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Call it … New York Times disease. Every pol in the U.S. seems to
want to weigh in on how race is “lived in America” by talking about it
incessantly, tearing the scabs off of old wounds — that were healing
just fine, thank you — in the process. The reasons are as unsurprising
as they are disgusting, a shameless search for votes coupled with a need
to feel morally superior to the unwashed masses.
First, Al Gore and Bill Bradley turned the Democratic primaries into
a contest of who could out-white-guilt the other. Then the Republicans
held the most (what’s the word?) inclusive, tolerant, guilt-stricken
convention in the GOP’s history (breathing new life into Richard
Brookhiser’s twist on Barry Goldwater, “In their hearts, they know
The most recent entrant into the race-baiting fray is, of course, Ed
Rendell, loudmouth former mayor of Philadelphia and current head of the
Democratic National Committee. According to Reuters, on Aug. 5, Rendell
opened his mouth to expound on the imminent choice of Vice President Al
Gore for his vice presidential nominee, took out a shoehorn and used it
to cram three pairs of cowboy boots into his mouth.
Actually that would have been a whole lot less noteworthy (and more
entertaining) than what he did say.
Rendell’s choice for nominee, he told reporters, would be Democrat
Sen. Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut.
Now, as Democrats go, I have to admit that Lieberman isn’t half bad.
Sure he’s a liberal. But he’s a liberal who’s for tort reform, vouchers,
tax cuts and Social Security reform. We could stand a few more liberals
And Lieberman seems to be one of the few pols associated with the
centrist Democrat Leadership Council who actually takes the whole “new
Democrat” thing seriously. In fact, when he first ran for the Senate,
the very conservative National Review endorsed him over his liberal
Seeing as how Gore is about as far left as Gorbachev, the thought
went, Lieberman might provide a little balance and put Gore over the top
in Connecticut; a “must win” state if ever there was one. The
Connecticut senator would be the best second-banana pick since
Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis picked Lloyd Bentsen — Mr. “You’re
no Jack Kennedy” himself — for veep in 1988.
If Rendell had stopped there, this would be a column about how you
know you’re doomed when you’re the Democrat and you need to sew up the
Connecticut vote. Unfortunately, he didn’t stop there.
No, he had to go and speculate that if Lieberman was an Episcopalian
rather than an Orthodox Jew, he’d be a “slam dunk” for the nomination.
He told reporters that Lieberman would be a “bold choice,” being, “maybe
the finest person in politics,” but Rendell cautioned, “I don’t think
anyone can calculate the effect of having a Jew on the ticket.”
There goes Hillary’s vote. ) On the other hand, “I’m not sure that the people who would vote against us because Joe is Jewish aren’t going to vote against us anyway.”
There are three possible interpretations of what could have prompted the head of the DNC to shoot his mouth off in this manner:
- He is a complete idiot.
- He wanted to get in another good whack at Republicans
- He wanted to turn Al Gore’s imminent nomination of Lieberman from a desperation pick into one of moral principle.
In a July 8, 1999, column in Jewish World Review entitled
politics,” Ben Wattenberg used polling data from a 1982 Gallup poll and a 1997 Princeton Survey and Pew poll to argue that America may be “the first philo-Semitic nation in history.” Asked by ethnicity what immigrants had been a net benefit to the country, Jews were third on the list, after the English and the Irish (and you’ve no idea how much it ticks me off that the Brits beat the Irish). Of the respondents, 59 percent approved of Jews versus only 9 percent who disapproved. To put this in perspective, Wattenberg wrote, “I do not believe that there has ever been a country which regards its Jewish population by 6 to 1 favorable. (This includes Israel.)”
Including Israel? Go figure.
Even giving Rendell the benefit of the doubt that he isn’t familiar with this data, it is still terminally stupid to view America as teeming with Jew-haters, just itching to tank the Democratic nominee. And I don’t think for a minute that Rendell is a stupid man. So he’s either very pompous or very brutal or very canny. Or maybe a little of each.
Al Gore made a good choice in picking Joe Lieberman as veep, but one thing sticks out about this whole affair. Our politicians increasingly insist on dividing us into groups and finding ways to pander separately. Here’s the thing though, the rest of us just want to get along and are leaving the Luddite would-be-dictators in the dust. Honestly, Rendell’s kvetching was almost as laughable as if he had said, “I don’t think anyone can calculate the effect of having a WASP on the ticket.”