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John Danforth blasted political bullying in a moving eulogy

Former senator John Danforth delivers the eulogy for Missouri State Auditor Tom Schweich at the Church of St. Michael and St. George in Clayton, Mo., on Tuesday. (Robert Cohen/St. Louis Post-Dispatch via Associated Press)
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A funeral for Missouri State Auditor Tom Schweich, who committed suicide last week amid a whisper campaign about his Jewish heritage, was held Tuesday. Former senator John Danforth, a political mentor of Schweich's, delivered a stirring eulogy for his protege that doubled as a condemnation of political bullying.

As someone who was bullied badly in the ninth and 10th grades, I felt Danforth's words resonate deeply. And what Danforth said raises questions about where (and whether) lines need to be drawn about what is and isn't acceptable to say about a rival -- and what the cumulative cost of the mantra "everything is justified in pursuit of winning" really is.

I've excerpted a few of my favorite passages from Danforth's eulogy below but you really should read the whole thing.

* "We read stories about cyberbullying, and hear of young girls who killed themselves because of it. But what should we expect from children when grownups are their examples of how bullies behave? Since Thursday, some good people have said, 'Well that’s just politics.' And Tom should have been less sensitive; he should have been tougher, and he should have been able to take it. Well, that is accepting politics in its present state and that we cannot do. It amounts to blaming the victim, and it creates a new normal, where politics is only for the tough and the crude and the calloused. Indeed, if this is what politics has become, what decent person would want to get into it? We should encourage normal people — yes, sensitive people — to seek public office, not drive them away."

* "There is no mystery as to why politicians conduct themselves this way. It works. They test how well it works in focus groups and opinion polls. It wins elections, and that is their objective. It’s hard to call holding office public service, because the day after the election it’s off to the next election, and there’s no interlude for service. It’s all about winning, winning at any cost to the opponent or to any sense of common decency. The campaign that led to the death of Tom Schweich was the low point of politics, and now it’s time to turn this around. So let’s make Tom’s death a turning point here in our state."

* "We will see bullies for who they are. We will no longer let them hide behind their anonymous pseudo-committees. We will not accept their way as the way of politics. We will stand up to them and we will defeat them. This will be our memorial to Tom: that politics as it now exists must end, and we will end it. And we will get in the face of our politicians, and we will tell them that we are fed up, and that we are not going to take this anymore. If Tom could speak to us, I think he would say about the same thing. To borrow a familiar phrase, he would approve this message. But Tom is at peace, and it’s for us to take up the cause."

Chuck Todd devoted a segment to Schweich's death -- and what it tells us about our politics and our politicians -- on Sunday's "Meet The Press." It's below.