Dave Boyer is South Jersey Commentary Page editor for The Inquirer
The explanation served up by U.S. Rep. Curt Weldon (R., Pa.) for his attendance at a bizarre ceremony featuring the Rev. Sun Myung Moon in Washington rang oddly true with me.
Weldon said he attended the event briefly in March, and left hours before other guests were treated to the spectacle of Moon being “coronated” with an ornate crown and cloak by a white-gloved congressman. Think Burger King, with the government’s seal of approval.
No question, Weldon should have known what he was getting into. (“And then at 5 o’clock, congressman, you’re scheduled to attend the crowning of a wacky billionaire who was once convicted of tax evasion.”) In a Senate office building, no less.
And Weldon’s protestations that he didn’t know it was a Moon event seem thin, given the conservative congressman’s bonding over the years with Moon’s conservative newspaper, the Washington Times.
But as for not being fully briefed in advance about the “crowning” of a guy who claims to channel Stalin and Hitler, I believe Weldon. Attending a Moon-sponsored event is an hours-long ordeal that few people with any sense would endure to its mind-numbing conclusion. I know because I heard Moon speak at a banquet in Washington in May 2002.
It was the 20th anniversary celebration of the Washington Times, for which I worked. (No, there was no shift selling flowers at the airport.) I had never seen Moon, and I persuaded my wife (no, it wasn’t an arranged marriage) to come along for the same reason people drive slowly past bus accidents.
You don’t really want to look, but you need to know, all the same.
About 3,000 people attended the alcohol-free dinner. The smart ones sneaked upstairs to the hotel bar. I remained stupidly sober.
After a lengthy program that featured Laura Schlessinger (Ebert & Roeper: “Consistently mean!”), the octogenarian Moon was introduced to the crowd. Even from our vantage near the back of the cavernous dining room, Moon projected the image of a robust, insanely happy man.
And then he opened his mouth.
Moon, a native of Korea, speaks – astonishingly – Korean. He speaks very little English, so he brought an interpreter. Moon stood there before Washington officialdom and delivered an 11-page speech, pausing every few words for the translation into English.
He did this… for… an… hour. And does the man have a sense of humor? He positively slays himself.
I zoned out soon after he told the audience that he had created the newspaper “at Heaven’s direction.
“The Washington Times is responsible to let the American people know about God,” he said. “The Washington Times will become the instrument in spreading the truth about God to the world.”
God? It was hard enough to corral the notoriously stern Sen. Arlen Specter for a few sage words without being smited. Now we were supposed to chase down quotes from God?
Moon’s delivery was forceful and beaming. “People of the Washington Times, do you love your country?” he asked. Gibberish, then the translation.
Maybe it was the subtitled nature of the event, or maybe my mind was desperately seeking a better place. For whatever reason, the exuberant yet unintelligible near-bellowing brought to mind the final scene in Dances with Wolves. (“I am Wind In His Hair! Do you see that I am your friend? Can you see that you will always be my friend?”)
It was way past time to go. About 15 minutes into the speech, we slunk out the back of the dining room.
Did we know he was bizarre going in? Absolutely. But I can’t say for sure what happened after we left.
They could have crowned the man, for all we knew.