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From the Right: What about Joe?

Politicians make an excellent punching bag; you are damned if you change your positions (take this hook: how dare you become an independent?) and damned if you don’t (now a left jab: how dare you stick to your convictions and keep supporting the war in Iraq and not change your mind like Hillary?). Taking swipes at a politician may be fun activity if that is all we wish to achieve. However it leaves unanswered some important and larger questions such as how we, the affected citizens, Jews and non-Jews alike, are to differentiate between the good and the not-so-good politicians (in my eyes they all get the benefit of the doubt until proven otherwise).

How should we view a politician that contemplates a situation and makes adjustments according to the ever-fluid reality we live in? How can we gauge a politician who examines each situation in a given time in terms of beliefs of what is right, not only for the party or for his own selfish reasons (respect, place in history, etc.), but for the country as well. Let me suggest a benchmark I believe we can all agree on, call it the “Price Tag Factor” (PTF). Any politician that is consciously willing to pay a real price for holding fast to his convictions should be viewed as a good politician. We may go even a step further and say that the higher the PTF a politician is willing to pay the better politician he or she may be.

Senator Lieberman is a case in point. He was ready to pay a heavy and real price in political terms for supporting what he believed to be the right thing for the country. Aides to Senate Democratic leaders say the Senator will be ousted as chairman of the prestigious Homeland Security Committee as payback for his GOP convention speech in support of McCain. In a somewhat cynical twist, the Democratic leaders added that the removal would be carried out, but only if the party adds four or five more seats to their slim Senate majority in November (apparently, even considering a punishment is self-serving). The 66-year-old Connecticut senator has said he hopes to stay in the Democratic fold, although people close to him say he’s increasingly pessimistic about his prospects of doing so. Senator Lieberman represents politicians who publicly are willing to take responsibility for their own decisions and actions.

Undoubtedly, some people would be quick to suggest that the Senator was probably promised a padded position if the Republicans win. Even if he was, since the parties are in a dead heat at the polls that would have been too big of a risk for any politician, so chances are that this was not the decisive factor in choosing to support McCain.

Rather than scoring points, allow me to advance the following questions: should the fact that a Jewish person, who, after many years of hard fought integration became a potential VP (8 years ago), be cause for celebration? If my friend on the left is worried about anti-Semitic overtones just for “flipping sides” by the Senator, think about how ready is the country to have a Jewish person occupying the White House? Finally, is it good for the Jews? Is it possible to view today’s decisions using tomorrow’s glasses? If the answer is “no” then the opposite may be true. A reference point by which to examine some of those questions could be established by looking at historical examples of Jews in prominent roles, such as Benjamin D’Israeli (the first prime minister of England, 1874-1880) and Bruno Kreisky (Chancellor of Austria1970 – 1983).

In closing, I would like to revisit the quote by Paul Begala (Newsweek), reprinted by my colleague on the left, and say that “If I was hanging off the edge of a cliff by a rope, looked up, and did not see a politician like Joe Lieberman, I would rather let go…”

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9 Responses

  1. yona,
    i have no interest in scoring point, and i can’t imagine how one can “win” an argument in the current setting. however, i believe that when an opponent in a dialogue brings some points up, it is good to respond in a direct manner to all of them , rather than to those that are merely convenient, while ignoring those that are uncomfortable.
    so, to your points:
    A. i do most definitely NOT prefer a nation devoid of ethnic and cultural divisions; there is no such nation and never was. there were many attempts to bring about such a state of affairs, but we all know where that lead to. however, i do object to narrow, primitive tribalism. a tribe does not have to be an ethnic one, but can be, and often is, an invented one -NRA (which, for reasons beyond me, has recently offered me membership), being such a case. it is one thing to be well-versed in one’s culture and history, and have a sense of time and place and continuity. it is quite another to indulge in pushing selfish, narrow agendas. this is not iraq, or uzbekistan, or china or israel or japan. this is america. a country that has no sense of self is a meaningless exercise in border control. it is truly wonderful to live among people who know who their grandparents were and where they came from and can speak their languages. it is horrid to live among people who still inhabit the “old country”, which lives only in their heads, don’t see any other tribe as fully human, and see it as a mark of shame if their daughter marries a member of a different tribe. would most russian jews in israel be happy if their daughter married an ethiopian jew? you see what i mean?
    B. what do you base this assumption on? to say that, you have to know my view of the world, and i venture to suggest that you don’t, or not yet anyway. to say that my view is A. would merely amount to circular logic.
    C. the quote you use to picture me as one who is ignorant of jews is in fact a point demonstrating my familiarity with the subject, as the question “who is a jew?” has by no means been resolved to the satisfaction of the jewish community. it is debatable whether jews are a religion, as some would have it, or a race, or just someone born to a jewish mother (blood?), or a subconscious culture, or what? many gentiles assume that the jewish identity is something which is matter of fact, while in actuality it is not so simple. to return to my previous example, what is in common between an ethiopian, a russian, and an american jew? (this is not an opening of a bad joke) culture? race? religion? identity? language? non of the definitions fits perfectly, does it? so, please. you might wish us to stick to a loftier tone, and in principle i agree, but at the same time, the ploy of accusing your opponent of not understanding your particular group as he is not a member of it actually IS very defensive, and as i have illustrated, futile in this case. taking to its logical extent, no one can say anything about anyone because they are not THEM, and thus lack full understanding.
    do you assume that i am not jewish? is so, based on what?
    i am sure that we will return to these, and other related subjects in future, and i am looking forward to future, equally lively exchanges.

