When Politicians Mourn: From Maurice Sendak to MCA

What does it take for a president to care about you when you die? I mean, there are some obvious deaths that all presidents will pay attention to. Obama will never forget that warm spring day last year when he ordered Seal Team 6 to put a bullet in Osama bin Laden’s head and burn him alive. But most deaths aren’t so morbid, they are simply sad events that a president or a White House feel compelled to comment on.

So I must admit, it is rather strange that with two major celebrities going to the other side in recent weeks, Adam Yauch of the Beastie Boys and Maurice Sendak author of “Where the Wild Things Are,” which one the White House commented on.

When Maurice Sendak passed away the Obama White House made it a point to show their sadness at his passing. This wasn’t an example of cheap ghoulish publicity – Obama has commented many times over the years how “Where the Wild Things Are” is one of his favorite books of all time and he’s read the book at several of the White House Easter Egg rolls including this past April.

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney released the statement “Every parent must be in mourning today and every child. It’s a sad day,” even though he was flying across the country on Air Force 1.

The Obama White House has also released statements on some of the other major celebrity deaths this year, including Whitney Houston, and yes even Heavy D. Yet the president hasn’t said a thing about the passing of Adam Yauch, A.K.A. MCA of the Beastie Boys who died after a long battle with cancer last week. Now, I doubt that this is some racially or politically motivated oversight. Washington Times columnist Joseph Curl bent himself over backwards trying to make White House silence over MCA’s passing a racial and cultural critique of Obama which was preposterous.

However, in light of the outpouring of emotion from the White House over Sendak’s passing it does make the silence over Yauch all the more interesting since it’s well known that President Obama is a Hip-Hop fan. Then again, Obama didn’t say anything about Don Cornelius and he was a million times more influential than the Beasties or Heavy D. So it might just be a matter of preference. Or, there could have been issue with the fact Cornelius committed suicide, something that created a firestorm of controversy and debate within the African American community.

It is important to note however that in an era where a White House undergoes insane scrutiny for having Jay-Z and Common show up for a party that we can even have this discussion about Obama and celebrity deaths. I don’t think Bush said a thing when Christopher Reeve, Evel Knievel and Captain Kangaroo died during his presidency. Of course, that might’ve had something to do with the fact that most of them hated his guts.

This article originally appeared online at Politic365.com.

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