The brouhaha surrounding the news that President Obama would not attend the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia’s funeral is business as usual for the Republicans. Perhaps to deflect attention from the fact that Mitch McConnell was making pronouncements about replacing the justice while the bed in which he died was still warm, the Right has been denouncing Obama’s decision to attend the memorial service at the Supreme Court but not the funeral mass.
Oh, the outrage! This is just the latest tempest in a teapot from conservatives who look for ways to attack the president on a nearly daily basis. In fact, there is little precedent for presidents to attend the funerals of Supreme Court justices. For example, according AboveTheLaw.com’s Joseph Patrice, “it’s really not out of the ordinary for a president to not attend the funeral of a Supreme Court justice,” and “recent history reveals a mixed bag when it comes to attending these funerals.” He cited the fact that neither President Clinton nor Al Gore attended the funerals of Harry Blackmun or Lewis F. Powell, Jr. Nor did President Bush or Dick Cheney attend Byron White’s funeral.
But Scalia was a sitting justice, outraged Republicans rant. Yet other than Bush’s attendance at Chief Justice William Rehnquist’s funeral, there have been very few sitting justices to die while on the Court. Before Rehnquist, the last time a sitting justice died was when Dwight D. Eisenhower was president, and he merely sent flowers to the funeral of Justice Robert Jackson. (Chicago Tribune, 10/13/54)
Furthermore, former clerk for Justice Scalia and a fellow Catholic Ed Whelan stated that President Obama had made the right decision with regard to Scalia’s funeral. “For Catholics, a funeral Mass is first and foremost a funeral, not an event of state,” Mr. Whelan said. (New York Times, 2/18/16)
There are so many important matters to be addressed in our country, but this isn’t one of them. So give it a rest, Republicans.