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get your memorial popcorn right here!

get your memorial popcorn right here!

The stands were packed to the rafters and the beach balls were flying. The music played over the loudspeakers as people waiting for the event to begin clapped their hands and sang along. The smell of hot dogs was in the air and the floor of the arena had already become sticky with soda.

A basketball game? No. A concert? No. Toy Story on Ice? Nope.

A memorial service for a dead senator, his wife and daughter.

I've been to more memorial services and wakes in my life than I care to count. From setting up a wet bar in the parking lot of my grandmother's wake to attending a memorial service where sharpshooters were poised on the roof of the church, I have seen just about everything.

Until last night. Watching "highlights" from the service for Sen. Paul Wellstone some time in the middle of a sleepless night, I thought I was having another one of those strange dreams.

Was this a political meeting or a memorial to a dead person? It seemed like more of an election night pep rally than a memorial for Wellstone.

Every five minutes, applause. Every five minutes, laughter. Don't get me wrong, it's not like I haven't been to a million funeral masses where the priest says funny things about the deceased and everyone laughs in a relieved sort of way. That's fine. This...this was more like a comic relief show for the Democratic Party. At times it was a "get out the vote" campaign stop.

In the hours before the memorial, those in the stands bandied beach balls or munched on foil-wrapped hot dogs from the concession stands.

Let it be known that if anyone is seen eating a hot dog or playing with a beach ball at my funeral, I will haunt you to your last dying day. The music is fine, the laughter and applause are nice. But the first person who starts the wave will be hearing a lot of chain-rattling and spooky noises coming from their closet at night.

"For Paul Wellstone, will you stand up and keep fighting for social justice? Say YES!" Harkin shouted. The crowd roared.

Rick Kahn, Wellstone's friend and former student, whipped up the crowd before Harkin took the stage by adopting the late senator's fiery speaking style.

He chopped the air with his hands, as Wellstone often did, and exhorted the crowd to keep Wellstone's dream alive.

"A week from today, Paul Wellstone's name will not be on the ballot," Kahn said. "But there will be a choice just the same ... either keep his legacy alive, or bring it forever to an end!"

They may as well have charged $100 a head to get into the service. Tax-deductible write off for political contribution.

Kahn continued:

"If Paul Wellstone's legacy in the Senate comes to an end just days after this unspeakable tragedy, our spirits will be crushed, and we will drown in a river of tears. We are begging you, do not let this happen."

That's right, folks. You are here to mourn Sen. Wellstone, his wife and his daughter. And oh yea, those other people who died, also. But let's take a moment to turn the Senator's death into a rally speech. Let's use his death as an excuse to get this party started. I wonder how many of the people who spoke and the people who cheered later on last night patted each other on the back and lit celebratory cigars. I wonder how many of them were thinking "when opportunity knocks, let it in, even if it's ugly."

I wonder, mostly, how the family of the campaign workers and pilots who died in the crash feel.

No one is eating hot dogs at their services. I bet not one politician who who grinned for the cameras yesterday can even tell you the name of just one of the campaign workers who died.

But I bet a lot of them, ex-president included, went to bed last night with a smile on their face, thinking of what a great publicity moment this all was for the Democratic party in Minnesota.

Me, I didn't sleep much after seeing all that. I was too busy cringing.

*Addendum* I found this over at Right Wing News:

Another White House official said privately that with the memorial service expected to draw thousands, the Wellstone family told the White House they did not want mourners subjected to the kind of security screenings that Cheney's attendance would have required. This official also said White House advisers worried that the memorial service, with unions bringing supporters by the busload, would double as a Democrat get-out-the-vote rally and be awkward for Cheney.
[all emphasis mine]

As Rachel Lucas says, despicable.

Comments

Last night's rally was the most nakedly political "memorial" that I have ever seen.

Nakedly political. Embarassing. Opportunistic. Unruly. For long stretches it was breathlessly hysterical in shouting out the extremist Liberal mantra. Ultimately it was without much substance.

Wait a minute - in fact as a memorial to Paul Wellstone - it could not have been more fitting.

I'd be worried that the weiners at a funeral would be safe to eat... and make sure that somebody had seen the corpse before the lid was closed.

Ever been to a wake where people are laughing? I've been to many -- Wellstone would have wanted joy and happiness at his, so what's the big deal?

Methinks folks write too much into it. He was loved by many, and they came to show that love, not to weep.

Scott, I stated that the laughing really didn't bother me. It was the political rally that the service turned into that made me want to hurl.

Again, Wellstone wouldn't have minded, I think. In death, he continued to serve.

"he continued to serve".

