Playing Fair – A Bipartisan Critique

Yesterday, an article and comment here both contained what I consider unfair remarks. This leads me to suspect that they were delivered for partisan gain rather than enlightenment, and I think a further analysis is warranted.

In Jonathan Rosenblum’s post, he quotes extensively from Lanny Davis, who in turn quotes from a series of blogs in an attempt to prove that the Left in this country has gone anti-Semitic. His examples, however, are not good ones. As this post demonstrates, the quotation from Daily Kos was taken badly out of context — it was a sarcastic response to another comment, which was roundly condemned as “troll rated.” Similarly, the comment buried in the Huffington Post really isn’t picking on Lieberman for being Jewish, but for being religious. It begins with “Good men, Daniel Webster and Faust would attest, sell their souls to the Devil. Is selling your soul to a god any worse?” — and later adds a swipe at the President: “George Bush thinks he is doing God’s work. Well, so do others.” As for the third blog mentioned, I was unable to find any comment on containing both “Jewish” and “greedy.”

Note that I am not saying the Democratic party is clean in this regard. The Cynthia McKinneys seem more popular today than the David Dukes, and far more dangerous. But we do have them on both sides, and blog comments provide a convenient way for anti-Semites and others to promote repugnant views while remaining anonymous. I don’t doubt that a similar survey of right-wing blogs would also unearth a number of disturbing comments. [UPDATE: See a far better analysis of the Left-Right divide by Jeff Ballabon, a past contributor to Cross-Currents, on Jewish World Review.]

But not to be outdone, “Reb Yid” comments to Rabbi Rosenblum’s post: “Which party’s candidate for the Virginia Senate seat has made ‘macaca’ into a household name and cast aspersions upon a reporter who suggested (correctly) that his mother was, in fact, Jewish?” He is, of course, referring to George Allen, a Republican Senator — but has it exactly backwards, because it is his Democratic opponent, James Webb, who has turned ‘macaca’ into a household word. There is no evidence that Allen had any idea that ‘macaca’ happens to be a racial slur in French, when he pointed to the dark-skinned Webb staffer tasked with following Allen around with a video camera, and called him one of a number of nicknames his own staff had developed for their stalker with his mohawk-style haircut. Allen rightly claimed that a reporter should not be asking pointed questions about his religious heritage — especially when his mother insisted that her Jewish lineage be kept secret. He badly fumbled his response in both cases, and will likely lose today as a result, but I no more believe that Allen intended a racial slur than I believe the poster to Daily Kos was the anti-Semite Davis painted him to be.

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26 Responses

  1. Andy says:

    I thought you might want to check out’s blog today features information from a survey of people who have visited popular political websites in the past few months. It compares their claims to party affiliation to what their internet behavior says about them. Yesterday and Friday’s posts also look at traffic to popular political blogs and what that indicates. There are some interesting trends.

  2. Ori Pomerantz says:

    Is it just me, or do politics bring out the worst in people, on both sides, regardless of the brand of politics?

    Maybe it’s because politics deals with things that are forced on us. If 99% of the people think Christianity is better, and I’m in the 1% that prefers Judaism, I can be Jewish. But if 51% think that party X is better, I’m stuck with party X as my government.

  3. Reb Yid says:

    Allen brought this on completely by himself. The existence of what he said on YouTube made people realize that his excuses and denials cuold not withstand the scrutiny of what had actually occurred.

    Indeed, the etymology of ‘macaca’ was what led reporters to ask about his (Jewish) Tunisian French heritage. That plus the fact that Allen apparently had a questionable history when it came to the subject of racism (racists are the other subgroup who apparently use the epithet in question–which was uttered not once but twice). To later dismiss his Jewish heritage by saying that he had a ham sandwich for lunch and that his mother made pork when he was growing up? Hardly a sensitive or appropriate way to handle the subject.

    Do you honestly believe that Allen had “no idea” what macaca meant when he uttered it on two different occasions to the only non-white who was in the crowd? Given the subsequent stories that followed about various aspects of Allen’s past, there are legitimate concerns about accepting his denial at face value.

