At a time when a rigid rule-of-thumb advocates in Washington have tried to frame all American funerals as reserved for the nation’s most powerful, this week’s services are making a mockery of the idea. It’s hard to imagine the Senate’s last living World War II veteran and the 1996 Republican presidential nominee being kept apart. That would be odd.
On Thursday, as people gather at his Arlington, Virginia, funeral home to pay respects to the late lawmaker, the house will let out for a public viewing, likely the only time in the the decades-long post-Lincoln era that the Capitol will open its doors to the public. On Friday, the public will have another chance to pay respects with an invitation-only viewing and procession that will include a stop at the World War II Memorial.
Two days later, in a decidedly un-Washington-esque time of year, a full casket will make its way down Pennsylvania Avenue to the U.S. Capitol in Washington, where President Trump will open the doors to pay respects. On Friday, the public can gather from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the National Archives and Research Center, 101 Independence Ave. SE, to pay their respects in person. It is unclear whether President Trump and Vice President Pence will attend the funeral.
Each hour of the hourlong public viewing will begin at the world war memorial, with six hours devoted to House of Representatives members. House speakers and Senate presidents will also receive a daily honor at the public viewing. A practice dating to Abraham Lincoln’s presidency, the practice has devolved into, well, nothing. Former President Bill Clinton’s last public funeral, in 2000, was dismissed by some lawmakers for its low attendance. President Harry Truman’s last public funeral, the disastrous one from 1948, has even become one of the nastiest instances of the congressional open-casket tradition, going down as a disaster.
Following President Bush’s military funeral in Texas, and then an open-casket military funeral in Washington, a campaign has launched to rename the Capitol’s National Memorial outside the House and Senate chambers as “Bob Dole Memorial Senate Memorial.”
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