This actually happens all the time no matter who the president is, but conservatives are throwing a tantrum because President Obama does it.
On Sunday, former First Lady Nancy Reagan passed away at the age of 94. Tributes have since poured in from across the country, even from President Obama himself.
“Nancy Reagan once wrote that nothing could prepare you for living in the White House,” Obama said in a statement.
“She was right, of course. But we had a head start, because we were fortunate to benefit from her proud example, and her warm and generous advice. Our former First Lady redefined the role in her time here…As somebody who is lucky enough to have an extraordinary partner in my life as well, I know how much she meant not just to President Reagan but to the country as a whole. He was lucky to have her. She will be missed.”
That doesn’t exactly sound like a man who didn’t personally like or respect Mrs. Reagan. But because President Obama has decided not to attend her funeral on Friday in order to stick to his already tight schedule, conservatives are freaking out and throwing hissy fits despite the fact that this is not new.
While Presidents usually attend the funerals of former Presidents, they have historically skipped the funerals of other high ranking officials and First Ladies, often sending the current First Lady to represent them at the service. Michelle Obama is, in fact, attending Nancy Reagan’s funeral.
President Obama will be taking part in an interview in Texas at the South by Southwest Festival, where he is also scheduled to speak about civic engagement and using technology to address the challenges we face in the future. This was planned prior to Reagan’s death.
Yet, conservatives see this as a sign of disrespect. The only problem is that he is hardly the first president to skip a funeral for a former First Lady.
For instance, President Clinton did not attend Pat Nixon’s funeral in 1993 and President Bush did not attend Lady Bird Johnson’s funeral in 2007. President Obama also did not attend Betty Ford’s funeral in 2011.
And if conservatives seriously want to refer to Obama as “President Petty,” they should know that Ronald Reagan did not attend Bess Truman’s funeral in 1982, and keep in mind that she was First Lady when her husband President Harry Truman ushered in the end of World War II by ordering the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945 and was the longest lived First Lady in American history.
As far as I have been able to research, the only First Ladies whose funerals have been attended by a sitting President in the last 70 years was Eleanor Roosevelt in 1962 and Jacqueline Kennedy in 1994 by President John F. Kennedy and President Bill Clinton respectively.
Roosevelt had wanted a small private funeral but Kennedy attended anyway because at the time of her death, Eleanor had been known as the beloved First Lady of the World who served as First Lady during the Great Depression and World War II and is still the longest serving First Lady in American history. Jacqueline Kennedy brought grace to the White House and became a symbol of strength for a traumatized nation after the assassination of her husband in 1963. President Clinton attended her funeral because he was a friend of the family and even delivered remarks at the burial.
The bottom line here is that conservatives have nothing to gripe about on this issue. Nancy Reagan’s funeral is also a private one and it is quite possible that President Obama was simply not invited to attend and the only reason Michelle Obama will be in attendance is because it is a long tradition that First Ladies attend the funerals of their predecessors just as Presidents attend the funerals of their predecessors.
So, there is no reason at all for conservatives to whine about President Obama choosing not to attend Nancy Reagan’s funeral. He is not the one being petty.
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