    That’s one of themes of this election, by the way–the cover-up and then the cover-up of the cover-up. At times, the issue behind the cover-up doesn’t even seem to matter as much.

    I do agree with the beginning portion of your post regarding the partisanship issues. JR’s post was simply one-sided propaganda. I was was trying to respond that no one party has a monopoly on ill-suited candidates or positions that could be detrimental to Jewish causes.

  4. Yaakov Menken says:

    Actually, I watched the same video, and don’t get that impression at all. He nicknamed the man, Sidarth, of Indian descent, “Macaca” — he did not call him “A” macaca — and there is no reason to assume he knew the word was used as a racial epithet in parts of Europe. The videographer was the only Webb supporter in the crowd, a hired gun criss-crossing the state on Allen’s tail.

    Allen is a sophisticated politician. He looked directly in the camera, knowing whose camera it was, as he used the word macaca. It’s like accusing a politician of looking directly into the camera and using the N word.

    As for Allen’s past, fair enough: he was slated to receive the Community Leadership Award from the Thurgood Marshall Scholarship Fund. Donors threatened the fund over this, and Allen graciously denied the honor.

  5. Henry Frisch says:

    Allen first claimed it was a “slur” to suggest he might have Jewish ancestors. That tells me all i need to know about him.

  6. Bob Miller says:

    Every political party will break our heart some time or other. We need, though, to vote in the way that will help us the most in the current situation.

  7. Charles B. Hall says:

    In mentioning David Duke and Cynthia McKinney, you should have added that the former really isn’t a Republican, and the latter has twice been defeated in Democratic primaries. (I personally contributed to her opponent’s campaign.) As I have said before, the overwhelming majority of both political parties in the US are pro-Israel.

    Regarding Jeff Ballabon’s piece, I disagree. Most pro-Israel Democrats are pro-Israel to their core, although they will sometimes critcize its policies. But so do American Zionists — look at the Gaza disengagement. Among Republicans, probably only of the so-called “religious right” is truly unconditionally pro-Israel (at least until their messiah fails to reappear). But a substantial fraction of the rest of the Republican party supports Israel for strategic, not moral, reasons — and those conditions could change. Secretary of State Rice’s recent comments may indicate that the Bush administration may think that things *have* changed. And Republicans since at least Bush 41 have not been hesitant to argue for imposing a settlement on Israel; the infamous Road Map might have been such an example had not the Arabs once again snatched defeat from the jaws of victory.

    And consider this quote from Sen. John Warner, the Republican leader of the Senate Armed Services Committee:

    “Our support for Israel is very strong, Mr. President, but it cannot be unconditional.”

    Partisan Republicans pillory Democrats for saying much less.

    Jewish World Review itself has some contributors who seem out of place. Bill O’Reilly and Ann Coulter are still there despite their past insensitivity. And Cal Thomas is as well, despite having attacked Howard Dean for allowing his Jewish kids to be raised as Jews!

    There are plenty of conservative pundits who are true friends of Jews and of Israel. Why does JWR have to give kvod to these folks?

  8. Michoel says:

    Charles B. Hall,
    I read the Cal Thomas article that you linked to. You are blantantly misrepresenting him. Readers, please see for yourselves.

    “Partisan Republicans pillory Democrats for saying much less.” A quote to substantiate please.

    And why should perfect senstivity be a pre-requisite to being a contributor?

    IMO, Republicans are vastly better on Israel.

  9. L.Oberstein says:

    The Democrats won and the Republicans lost. Maryland gets O’Malley and Baltimore gets Sheila Dixon, the first female mayor for 10 months until the election, unless she gets indicted for some criminal acts.She is under investigation so we will see. There will be a lot of scrambling for the mayoral position as it is less than a year till the election and a lot of people are going to run. If Kweise Mfume wants it, the job is his.

    i am sure Ed Miller will get a good job, he is bright and has a lot of talent. For those of you who don’t know, he is the Governor’s chief of staff . Most frum people voted for Cardin even if they voted for Ehrlich.

