Politics: From Eulogy To War

Imagine the unexpected death of the owner of a privately held company. His heirs take a moment to express their sorrow at his passing. And then, moments later, they turn on each other and initiate a vicious fight to take his place at the helm of the family firm.

That’s quite unseemly, eh? Any decent human being would expect the heirs to pause for a respectful mourning period before pivoting from eulogy to war. But America’s leading politicians are a unique breed. How long would they wait under such circumstances?

We now know the answer to that question. At 2:20 pm yesterday, CNN’s Breaking News Twitter account announced the death of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. And then what happened?

Republican Senator Ted Cruz tweeted a link to his Facebook eulogy at 2:18 pm, and followed with a tweeted call for the Republican Senate of the United States to deny Democratic President Barack Obama his constitutional right to propose a successor at 2:27 pm.

That’s not a typo. Senator Cruz actually scooped CNN’s Breaking News Twitter feed by two minutes when posting his eulogy. So how long did he then wait to launch into the rancorous political debate about Scalia’s successor?

9 minutes. Literally, 9 minutes, from 2:18 pm to 2:27 pm.

Senate Democratic minority leader Harry Reid was a bit slower to the punch. He tweeted a condolence message at 3:21 pm, and then waited a full minute to tweet his political support of President Obama’s right to name a successor at 3:22 pm.

Republican Senate Leader Mitch McConnell, often portrayed as a turtle by comics, was less hurried than either colleague. He tweeted a link to his official government eulogy statement at 3:41 pm. And then he pivoted to tweet his support of Cruz’s political sentiments at 4:35 pm.

Let’s calculate the mourning periods of these three politicians. How long did each pause before leaping into the vicious debate over Justice Scalia’s successor? Senator Cruz waited for 9 minutes. Senator Reid did so for 1 minute. And Senator McConnell for 54 minutes.

So whom do you most admire? Cruz for being first to the punch? Reid for being the quickest to pivot from condolences to political in-fighting? Or McConnell for managing to wait almost a full hour before tossing away his grief and engaging in political warfare?

It’s possible that most Americans are so disgusted by the penchant of their politicians to turn every possible event (even a man’s death) into a political Twitter war, they no longer care to ponder such questions.

But by becoming inured to the indecent squabbling of their political leaders, they perpetuate their behavior. And so each politician, like a jealous and ungrateful heir of a deceased business owner, will continue to bicker endlessly about any issue that can help him seize the mantle of power.

Via Twitter, of course.