Was That a Funeral or a Circus?
Chicago Sun Times
November 3, 2002 MARK STEYN
The Internet is abuzz with rumors about Paul Wellstone's death. According to syndicated cartoonist Ted Rall and Dr. Michael Niman, a media professor at Buffalo State College (New Yorkers' tax dollars at work!), Wellstone was killed by "government gangsters" acting on the orders of the "unelected" Bush and his corporate masters. Whatever, dudes. I salute your courage in exposing this conspiracy but, now you have, I figure, about 20 minutes to get across the Niagara bridge.
Bush's gangsters may have killed Paul Wellstone, but it was the Democrats who turned him into a laughingstock. I don't know about you, but I've begun carrying a small plastic card stating that in the event of my demise I do not want my body donated to the Minnesota Democratic Party. I'd rather have my memorial hosted by Charo.
As we know, last Tuesday, 20,000 close personal friends gathered in the somber cloisters of the University of Minnesota basketball arena to pay tribute to his life and memory in a service that made the Iranian obsequies for the Ayatollah Khomeini seem a model of taste and restraint. There would have been 20,001, but, in keeping with the bipartisan spirit of the event, Vice President Dick Cheney was told to butt out. Gov. Jesse Ventura, Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott and former Republican Sen. Rod Grams were allowed in, but just so the mourners could boo them. If you missed the 3-1/2-hour live broadcast on all Minnesota channels, here's the short version of the Democratic eulogies:
"Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your votes."
But let's take a look at the longer version. The Rev. Jesse Jackson compared the late senator to Martin Luther King and Mahatma Gandhi. That sounds pretty impressive, until you remember that, at the memorial for NBA star Len Bias, who died of a cocaine overdose, the Rev. Jesse compared the deceased to King, Gandhi, Mozart and Jesus Christ--"all young, gifted, strong and militant, all taken in the prime of their lives." Evidently, Wellstone wound up with the condensed version of Jesse's standard eulogistic shtick, as indeed did Jesse himself when in 1988 he was compared to Dr. King and Gandhi by Jimmy Carter. It would be interesting to know what a Democrat has to do not to get compared to King and Gandhi, though I recall that, at the height of his Monica troubles, Bill Clinton was reduced to comparing himself to Dr. King.
But alas, the other speakers declined to maintain this high standard of boilerplate hyperbole. Mark Wellstone, the senator's son, wound up pumping his fist and bellowing into the microphone "We will win! We will win! We will win!" as the crowd bayed its approval. I'll bet Prince William is wishing he'd thought of that at Westminster Abbey. True, it seemed a little off-message, given that his dad had just been seen on video saying, "Politics is not about winning for the sake of winning." But there's an election on Tuesday and right now winning for the sake of winning is what it's all about.
Next came longtime Wellstone sidekick Rick Kahn, who urged everyone to "set aside the partisan bickering" by submitting to his will. In a cheerfully totalitarian moment, he demanded that the Republicans present--identified by name--see the error of their ways, switch to Democrats and help "win this election for Paul."
Finally, Sen. Tom Harkin of Iowa declared that Wellstone "never took himself too seriously" and "never had to proclaim his decency," a touching climax to several hours of politics hacks proclaiming Wellstone's and by extension their own decency, and being deadly serious about it.
And round about then you realized it really doesn't matter now who Paul Wellstone was or what he did. That Wellstone has ceased to exist. And what's taken his place--a stew of beatified Jesse-Harkinite cliches--is just a bloody shroud to rouse the faithful and bully the rest. He's more use to the party dead than he ever was alive. Maybe Bush should have figured that out before he had him offed.
There's nothing for the Republicans in this, except the certainty that their hopes of taking back the Senate are being interred with Mahatma Luther Wellstone. Democrats have perfected the art of being simultaneously maudlin and vicious, and above all else ruthlessly partisan in their pious denunciations of partisanship. By Saturday, Walter Mondale had been tapped to replace Wellstone. You remember--vice president under Carter, linchpin of the administration that gave America energy crises, double-digit inflation, Cuban troops in Angola, American hostages in Tehran, the good old days. In Minnesota, that makes him an "icon" apparently. When Republicans began cautiously dusting off Mondale's resume, the Democrats' hatchet men stopped sobbing long enough to turn up on CNN and berate the GOP for being so tasteless as even to mention the election. "Couldn't they wait until Paul is in the ground?" Nevada Sen. Harry Reid demanded. "And his wife and his child?" Thou shalt not speak ill of the dead, or the old guy we found to substitute for the dead.
But here's the thing. Even as Reid was huffing, the Democrats were already filing their first election lawsuit against Minnesota's secretary of state: Ask not for whom the chad hangs, it hangs for thee! Palm Beach comes to Duluth! The Democrats are already suing because the post-Wellstone supplemental ballot, among other deficiencies, doesn't include instructions in Russian or Hmong, which is, as I'm sure you know, the language of the Hmong people. Couldn't the Dems wait to go to court until Paul is in the ground? And his wife and his child?
Silly question. Even now, Jesse is working on rhymes for Hmong, and Ted Kennedy is practicing denouncing Republican hate-Hmongers without sounding like he's hiccupping.
Spare a thought for the bit players in this circus, the pilots the stellar mourners couldn't even be bothered to mention: just for the record, they were Richard Conry, 55, and Michael Guess, 30. But even Wellstone himself is now a mere extra in his own death cult, a rare genuine politician buried under a mound of sanctimoniousness and ersatz ululating.
It says something that, of the two Senate Democrats not to make it to Election Day, there was more honesty in the ghastly emotional masturbation of sleazy Bob Torricelli's resignation speech than in Paul Wellstone's "memorial" "service."
To paraphrase Sen. Reid, I'll bet Paul couldn't wait till he's in his grave to start turning in it.