Asheville, NC, Nov. 7, 2013 – The Reverend Billy Graham’s 95th birthday fête, organized by his son Franklin, was all that anyone who knows Graham père and Graham fils could have expected. The adoring guests who came to honor the frail evangelist were all, it seemed, rich, successful, famous, and self-important “Christians”—with nary a representative of the poor, the meek, the humble, and the downtrodden, whom Jesus called to follow him, in sight. Each of the media celebrities present clearly believed they were more important than the guest of honor, crowding the cameras for interviews and statements and extra seconds in the limelight. And, irony of ironies, the party that these holy, spiritual folks dropped in on was held in Asheville, NC—the “Cesspool of Sin,” as it was dubbed by a late NC House member who, as far as anyone could tell, had never set foot in the city.
The local Gannett paper titled its coverage “A-listers salute Graham,” but as the guest list made clear, the headline writer misunderstood what an A-list is.
The big names in attendance were Sarah Palin, Donald Trump, Glenn Beck, Rupert Murdoch, Greta Van Susteren, Ricky Skaggs, and Governor Pat McCrory. It was an A-list of, at best, Republican B-listers: Palin, a failed vice-presidential nominee (accompanied by her secessionist husband Todd) who turned losing into a $12-million-per-year gig; Trump, a failed presidential candidate, Obama birther, and self-appointed king of bombast; Beck, television’s wacko-bird college dropout who was too crazy even for Fox; Murdoch, the almost-but-not-quite-indicted gazillionaire media mogul who kicked Beck off his airways; Van Susteren, the Aussie mogul’s current blonde media favorite; Skaggs, a once-popular country music star who looks like Barbara Bush with longer, whiter hair; and McCrory, the failing, flailing governor of NC, basking in an approval rating of 37% after an exciting 10 months in office.
At least one Democrat, Asheville City Council member Jan Davis, attended, along with numerous other Republican officials: Representative Mark “Shut down the government!” Meadows, NC House Speaker and Senate candidate Thom Tillis, and Buncombe County Commissioner Joe Belcher. They were joined by hotel billionaire Bill Marriott, “Mitford” series writer Jan Karon, perky TV hostess Kathie Lee Gifford, right-wing megachurch pastor and anti-everything evangelist Rick Warren, and almost-unknown Christian rap artist Lecrae Moore—who, from photos of the event, was the only person there from what Cornel West calls “the chocolate side of town.” (Dr. West was in town the night before, speaking at UNC Asheville to the city’s intellectual, and mostly Democratic, A-list, and helping inoculate them from Thursday’s hype). (more…)