Wellstone’s memorial measured, restrained

Immediately after Tuesday night’s ceremony honoring the passengers’ lives of last Friday’s plane crash, there was a significant amount of criticism of the event’s partisan tone. Although the event was not exactly advertised as a political rally, it would have been naive to expect any mention of politics or the upcoming race would have been subdued, especially considering how close the race has been and how urgent many DFLers feel the remaining days before the election will be. While some may have reasonable objections to the memorial service being politicized, the service was actually surprisingly restrained in that regard.

The service was dedicated to the lives of Tom Lapic, Mary McEvoy, Will McLaughlin, Marcia Markuson, and Paul and Sheila Wellstone. Although the two pilots aboard the plane died as well, neither received a personal eulogy, which was a rather conspicuous omission. Many Republicans criticized the event as being overly partisan, but such an attempt to characterize the service contains an implicit allegation that Wellstone’s death was being taken advantage of for political profit. Sarah Janecek, a Republican consultant, said, “I was frankly stunned. It was over the top.”

However, this statement and the implicit allegation are ridiculous and are themselves attempts at manipulating what happened for political gain. First, only one of the 10 speakers had a political message – Rick Kahn, a former student of Paul Wellstone. Even Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin’s message was fairly measured. Second, mainly staunch Wellstone supporters attended the service and were there to remember someone they ardently admired. Third, Wellstone was an inherently feisty person and although nearly all of the speakers were restrained, it would have been difficult to find someone in the audience who felt the same need to be reserved. Lastly, compared to the partisan eulogy Mel Carnahan received in Missouri two years ago, this was decidedly reserved in the Minnesota tradition.