  2. Kalevra:

    Thanks for your comment(s)

    You wrote: so why so defensive?

    Sorry to say but this line is usually used by a person who would like to score a point without saying much or does not have anything credible or new to say, which of course is fine if we are in a boxing match. The discussion you are trying to develop here feels almost like a ping-pong game, where batting of ideas is taking place and the object of the game is to win or to get points for yourself (it may have some value but it is not going to get us beyond stating points of view) . I prefer a dialogue, where nobody is trying to win. Everybody wins if anybody wins. A common participation of sorts that may generate unique ideas on which something new can be built.

    Let me summarize. (A) You prefer one unfragmented nation, devoid of ethnic or cultural minorities, tribes or cults. Especially if such groups push a narrow agendas that you believe threaten the integrity of the country. For you it is an either or solution, for me side by side and interwoven (B) You are willing to make an exception and tolerate or allow only agendas of groups that support your view of the world. (C) By your own admission you seem to know very little about jews (a quote: “if we are supposed to be color-blind, shouldn’t we be race (=== or whatever you call being a jew === ) blind, too?”). Of course, it could be that you do not wish to know, which is fine too.

    Keep the passion alive.

    =\=\=\=\=\=\=\=\=\=\=\=\=\=\=\=\=\=\=\=\=\=\=\=\=\=\=\=\=\=\=\

  3. yona,
    what is “wrong and baseless”? that there are plenty of people and bodies pushing for narrow agendas, and they couldn’t care less about anyone outside their tribe? that you chose to bring up charles heston and the like as an example, presumably making it ok to act likewise? so why so defensive? you could have brought someone less tribal as an example, someone who seeks to better things for everyone rather caring only for a small tribe, and we would be having a totally different discussion.
    as to minorities adding strength…. many minorities, cultural and ethnic, choose a sort of seclusion — taking inordinate amount of interest in the “old country’, immersing themselves in nostalgia, glorifying their origins, badmouthing the natives, indulging in fantasies of going back, re-discovering their roots, and in general refusing to participate in the reality of here and now. i have seen it many times, don’t find it charming, and question whether this sort of thing in fact contributes to the place one lives and shares with others. happiness is not the art of being well deceived.
    however, i am looking forward to some lively exchange when the question of christian fundamentalists comes up.
    as to your quote, courtesy of churchill — if you refer to my style of discourse… well, as a former infantry man you know that one doesn’t leave living opponents behind, so by the same token i too like to make sure that the subject under discussion is disposed off completely before moving on.
    my other points stand unaddressed.

  4. Kalevra:

    Just repeating something does not make it a fact. You keep insisting on “…someone who just promotes the interests of a narrow group of people, taking little interest in their fellow citizens”. i am not sure what you are driving at, all people live within ever increasing circles of interest and influence (including yourself) and this site for example is one such circle, no more no less. Your line “taking little interest in their fellow citizen” is totally wrong and baseless. Each law abiding minority adds to the shared American experience and strengthen its fiber. Promoting and discussing ideas is a major foundation to build on.

    Re. the fundamentalists, you may have the last word on the issue (until it becomes a future post…). In the meantime let me share with you a quote: A fanatic is one who won’t change his mind and won’t change the subject. – Winston Churchill.

    BTW, the term “fruitcakes” was the least of our problems….. but thanks for your understanding and for going along on the issue.

