Read: Barack Obama’s eulogy for Elijah Cummings
Obama never uttered Trump’s name or directly referenced the current president. Nor did the other luminaries who eulogized Cummings this afternoon: Bill and Hillary Clinton, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, or Maya Rockeymoore Cummings, the congressman’s widow and his possible successor in the House.
But just as he was when McCain was laid to rest a year ago in Washington, D.C., Trump seemed a spectral presence at Cummings’s funeral—an object of implicit scorn in contrast with the deceased; a figure who was, in internet speak, subtweeted in speech after speech. Cummings died at the pinnacle of his power, 10 months after becoming chairman of the House Oversight and Reform Committee and just as he was about to assume a prominent role in the impeachment inquiry into Trump.
“He stood against corrupt leadership, like King Ahab and Queen Jezebel,” said Hillary Clinton, the former secretary of state, comparing Cummings to his biblical namesake.
When her husband spoke, he observed with wonder how Cummings could befriend so many Republicans at a time of such intense partisanship.
“You can’t run a free society if you have to hate everybody you disagree with,” the former president said, as again the mourners cheered what they saw as a reference to the current one. Those in the pews included two of Trump’s most loyal congressional GOP allies, Representatives Mark Meadows of North Carolina and Jim Jordan of Ohio. Meadows was a close friend of Cummings, and Jordan sparred with him as the top Republican on the oversight panel.
Like McCain, whose service in Vietnam Trump denigrated, Cummings spent the last months of his life in the president’s rhetorical crosshairs. Trump called out Cummings’s beloved Baltimore as “a disgusting rat and rodent infested mess” and blamed the Democrat for the city’s struggles with crime and poverty. Trump didn’t attend Cummings’s funeral. Nor did he go to McCain’s. But his daughter Ivanka and his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, sat in the church last year as the late senator’s daughter Meghan McCain castigated their father without naming him. “The America of John McCain has no need to be made great again,” she said, “because America was always great.”
Read: Elijah Cummings, reluctant partisan warrior
This afternoon, Cummings’s widow drew the sharpest contrast between her late husband and the president who attacked him. She began by acknowledging Obama and the Clintons in the front row. “You didn’t have any challenges like we do now,” Rockeymoore Cummings told Obama, drawing a laugh from the former president. She noted how Cummings was a fierce defender of Hillary Clinton against “very spurious claims” made by Republicans over the years. “Then he had to go on fighting for our democracy against very real corruption,” she added, as Clinton herself nodded along.