Um, okay - I'll have mine served with some kraut and spicy mustard, please.
Burp...oh, and my condolences!

Give me a break!

You're right Scott, Wellstone wouldn't mind. We are after all just part of the collective. We are owned by the government and exist for their use. If hanging the broken and charred bodies from hotel chandeliers will bring in one more dollar or garner one more vote for the "progressives" Wellstone won't mind. The collective is so much "bigger" than the pain of those that see this tragedy as a loss of a number of individuals. Wellstone won't mind.

Sorry, don't remember who it was, but they had somebody on the Today show this morning talking about how important the memorial service was, and how serious politics are in MN. Yeah. This from the state that elected Jesse Ventura.

Perhaps we should just be happy Vince McMahon didn't run the memorial service.

Apparently, it was too disgusting for Ventura. It's reported that he got up & left, shaking his head.

I meant to watch this last night, but there was some kind of rally on and I don't watch those since '96 when I saw Tipper Gore doing the Macarena at one and I began to feel all engorged and tingly. Anyway, I'm certainly glad that the security measures for the former president in attendance didn't put a damper on the festivities.

Oh no, Tracy, that would have rocked. Clinton and Lott in a cage match...I would give good money to see that.

Belhaven, you made absolutely no sense. Can I have some of whatever it is you're smoking?

Folks seem to recall that the Wellstone family setup the event last night -- this is what they wanted.

Ventura may be "out there" both politically and mentally, but I sometimes get the feeling he has more sense than all of them put together.

"Again, Wellstone wouldn't have minded, I think. In death, he continued to serve."
Later he intends to continue serving by voting for himself.

Scott, I agree it was "setup" but I do not believe that it was setup by the Wellstone family. Would they "setup" a rally and call it a memorial service? Would they con the well intentioned media out of 3 plus hours of prime time coverage? Would they arrange the jeering of political opponents? Is there an ounce of integrity left in the Democrat party?
I believe that the Democrats used the grieving Wellstone family for what you aptly call a "setup".

Obviously you have your head far up the Repugnican behinds, so I'll not bother trying to debate you at all, Belhaven. Have a nice life in your bubble until Ashcroft comes to take you away, or the economy kills what little is left of your savings and 401(k).

Yeah, the Democrats make a big deal at the Wellstone memorial, while consumer confidence dips to its lowest point in 9 years and FBI crime stats are at their highest in a decade. Can't blame the Dems or Clinton any longer, monkey boy -- your president has been in office for 22 months.

And one last thing -- if the war in Iraq was so important to the Shrub that he needed that vote right then and there, how come he's been out on the campaign trail ever since? Hmm? Oh, wait, he's saving Iraq until 2004 and his own re-election. Silly me.

The "well intentioned media." That's funny.

The "well intentioned media." That's funny.

Oops. Sorry for the double post. I got an error the first time, so I thought it didn't go through.

I figured you just thought it was REALLY funny! ;-)

Scott, You put yourself in an impossible position. You chose to defend the indefensible. The proprosition is simple - either the Wellstone family was complicit in this sham or they were used. I believe they were used. You have taken the position that the end justifies the means. Another indefensible position. And when the wheels fell off your wagon, you resulted to changing the subject and name calling - right out of the Clinton playbook. I believe you are a young man. Read Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand with an open mind. There may be hope for you yet. And by the way - it's not about party, it's about philosophy. It's about how much control over ones life is going to be surrendered to the government. I will not be enslaved - will you?

Okay, given that I understand, although not necessarily agree with, Scott's points...Belhaven, you make no sense at all!

after watching "highlights" on the "Today" show this morning, i must admit, i was mortified. and as i drove into work, i kept thinking how suspiciously convenient it was that they told cheney not to come. can you image how awkward it would have been?

i heard jesse ventura left at some point, too, because it had gotten out of hand.

hot dog vendors at my funeral? i swear to GOD, i'll come back and haunt anyone who does that til their dying day. what crap.

we elected ventura because he's not a politician. isn't anybody else sick to fucking death of politicians? he went to the funeral to show his respect, not his political affiliation. and he's the only one there who looked like he had any respect.

Belhaven, Belhaven, Belhaven, you're wasting your breath. For a liberal like Scott, logic is just an annoyance, so using logic to refute what he says is pure folly. Instead of beating your head agaisnt the intellectual wall, look on the bright side. What the democrats have done is give republicans the green light to campaign like crazy in the last week leading up to the election. If last night had been a memorial service and not a made for TV campaign rally, the republicans might have been cowered into thinking that vigorously campaigning now would be inappropriate. Since last night, however, all bets are off and Mondale is fair game. PS If I were Coleman, I'd ask the TV stations for 3 hours of free ad time and I'd demand that Mondale debate him.