    I saw Lieberman give his victory speech on AOL, you should see it. He is a real kiddush hashem. He started by thanking the One from whom all blessings flow and quoted psalms and said he hopes to sanctify G-d’s name . Someone told me that some rabbis don’t like Lieberman because he is not 100% strict.One said he wouldn’t drink Lieberman’s wine. I don’t come from that school of thought. As far as I am concerned, Lieberman is great and if he cuts a corner once in a while, that’s his business.

    Now, for the hard part. The Democrats have to find a way to 1) stay united and 2) get something done with a Republican President. It is always easier to criticize than to govern.
    Nancy Pelosi is a nice Baltimore girl. Her brother was mayor and her father was a congressman. her first challenge and this could make or break the whole thing is if she lets Murtha defeat Steney Hoyer of Maryland for number 2 in the House ,whip. If she defeats Hoyer who is in line for the position with one of her allies, there will be a storm. Let’s see.

  10. Bob Miller says:

    Regarding the comment by L.Oberstein — November 8, 2006 @ 9:02 am:

    I would be happiest if the House Democrats were not united, so more of them could go their own way on matters of conscience as Senator Lieberman does.

    As for having to get things done with a Republican President, this opportunity existed even when the House Democrats were a minority. But, somehow, they considered a different course to be more satisfying, national security needs notwithstanding. Now that this different course has paid off, we may be seeing more and not less of it.

    Oberstein has also reassured us that “Nancy Pelosi is a nice Baltimore girl.” This is wonderful. We no longer have to worry about her actual ideology, positions, and agenda—because she is nice.

  11. Bob Miller says:

    By the way, if we thought the Bush Administration was really Israel’s friend, this should give us serious second thoughts:

    Here is an excerpt:

    “Saudi King Abdullah believes that Iran represents the greatest threat to the Gulf Arab kingdom and must be fought at any cost. The king regards Iran as intent on taking over the Sunni oil sheikdoms in the region, with Saudi Arabia being the biggest prize. Abdullah sees Iran’s leadership as intent on forming a Shi’ite arc that would dominate the Middle East and destroy the Sunni world. Already, Iran
    has in his view effectively taken over Iraq, Lebanon and Syria while making serious inroads in such countries as Bahrain, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority. As a result, Abdullah wants to form an alliance with Israel and Jordan to prevent a Shi’ite takeover. The king’s idea is for the three countries to cooperate against Iran both on its home court as well as in Iraq, Lebanon and Syria. The United States could be counted upon to support such an alliance.

    The king’s half-brother, Crown Prince Sultan, opposes this strategy. Sultan has not ignored the Iranian threat, but he believes that Riyad must keep away from Israel at any cost and prepare other options against Iran. The crown prince is unclear about what those alternatives are. At the bottom of the dispute rests a naked power struggle between the two elderly royals. Abdullah has appointed a commission to decide on succession and whether Saudi monarchs are fit to rule. This has frightened the ailing Sultan, who badly wants to succeed Abdullah and eventually transfer power to his eldest son.

    The United States leans toward Sultan. The U.S. intelligence community has assessed that the crown prince, who is also defense minister, would take greater account of American interests than any other successor.”

    So, this analysis has the US preferring to back the approach that avoids any common action by the Saudis and Israelis!

  12. easterner says:

    besides the fact that culturally conservative judges can no longer be appointed [ democratic senate ], and thus gay marriage, same sex bathrooms etc will be legislated by the bench and not the people, it will be interesting to see what the palestine lobby ie the black and latino house caucuses will do on behalf of their martyred brethren. remember , jimmy carter’s apartheid israel book comes out now that the election is over…..

