Three Presidents and a Funeral

Apparently, at least some members of the press corps covering the pope’s funeral are as bored as we are with the endless non-story. Perhaps most frustrating for the media, the pope’s death left them short of one of their drugs of choice: conflict. With all that mourning and upbeat remembrance, and all those people snapping cell phone pictures of the pontiff, it’s been hard for reporters to dream up a good catfight. (That is, of course, with the exception of the British press, which has been all over the Funeral vs. Royal Wedding story.)

Luckily for fight fans, the Associated Press’ Tom Raum was there aboard Air Force One to remind us that there’s no occasion too solemn, no remark too trivial, for the press to hype it into a wrestling match.

Under the headline, “Bush, Clinton Disagree on Pope’s Legacy” on Yahoo News and in the San Francisco Chronicle, Raum reports, “President Bush on Friday said that attending the funeral of Pope John Paul II was ‘one of the highlights of my presidency,’ whereas former President Clinton’s declared that the pontiff ‘leaves a mixed legacy.”

Let’s see … Bush says the pope is great. Clinton says the pope had a mixed record. Then they started arm wrestling and Bush Sr. had to break it up. Sources say that Laura wouldn’t talk to her hubby for hours after the scuffle, and that Bill received an in-air over-the-phone scolding from Hillary.

Wow. That’s some hard-hitting stuff.

With three current or ex-presidents traveling in the same entourage, it’s hard for a reporter to accept that maybe, just maybe, this is one time they can’t find much, if anything, to disagree on. But, guys, please — sometimes, you’ve just got to let it go.

Thomas Lang

Has America ever needed a media watchdog more than now? Help us by joining CJR today.

Thomas Lang was a writer at CJR Daily.