Long after the last partisan battle has been fought over Obamacare, long after Barack Obama has settled into a comfortable post-presidency, and long after the last joke has been made about some Joe Biden verbal misstep, people will remember the moment when the always-in-control president struggled to control his emotions. They will remember the moment when president and vice president embraced in front of the altar and exchanged heartfelt kisses on the cheek. And they will remember how their hearts ached at this intimate glimpse of one family’s pain.
In an age when so many political moments are scripted, this was real. In a country whose presidents and vice presidents have rarely been close, this was genuine closeness. In an administration that prides itself on being hip, this was decidedly old-fashioned love.
But it was something more than that, something that the country has never before seen in real time. In its raw emotion and aching poignancy, the burial Saturday of Beau Biden, son of the vice president, was a rare moment in the long history of the United States, one unlike any ever before brought to the nation through live, often moving, television coverage.
As a nation, we don’t normally play witness to such personal grief on the part of our leaders. Earlier generations followed by telegraph and grieved when Abraham and Mary Todd Lincoln lost their 12-year-old son Willie to typhoid fever in 1862. They devoured the newspapers and wept when Presidents John Tyler and Woodrow Wilson lost wives Letitia and Ellen in 1842 and 1914. And they stay tuned to their radios and mourned the tragic denouement of President Calvin Coolidge’s bedside vigil when 16-year-old Calvin Jr., succumbed from blood poisoning in 1924.
But here, on Saturday, was a family’s grief playing out on live television from inside St. Anthony of Padua Catholic Church in Wilmington. From the first strains of the bagpipes outside the church, something was different. It was clear that this was not the usual political funeral, one where many of the participants were following a well-read script. This was not the funeral of an elderly party veteran, one whose career had played out over many decades.
Source: National Journal |