funeral. Even the 2013 death of Chris Kyle, the possibly best known SEAL who had an acclaimed major Hollywood biopic film made on his life and milliatry exploits, failed to gain President Obama’s attendance.
As upsetting to Conservatives and Republicans as these events may have been, the level of furor was increased exponentially when compared to funerals that the President did attend. That would include: Senator Daniel Inouye, Former Democratic House Speaker Tom Foley, former KKK member Senator Robert Byrd – where the President gave a speech. Included in this list is Lech Kaczynski and James Foley – the reporter beheaded by ISIS. Ned Price, spokesman for the National Security Council, said at that time,
“The President expressed his profound condolences to the family in his statement last week. He was speaking on behalf of his Administration —as well as the American people— in offering these words to the Foley family, and he continues to keep them in his thoughts as we attempt to bring the other American hostages home.”
Still, even non-political funerals rated worthy enough for Presidential attendance, especially when a political message advancing the causes of the President could be made. These included the funeral of Hadiya Pendleton who was also referenced in a State of the Union Address, and Reverend Clementa Pinckney who earned a eulogy without having ever met the President though giving him a chance to further his 2nd Amendment restriction efforts. Even Michael Brown rated 3 representatives of the Obama Administration.
It is this blatant partisan preference that has added to the hyper-partisan division of Government. The funeral of Justice Scalia is only the latest affront of many. It is likely that going forward, this snub will be used to further the obstacles to whomever President Obama nominates as the replacement on the Supreme Court. A situation that also adds to the partidanship considering the reversal of position based on the opportunity enjoyed by Democrats today as opposed to under the Bush Administration,
“There are some who believe that the President, having won the election, should have complete authority to appoint his nominee…that once you get beyond intellect and personal character, there should be no further question as to whether the judge should be confirmed. I disagree with this view.” – Senator Barack Obama, 2006
This is mirrored by the comments of Sen. Charles Schumer, who today is pushing for a nominee from President Obama, but said in 2007
“[F]or the rest of this president’s term and if there is another Republican elected with the same selection criteria let me say this: We should reverse the presumption of confirmation.”
Whatever the result of the next nominee to the Supreme Court, there is no question that partisanship in Government will grow as a result. The funeral of Justice Scalia could have been an example of unity. It could have been a moment of common ground and respect, beyond political partisanship. Instead it has become yet another example of the personal views of President Obama trumping the all encompassing obligation of the Executive Office. For a President that promised to bridge the divide between the Parties, the distance between both sides is only becoming widened.