  5. yona,
    i venture to suggest that there is a difference between a “political liberal action committee’, which might pursue a change of law that will affect all of the population, to someone who just promotes the interests of a narrow group of people, taking little interest in their fellow citizens. this amounts to a little more than primitive tribalism. i am sure that you know that every tribe that ever lived referred to themselves as “the people”, and considered everyone else somehow inferior, or even less than human, or even less deserving of god’s love. you claim that charles heston was merely an illustration to a point, but if so, why choose him and his ilk? no one said it was a “jewish invention”, but merely because someone subscribes to this notion of pushing a tribal agenda doesn’t automatically make it worthy of imitating, does it?
    as to christian fundamentalists’ issue, in essence, it is quite simple. both sides don’t really give a rat’s ass about each other. the christians have this kooky belief about rapture and armageddon and the prophesy and the required gathering of the jews in israel for all of this wonderfullness to happen. they are not expecting the jews to join them in when they gather round the table with jesus for the big party, do they? ’cause the jews will be rather busy in hell.
    the jews know that the fundamentalists spend altogether too much time inside their on skulls , but exploit them as much as they can for their political needs, thinking that they can sup with the devil and not get their nosed bitten off. the issue is made more garish and grotesque, but admittedly more interesting by the involvement of neocons with their dreams of recovering lost american greatness, and the whole issue of old testament myths living on, albeit in a rather twisted forms, in modern times. so there is no need for words like “this is a complicated issue” . when i hear that, it becomes obvious that someone is about to start laying on some heavy paint on a very ugly stain. tell me honestly, as a jew and a former israeli, are you not embarrassed that these are your best buddies?
    as to being offensive,,, well, personally i find “fruitcakes” rather apt in this case, and fairly mellow (not to mention honest) but you point is taken. i will try to be clean in body, word and deed.

  6. You wrote;
    do you seriously suggest that the likes of chuck heston and ralph reed should be some kind of example for us all to follow?

    That was not my point at all. I was just bringing them as examples to show that fragmentation, and special interest groups, with leaders who are pushing specific agendas, already exist in America (in politics and other walks of life), just like the liberal political action committees, Brave New PAC and Democracy for America, the point is, this is not a Jewish invention. That was a response to you statement: “or should each and every ethnic and cultural minority and tribe and cult elect a leader who would concentrate on pushing a narrow agenda? would it still be a country?”.

    Regarding the christians fundamentalists, it is not as simple issue as you think, many in Israel and in the US question the relationship. We are considering the subject as a future post, so stay tuned…

    Kalevra: we appreciate any exchange of ideas but would rather keep offending words out of the process (see your last comment and our policy). You seem creative enough in making your points come across clearly. Thanks.

  7. yona,
    do you seriously suggest that the likes of chuck heston and ralph reed should be some kind of example for us all to follow? my 4 year-old comes home from kindergarten and say things she picks up there, like “(—-)” and “(—-)”, and when i tell her not to say these words, she says “but other kids say it, so why can’t i?”
    having said that, yes, we should all worry about agendas of various groups, like the christian right, for example, who seem hell-bent to grab as much power as possible, and for whom other religions and cultures exists only as raw material for potential conversion, and who honestly believe that everybody but them are going to hell, which means all of the contributor to this here forum.
    speaking of which, i have to say that i really believe that one can tell a lot about a person by looking at their friends. christians fundamentalists have been best buddies of israel for quite some time now, for reasons of their own. i find it disconcerting that people who honestly believe that the world stared 5000 years ago with adam and eve and a talking snake, and who are waiting for the end of the world with bated breath as it is their chance to meet jesus are the ones who are israel staunchest allies. i mean, isn’t it kind of embarrasing? these are some heavy-duty fruitcakes we are taking about here.

  8. Kalevra,

    You wrote: or should each and every ethnic and cultural minority and tribe and cult elect a leader who would concentrate on pushing a narrow agenda? would it still be a country?

    Well, what about the narrow agenda pushed by (Chuck Heston (the head of the NRA), or Ralph Eugene Reed, Jr (head of the Christian Coalition 1990s), trust me the list is long….or would you rather define narrow agenda by the number of people it covers? there the Jews are in clear disadvantage (1% of the population). Last time I looked the American flag does not have hammer and sickle on it, and so, unless there are changes made to the constitution I think we are all going to be ok. Melting pot does not mean boiling pot. Really, shouldn’t we worry less about narrow agendas of small groups versus narrow agendas of large groups which may lead to fascism?

  9. you can say many things about joe, but to my mind, “a fake” is what describes him best, starting with his fakey deep voice and ending with his fake tough-guy image — tough on crime, tough on terror (whatever that means). just as long as it’s not tough on joe…
    anyhow, can’t stand wusses with guns, and this is precisely what he is. i don’t give a rat’s ass if he is a jew or not. if we are supposed to be color-blind, shouldn’t we be race (or whatever you call being a jew) blind, too? or should each and every ethnic and cultural minority and tribe and cult elect a leader who would concentrate on pushing a narrow agenda? would it still be a country?

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