by Frank James and Jill Zuckman
The Republican presidential candidates wove Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. into their stump speeches today, the official federal holiday honoring the civil-rights leader, as they campaigned in Florida.
Mitt Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, cited King as an example of one person making a difference, as you can see in the accompanying video. It was truly impressive how, without much of a transition, he went from lauding King to bashing Washington.
Meanwhile, Rudy Guiliani, the former New York City mayor, praised King as a leader, which allowed the candidate to segue quickly to talk about his leadership abilities. There was even someone in the crowd holding up his book on leadership.
During a press conference in Jacksonville, Florida, Sen. John McCain reflected on the holiday. McCain lived in Jacksonville for two years with his first wife and three children after being released by the North Vietnamese after five and a half years as a prisoner of war.
"I was in prison when they announced over the loudspeaker in my cell, I was living by myself, that Dr. Martin Luther King had been assassinated. They always told us the very bad news, but somehow avoided telling us minor events such as landing a man on the moon. I didn't find that out until a couple years after the event itself. I didn't know Dr. King. I was a member of the military. Obviously I admire him as all Americans do. But I did have the great honor of getting to know Congressman John Lewis. In fact, I've taken my children to meet him, because I think John Lewis epitomizes the struggle that continues to this day to achieve full equality in America. Congressman John Lewis is a role model to me in many respects."
Mike Huckabee, the former Arkansas governor, was in Atlanta at the new Ebenezer Baptist Church edifice, not the old building where King actually preached.
Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee flanked by Jennifer Beal, left, and Alveda King, niece of Martin Luther King, takes part in a ceremony honoring Martin Luther King, Monday, Jan. 21, 2008, at the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert.)
That would be the same Alveda King who allowed the following press release to be issued by the McCain campaign:
ARLINGTON, VA -- U.S. Senator John McCain's presidential campaign today released the following statement by Dr. Alveda King, niece of Martin Luther King, Jr., on John McCain:
"As I look at the current presidential race and the world we are living in, I believe that Republicans need to look for a quality which our country needs most at this critical time: proven leadership. In John McCain, we know that we have a leader who has stood the test of time and can lead America with courage, integrity and strength.
"Even though I have made the decision not to formally endorse any candidate in the current primary, I did want to take the opportunity to express my profound respect and admiration for John McCain.
"John McCain shares our Christian values. He has a 24-year pro-life voting record. He has fought for judges who will end the activist bent of our federal courts, and get the judiciary back into its proper place in society of interpreting, not legislating, the laws of our land. John McCain believes in the sanctity of marriage, and led the fight in Arizona in 2006 to protect marriage as Almighty God ordained it: between a man and woman.
"What America desperately needs is courage from its political leaders. When my uncle, Martin Luther King, Jr., led the civil rights marches throughout America, he marched with his head held high in a spirit of conviction and courage. John McCain has done the same throughout his career.
"John McCain is a man of conviction, principle and courage. As I think of my uncle and the courage he showed in standing for conviction -- regardless of the consequences -- I see these same qualities in John McCain. That is why I am delighted to express my profound respect and admiration for Senator McCain at this critical time."