The Atlantic Politics Daily: Even Funerals Are Political Now

Today, in the Trump era, funerals have become political, too. Plus, one archivist’s grim mission. Finally, a better word than emoluments.

Today in Politics

It’s Friday, October 25. Today, in the Trump era, funerals have become political, too. Plus, one archivist’s grim mission. Finally, a better word than emoluments.


President Donald Trump wasn’t at Elijah Cummings’s funeral on Friday.

Nor did any of the eulogists honoring the late veteran Democratic lawmaker—from Nancy Pelosi to Hillary Clinton to Bill Clinton to Barack Obama—explicitly mention Trump, who earlier this year called Cummings’s district “a disgusting rat and rodent infested mess.”

Though the service was free of direct jabs, Trump was on the receiving end of one implicit rebuke after another. Here are several moments when it seemed like the speakers might have had a certain someone on their minds:

“He stood against corrupt leadership, like King Ahab and Queen Jezebel.”
—Hillary Clinton, comparing Cummings to his biblical namesake

“You can’t run a free society if you have to hate everybody you disagree with.”
—Bill Clinton

“There is nothing weak about looking out for others. There is nothing weak about being honorable. You are not a sucker to have integrity and to treat others with respect.”
—Barack Obama (Read Obama’s full remarks here)

This isn’t the first time a funeral of someone who’s stood in opposite to Trump has taken on the president. After Senator John McCain of Arizona passed away last year, his daughter Meghan delivered a fiery eulogy, telling the crowd that “The America of John McCain has no need to be made great again.”

It’s a sign of how even funerals are political in the Trump era, my colleague Russell Berman writes:

“It’s yet another reminder of how broadly Trump has affected American public life in the past few years, his influence felt even in death and legacy. The president has changed how his rivals are mourned, even at funerals to which he was not invited.”

— Saahil Desai

Featured Reads

(Emily Jan / The Atlantic)

What’s the experience of an archivist in a time of tragedy? Eric Lidji is on a one-man mission of keep last year’s Tree of Life massacre from becoming just another entry on a long list of mass shootings and anti-Semitic attacks.

“It felt like … archiving the ocean,” he told her.

This weekend marks one year since a shooter killed 11 in what’s now deadliest attack on the Jewish community in America. Read Emma Green’s moving profile here.


+ Read Part I of this series on healing and movements in Pittsburgh: “In the months since the shooting, not everyone in the Pittsburgh Jewish community has agreed on what it means to be ‘stronger than hate,’ much less on why the attack happened in the first place. Three different views, roughly, have emerged.”

What Else We’re Watching

(Leah Millis / Reuters)

The Deadly End of American Policy in Syria, by Mike Giglio
Over the course of the long civil war, Syrians who cast their lot with America have often met with grim fates. Those who remain are suddenly scrambling to escape.

Donald Trump Has a Big Problem in the Senate, by David Graham
A resolution put forward by Lindsey Graham meant to be a show of solidarity by Republicans with the president has instead become a sign of weakness.

+ More on the GOP: “Why Republicans Are Complaining About the Impeachment Process—And Why Their Complaints Are Finding an Audience.”

Argument of the Day

(Jonathan Ernst / Reuters)

In light of recent reporting from The Wall Street Journal that the Trump organization is exploring a possible sale of its 1100 Pennsylvania Avenue Trump International Hotel, consider this argument from the linguist John McWhorter: emoluments is an obscuring, outdated word, and there are plenty of clearer synonyms available:

…there are times when formal English drifts beyond the useful and becomes fossilized ceremony. The word emolument is one example. It has come up in the news much of late because of the discussion as to whether Trump violated the emoluments clause in the Constitution, which stipulates that a president is not to receive “gifts, emoluments, offices or titles” from foreign powers without congressional consent.

Yet many of us, let’s face it, have never had the opportunity to use or even process that word until this presidency, other than perhaps briefly meeting it when introduced to the Constitution.

→ Read the rest

+ More from McWhorter: Racist Is a Tough Little Word.” (From July 2019)

What Our Reporters Are Reading

The 2010s Have Broken Our Sense of Time (Katherine Miller, BuzzFeed News)

How South Florida Became the Headquarters of the Trump-Industrial Complex (Marc Caputo, Politico)

Which Campaign Did It: Trump 2016 or Warren 2020? (Ryan Teague Beckwith, Bloomberg)

About us: The Atlantic’s politics newsletter is a daily effort from our politics desk. Today’s edition was written by Saahil Desai, with help and editing by Shan Wang.

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