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Politicos Tussle Over Michael Jackson Tribute

Updated

Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas) spoke at the Staples center at Michael Jackson’s memorial service, vowing to pass a resolution honoring the late singer.

The Rev. Al Sharpton went a step further, crediting the singer for making non-black voters “comfortable to vote for a person of color to be the president of the United States of America.”

Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.), in a widely seen YouTube video from Sunday, had a different take. He called Jackson a “lowlife.”

We’ve spent 10 days listening to reactions to Michael Jackson’s death, and wondering whether it is all too much, but I never thought that it could come down to a roll call vote.

While President Obama compared the coverage to the deaths of Elvis and Frank Sinatra, he’s got the good fortune to be in Russia during the memorial service, saving himself from the temptation of doing something that is just too over the top.

While King does have a point about media saturation, he’s also milking the moment at a time when he’s considering a run for higher office, splashing his YouTube tirade across his home page. And while Sharpton does make a case for the impact that Jackson had on the culture, particularly in the early and mid 1980s, there are just so many, many other factors at play in setting the stage for Obama.

What will be sad to see is if, as jackson Lee pursues her resolution, Michael Jackson actually becomes a political issue at a time when Congress should set its sights on health care, energy and the economy. Imagine the attack ads.

The truth is that legacies are measured years later, after the slow process of context and consternation, and that will particularly be the case for Jackson and his public and private persona. Until then, the line between hype and history is too fine, and the  process of memorializing a public entertainment figure says more about the mourners than the mourned.

Update: Brian Lowry called the idea of Jackson as a “civil rights pioneer” a “shaky proposition.”

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