  13. chaim klein says:

    Charles B. Hall- Please note that Thomas’ criticism of Dean questioned the authenticity of Dean’s faith and was not critical of the fact that Dean’s children are being raised Jewish ( betcha it doesn’t take) Furthermore, to criticise Israel may not be wrong, but the reasons why one criticizes might be. Please note that most Jewish Democrats place Israel as their sixth or seventh policy priority, way below gay rights, affirmative action, abortion on demand et al. Given a candidate’s position on those matters and a less supportive attitude towards Israel, which one will Jewish Democratic voters choose to support.Ms. Clinton’s contemporary pro-Israel position (I’m not able to assess its genuineness ) certainly did not exist prior to her running for Senator in 2000 ( Remember. She , innapropriately called for the recognition of a Palestinian State long before it was US policy and she did it in her capacity of First Lady. Remembed the terrorist support that she had to repudiate after it came out in the open. Remember her embrace of Mrs. Arafat after the speech accusing Israel of spreading poison in the water system and her total silence on the issue) and her opponent had a much stronger record of pro- Israel support and yet the Democratic Jews of New York voted for Ms. Clinton. Ditto Kerry vs. Bush. Finally,given where we stand now, has the Democratic position demanding that Israel make unreciprocated ( Marilyn Albright’s position) concessions to the Palestinians improved Israel’s existential position? Has the demands by secular and liberal Democrat Jews ( in Israel and in the USA) that Israel withdraw from the settlements
    in Gaza helped or hurt Israel. ( They could have closed the settlements and turned the whole area into a DMZ, with no one allowed to live there. But all that Democratic Jews could see was the religious motivation for the settlements and for many Democrats actions based on professions of faith are embarresing to their concept of Jewsishness and an affront to their universalism)
    What motivates the criticism? That is the question. Most younger American Jews ( Democratic probably) feel little or no affiliation with Israel. How could they, if Judaism or Jewish identity is based on some vague identification with nothing except some vague notion of tikkun olam, rooted in the latest social democratic policy position( See Forward of last week on the breakdown of links between Israel and the Diaspora- reciprocal).

  14. Ori Pomerantz says:

    Bob Miller, do you really expect any US administration to prefer the interests of Israel to those of the US itself? International relations are typically based on interests, and “friendship” just means that two countries recognize that their interests mostly match and it would be to their benefit to help each other.

    Even on a personal level, imagine you had a friend who helped you in the past. Then, one day, this friend had to choose between helping you, and helping his wife, and chose to help his wife. Would you say he is not a true friend?

  15. Bob Miller says:

    Ori asked, “do you really expect any US administration to prefer the interests of Israel to those of the US itself?”

    I distinguish the genuine interests of the US from the well-known biases of its “intelligence” community. What I see in the IMRA article is that community pushing its agenda at Israel’s expense, again.

    As the President comes further under James Baker’s spell, keep your eyes open.

  16. Ahron says:

    >“To later dismiss his Jewish heritage by saying that he had a ham sandwich for lunch and that his mother made pork when he was growing up? Hardly a sensitive or appropriate way to handle the subject.”

    I truly cannot believe that anybody cares about this subject. There are major cultural and geopolitcal issues afoot, and you worry about this nonsense? Anyway if you are interested, Mr. Allen lost (or is losing) mainly because he is somewhat dopey and could never express a clear political identity.

    On a matter of substance: It is just clear as daylight that the dominant strains of antisemitism in America are today on the Left. Right-wing antisemitism has been banished to a cold, soggy exile, and it happened because serious right-wing thinkers like Buckley kept beating the issue until antisemitism became seen as genuinely dishonorable–and most importantly, conservatives began applying the same moral standards to Jews/Israel that they wanted applied to themselves. (This universalization of morality is part of the larger sleeper story about the changes in white America over the last 40-60 years.)

    Naturally, Leftists today will not say “I hate Jews!!!!” Rather they’ll say “I have nothing against Jews, they just need to end their support of Israeli colonialism, oppression, massacres, injustice, occupation, disenfranchisement, nationalism, [insert sin here]…..” Why is that essentially different from a medieval Catholic saying “I have nothing against the Jews, they just need to end their attachment to the perpetuation of epidemics, oppression, deception, greed, iniquity, usury, chauvanism, [insert sin here]…..”?

