John Boehner, Eric Cantor, John McCain, and every other Republican who were asked refused to attend the March on Washington event.
According to Roll Call:
Speaker John A. Boehner and Majority Leader Eric Cantor, the House’s two most senior Republicans, were invited to speak at the 50th anniversary of the historic March on Washington — but declined.
According to a list obtained by CQ Roll Call, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., was also invited to speak at Wednesday’s events, but according to a spokesman, the lawmaker was in Arizona all week with a schedule full of public events.
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush was also asked to attend in lieu of his brother, President George W. Bush, who reportedly had to turn down the invitation as he recovered from surgery due to an arterial blockage — not, as Bond suggested, he had to stay to attend to his also-ailing father.
“This was truly a bipartisan outreach effort,” said a spokesperson for the event in an email statement to CQ Roll Call. “All members of congress were invited to attend and the Republican leadership was invited to speak. Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s office was very helpful in trying to find someone to speak at the event. Making this commemoration bi-partisan was especially important to members of the King family, too.”
It is obvious why Republicans made sure that they were “busy” on the day of the event. None of them wanted to be seen on or near a stage with President Obama. Republicans also view ignoring or antagonizing minorities as good politics. For example, Mitt Romney’s speech at the NAACP convention appeared to be designed to get him booed. (It was the one goal that the candidate was able to achieve, as he was nearly booed out of the building.)
By refusing to attend this event, Republicans affirmed that they are not interested in bipartisanship of any kind. Congressional Republicans don’t want to give the impression to their base that they are capable of agreeing with Democrats on anything, including honoring a one of the most important moments of the last half century.
Jeb Bush turned down attending the event, because he is stuck in perpetual mode of mulling a run of his own for the presidency. If he would have been healthy, George W. Bush might have been the event organizers’ best chance of getting a Republican to attend.
By refusing to even show up, Republicans sent the message to the country that only one party cares about inclusion and diversity, and it isn’t them. Their decision wasn’t just bad optics. It was bad politics.
Most of all, it was a completely unnecessary snub of the King family, and Martin Luther King’s legacy. The message has been effectively sent that Republicans don’t care about civil rights, equality, and inclusiveness.
Good luck running on that platform in 2016.