Well, the demand that Mondale engage in a debate only makes sense. If he doesn't make a stand about where he is on issues, anybody who votes for him is nuts. Yes, the man may have been a vice president, and he may have run for office himself, but that was like what, 18 years ago? I know my views have changed in that amount of time. Granted, I was 10 years old 18 years ago, but still.

All-

I really don't think it matters in Wellstone's district. They will vote Democratic all the way. Yeah it was a sham but so? What more did you expect? Tanya- you may be sick of politicians but who else will fill the vacuum? I think we are sick of the politicians because they so accurately reflect the electorate.

It is not necesarily offensive that the DFL turned this into a political rally. What is offensive is how they attacked the Coleman campaign on monday for asking Mondale for a debate "can't you wait until Paul is in his grave" and then turn the memorial into a political rally. What we have here is just like in NJ. "We must be represented because there are no other viable candidates". Then Forrester asks for debates between the two major party candidates and Lautenberg says that all the third party wacko's must be represented. Hypocrisy your name is Democrat.

I would say "Hypocrisy thy name is politician" or even "human" but what do I know, I hope they serve hot dogs at my funeral.

In fact, my funeral could be at a carnival and everyone can toss my ashes when they get to the top of the ferris wheel and watch me float away in the evening breeze.

Or maybe I'll do what Larry Hagman wants to do when he dies and have my ashes spread over my garden so that in death I can bring life and sustenance.

Or maybe i just won't care because, you know, I'll be dead.

Scott: I don't think that the FBI "crime stats are at their highest in a decade." I think the point was that they showed their first rise in a decade. And if you were not so interested in using anything and everything to disparage Bush, you would admit that the President -- any President -- has precious little to do with the rate of burglary and rape. And let's not even talk about the economics stuff -- to begin with, the downturn in the economy and the markets began before Bush took office, and was driven by the collapse of the tech bubble. Please explain to me how Bush has anything to do with it. (I don't blame Clinton, either, by the way. As with crime, the role of any president in the strength of the economy is vastly overrated by the media and by most people.)

"Perhaps we should just be happy Vince McMahon didn't run the memorial service."

Vince McMahon DID produce a more tasteful wake than this...

Someone has commented that for members of the political left, their politics are their religion and Wellstone's memorial service was a religious service. True.

Matt Drudge had a headline about "Laughter at Wellstone Memorial service!" to which a left blogger responded:

Hey asshole, people were CELEBRATING the man's life. The whole crowd were in a celebratory mood.
Paul Wellstone would not want people to be upset, and crying, He'd want a party. And that's what he got.

BOOING Trent Lott is not "celebrating" Wellstone's life. And Republicans are the party of "hate"?

I hope my kids show more class than Wellstone's did.

Does anyone seriously think that if the shoe were on the other foot (dead Republican candidate) the memorial service would have been less partisan? If so, what color is the sky on your world....?
Let's see. Hypothetical situation for you. Norm Coleman, republican candidate dies in plane crash. Memorial service held. Bill Clinton attends, and his image is flashed on jumbo-tron. Republicans all politely sit on their hands. SNORT Sorry, pop just shot out my nose.....

Sick and Tired,

Actually, yes I do think it would be different. But even if it weren't, here's the thing: If the Republicans did what the Democrats just did, every single Republican I know would call it wrong, sick, and atrocious, just like we're calling it now. The party has NOTHING to do with it for me. The Democrats happen to be the guilty ones here, so they're getting bashed. If the Republicans did it, I'd bash them just as vigorously.

Wrong is wrong.

I have to agree with Rachel. For a few minutes I was confused as to who was actually hosting this show, thinking it was the Republicans. I'll chalk it up to not enough sleep, but I was no less disgusted.

When I remembered that Wellstone was a prominent Democrat and connected the dots, I was still disgusted, but I will say I was slightly less suprised.

Sick & Tired, you mean like the way the Republicans booed Clinton at Nixon's funeral? Oh, that's right, they didn't. Likewise when the left's favorite boogieman, Ashcroft, lost a close race with clear evidence of less than honest moves on the Democrat's part, (Remeber the polling places in the Democratically inclined parts of St. Louis being held open when Widow Carnahan looked to be loosing?)he didn't try & get it overturned by the courts. Nor did Nixon when JFK was handed the election by a crooked count in Illinois thanks to Mayor Daley. It was Gore who went there in Florida, despite the dodgiest event of the night (calling the state for Gore before the polls closed statewide, while the predominately Republican panhandle was still voting)favored him. Methinks you doth protest too much...