    I don’t believe it is different. And you certainly don’t need to dredge up old message board comments to find it–it’s the theme that permeates all Leftist discourse on the subject.

    As for which party is better for Jewish/Israeli concerns…. Let’s at least acknowledge together that it was the 1990s-era US policy of ‘loving Israel’ to death, and ‘saving Israel’ in spite of herself, that directly caused the empowerment and arming of the PLO, and therefore Hamas, and therefore the worst 10+ years (so far) of terrorism that Israel ever experienced….and thereby actually led to increased Leftist rage against Israel (isn’t that interesting?). We would be inflamed if a right-wing administration had done that. I am inflamed regardless of the ideology of the administration that did it–it was just wrong, and terribly hurtful to Western interests in the process.

    The Democrats show no sign of even being aware of the problem.

  17. Reb Yid says:

    Message to George Allen:

    Welcome to the “real” Virginia.

    Hazorim bgaiva, bdima yiktzoru. He’s a perfect microcosm of the Republican downfall–they have truly reaped what they’ve sown.

  18. Charles B. Hall says:

    ‘One said he wouldn’t drink Lieberman’s wine. ‘

    What is the halachic justification for that position?

    I just happened to pray at his home shul in New Haven this afternoon. The folks there consider him a part of the community and are very proud of him.

    ‘Nancy Pelosi is a nice Baltimore girl. Her brother was mayor and her father was a congressman.’

    Her father was also mayor. He ran the Democratic machine for decades, and it is by one measure the most successful overwhelming machine in the country: There has not been a Republican elected to the Baltimore City Council since the 1930s. (There *was* a Republican mayor as recently as the 1960’s, Pelosi’s brother’s predecessor.) There is an old story that if anyone in East Baltimore registered Republican, they would get their water shut off. She is much more savvy and pragmatic than people give her credit for. She represents one of the most left wing districts in the entire US yet has maintained a mainstream liberal voting record (including support for Israel).

    ‘has the Democratic position demanding that Israel make unreciprocated ( Marilyn Albright’s position) concessions to the Palestinians ‘

    That is also the Bush position ever since the road map.

  19. YM says:

    As an Orthodox Jew, I have been dismayed when Jewish “voices of the left” support policies toward Israel that I think are against Israel’s interest. Yet, how can I critisize my brothers and sisters on the left, when all they are doing is echoing the same policies supported by the Israeli left, Meretz, etc?

  20. Michoel says:

    The problem is when they do it in the name of Judaism. On Israel and other issues, it is deeply dishonest. Also, just because Meretz is delusional about Arab interest in peace, does not give a heter to American Jewish liberals to be delusional. A person has to think.

  21. Bob Miller says:

    I found this posted today at National Review Online’s Symposium, by Frank J. Gaffney Jr.

    “Donald Rumsfeld’s resignation as secretary of Defense is hardly a surprise, especially given the ascendancy in Congress of individuals who had demanded his head on a pike. It is, however, an ominous straw-in-the-wind. Rumsfeld’s replacement at the Pentagon will be a member of George H. W. Bush’s national-security team and, presumably, an agent of its effort to take over (er, “salvage”) the Bush 43 presidency.

    At work in all of this, of course, is the fine hand of Bush père’s Secretary of State James Baker. According to Bob Woodward, George W. Bush’s first White House chief of staff, Andrew Card — himself a Bush 41 man — proposed twice that Baker be appointed to the Pentagon job himself. The next best thing is a trusted proxy: 41’s CIA director, Bob Gates.

    Gates is a seasoned technocrat, a career intelligence officer and an advocate of Baker-style “realism” in foreign policy. Unfortunately, there is nothing realistic about believing, for example, that the United States can safely negotiate with Iran — something both Baker and Gates espouse. The legitimacy and time this will buy the mullahocracy will translate into threatening Iranian nuclear forces, ballistic missiles and terrorist infrastructure with which to try to realize Mahmoud Ahmedinejad’s ambition to achieve “a world without America.” That is a “vision-thing” all too familiar from the Bush I team, one that is predictable from a Baker regency which will supplant the Bush II-Rumsfeld national-security agenda and engender strategic perils the United States can ill-afford.”

