Speaker John A. Boehner and Majority Leader Eric Cantor, the House’s two most senior Republicans, were invited to speak at the 50th anniversary of the historic March on Washington — but declined. […]Boehner instead spoke at a small Congressional ceremony. Eric Cantor's reason for not being there, though, is rather odd:
“They asked a long list of Republicans to come,” [civil rights activist Julian Bond] continued, “and to a man and woman they said ‘no.’ And that they would turn their backs on this event was telling of them, and the fact that they seem to want to get black votes, they’re not gonna get ‘em this way.”
Cantor, meanwhile, was asked 12 days ago to participate in Wednesday’s event commemorating Martin Luther King Jr.’s delivery of the famous “I Have a Dream” speech, according to an aide. The Virginia Republican, however, is currently traveling in North Dakota and Ohio, touring energy sites with Rep. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., and participating in “nonofficial events,” according to an aide.Hmm. You know, when someone asks you to participate in the anniversary celebration of one of the most important inflection points of modern American history, you should generally say yes. You certainly shouldn't blow them off to tour North Dakota fracking sites, or whatever the hell he's claiming was more important.
That said, I disagree with Bond. I think declining a speaking spot was a perfectly appropriate choice on the part of conservative leaders, or at least the more intellectually honest one. Efforts to portray conservative reaction to the civil rights movement as anything less than hostile at the time (and hostile now) are insultingly dishonest, and having the community organizers, activists, spiritual leaders and labor leaders of that time putatively honored on the same spot by people like John Boehner or Eric Cantor, people who have open contempt for many of the goals expressed by those same leaders even now, might have been a bigger sin than any pretense at modern fluffy nonpartisanship could justify. Hooray that they were politely asked; hooray that they politely said no.
If Eric Cantor believes that it is more important to wander rural North Dakota in self-imposed exile than to show up to honor the 50th anniversary of one of the great moments and movements in American history, I am not about to argue with him. If only the rest of the conservative movement had even half as much self-restraint.