ATLANTA -- In some form or fashion, I have known the players in what I am about to describe as a series of regrettable moments at the funeral of Coretta Scott King.
The one I know least, President George W. Bush, won both my sympathy and respect for gallantly enduring the slings and arrows pointed directly at him during what should have been a celebration of a great woman, but instead turned into a political rally.
The service, held in a metro Atlanta church, attracted dignitaries from around the world. As I watched, I saw four dignified King children, obviously grieving, and listened to the various speakers.
I am fortunate to call Martin Luther King III and Dexter King both friends and business associates. As I've previously written, they and their sisters are credits to their parents.
And while they will never say so, I can't help but believe the King family was dismayed at the crass political battle that was triggered by comments made at their mother's funeral. Trust me, this is a good and decent family.
What ensued at low points during the nearly six hours of the funeral proceedings were what can only be described as a series of insults cloaked in eulogies. Naturally, they were all hurled at President George W. Bush. He, his wife and his father, former president George HW Bush, had to sit directly behind these attackers as they unleashed their barely disguised vitriol.
Sadly, one attack came from a man who I have often had kind words for, much to the dismay of my conservative friends.
Former President Jimmy Carter went beyond the pale of presidential civility with his thinly veiled swipe at President Bush, in which he mentioned that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and his wife Coretta had been "violated" by "government wiretapping and government surveillance."
Carter knows darn well that the Bush administration is under fire for a wiretapping and surveillance policy designed to more effectively fight the war on terror.
Perhaps Carter should have added that Democratic presidents John Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson knew about many of those wiretaps of the Kings, and even authorized some of them.
Instead, Carter paused to await what he doubtless knew was coming -- wild applause from a church audience whose collective political sentiments were plenty more Democratic than Republican.
Characteristically and to his credit, President Bush endured the insult like the gentleman he is, with his head held high -- as any president should.