    — Frank J. Gaffney Jr. held senior positions in the Reagan Defense Department and is currently president of the Center for Security Policy.

  22. Reb Yid says:

    >“To later dismiss his Jewish heritage by saying that he had a ham sandwich for lunch and that his mother made pork when he was growing up? Hardly a sensitive or appropriate way to handle the subject.”

    “I truly cannot believe that anybody cares about this subject. There are major cultural and geopolitcal issues afoot, and you worry about this nonsense? Anyway if you are interested, Mr. Allen lost (or is losing) mainly because he is somewhat dopey and could never express a clear political identity.”

    Actually, it was smooth sailing for Allen before he ran into trouble on the racial and religious front. Some were even talking about him as a Presidential candidate. No more.

    The whole Jewish angle and his reaction exposed Allen in so many ways. Allen was (is) known as a conservative Christian who regularly injects his religion and religious beliefs into his imagery. Plays to his base, after all. Imagine his horror when he is “exposed” for his “Jewishness”–my goodness, what will his “base” think? Compounding that was his utter hypocrisy when lambasting the reporter for asking questions about one’s religious heritage. I suppose it’s one thing for someone to make that case if he’s consistently separation of church and state. For Allen to suddenly do teshuva on this issue–but only when it applied to Judaism, not his very open Christianity–was an outright shanda. It was obviously very politically calculated towards what he must have thought were the majority of the “real” Virginia voters.

    Of course, as he belatedly discovered, perhaps there aren’t as many “good ‘ol boys” in Virginia as there used to be.

    Allen is a fraud for a whole host of other reasons, which were also exposed at around the same time.

    If you choose to ignore this, that’s fine with me. The US Senate will have changed hands as a result of this debacle, so I’m sure the folks who are dealing with the ‘major cultural and geopolitical’ issues have taken due note.

  23. Bob Miller says:

    There’s some consolation in that Sen. Lieberman supports the war on terrorism and had been re-elected against his own party’s opposition. This reduces the new Senate’s potential for mischief.

  24. Ahron says:

    Reb Yid,

    You are imparting motives to Allen and impugning his character and intentions in a manner that is fully unwarranted. He lost because he was dopey and many voters (including rightists and centrist suburban voters) were just put off by his clumsiness on many fronts. His anger at the inquest into his “Jewish roots” came in the same manner that anyone would be angry if they were asked “Soooo Mr. Smith–is it true what they say about your mother: Her father was black?!!!” And that is exactly how most people in Virginia including most media commentators looked at it: a question that spoke volumes about the outdated biases of the questioner.

    Allen may well be a man of faith…..but where in the world does “separation of church and state” (a principle whose modern interpretation has no constitutional root) come into it? He’s not legislating Christianity into law in Virginia. He is at most allowing his values to inform his policy choices. Why is that wrong? And why is it OK for secular politicians to be informed on policy matters by their own values?

    I feel like this entire discussion has become an inappropriate conflation of totally separate issues….especially this narrow diversion onto Mr. Allen’s family religion (why?, why?? ). In fact I feel like we’re often mistakenly conflating separate issues together in discussions here. This political season let’s start a new slogan on Cross Currents: End Conflation Now!

  25. Ahron says:

    Before we call a complete moratorium on conflation…. Bob Miller said: “As the President comes further under James Baker’s spell, keep your eyes open.” I agree: the resurrection of that ossified paleo-statesman bodes poorly for US policy and the future of the Bush 43 administration. Frankly the last thing our current president needs is a reinfusion of “ideas” from the glory days of Bush “The Vision Thing” 41.

  1. November 12, 2006

    Haveil Havalim #93…

    Well it’s Haveil Havalim time. Much to my frustration, Verizon’s been balky most of the day. Finally it appears to be working. (But don’t blame me if I copy and paste this before saving just in case.) The Election The Town Crier, writes an extensive…

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