BUSH BASHED BY FORMER PRESIDENT, REVEREND AT FUNERAL
LITHONIA, Georgia - Speakers took a rare opportunity to criticize U.S. President George W. Bush President George W. Bush‘s policies to his face at the funeral on Tuesday of Coretta Scott King, widow of slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr.
Civil-rights leader the Rev. Joseph Lowery and former President Jimmy Carter cited Mrs. King‘s legacy as a leader in her own right and advocate of nonviolence as they launched barbs over the Iraq war, government social policies and Bush‘s domestic eavesdropping program.
Bush sat watching the long service before an audience of 10,000 including politicians, civil rights leaders and entertainers at the New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in Lithonia, and a national cable television audience.
Lowery, former head of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, which King helped found in 1957, gave a playful reading of a poem in eulogy of Mrs. King.
"She extended Martin‘s message against poverty, racism and war / She deplored the terror inflicted by our smart bombs on missions way afar," he said.
"We know now there were no weapons of mass destruction over there / But Coretta knew and we knew that there are weapons of misdirection right down here / Millions without health insurance. Poverty abounds. For war billions more but no more for the poor."
The mourners gave a standing ovation. Bush‘s reaction could not be seen on the television coverage, but after Lowery finished speaking, the president shook his hand and laughed.
Mrs. King, seen by many as the "first lady" of the American civil rights movement, died last week in a Mexican alternative health clinic at the age of 78, after complications from ovarian cancer and a recent stroke and heart attack.
Bush, speaking before his critics, said, "By going forward with a strong and forgiving heart, Coretta Scott King not only secured her husband‘s legacy, she built her own."
With Washington debating the legality of Bush‘s domestic eavesdropping on Americans suspected of al Qaeda ties, Carter also drew applause with pointed comments on federal efforts to spy on the Kings.
"It was difficult for them personally with the civil liberties of both husband and wife violated, and they became the targets of secret government wiretapping and other surveillance," he said.
Speaking later, Bush‘s father, former President George Bush , broke any tension by recalling his own meetings as president with Lowery and gave a score: "Lowery 21, Bush 3, it wasn‘t a fair fight."
Former President Bill Clinton , a favorite among mainstream civil rights leaders, was able to offer a teasing hint of the possible presidential candidacy of his wife, New York Democratic Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton .