Need I say it? If a Republican had made the sort of joke Sen. Hillary Clinton made at a Missouri fund-raiser, it would have been front page news for days. Introducing a quote from Mahatma Gandhi, Sen. Clinton said, "He ran a gas station down in St. Louis." After the laughter subsided, she added, "No, Mahatma Gandhi was a great leader of the 20th century."
There was a minor league little dust up, and Clinton later apologized. But for some reason, the sensitivity police were remarkably quiescent for Mrs. Clinton. Boy, if that had been Tom Delay or Bill Frist, there would have been, to quote the title of the late Barbara Olsen's book on Hillary, "hell to pay."
Or consider the string of gaffes tumbling from the lips of Howard Dean. The only reason they haven't passed beneath the radar altogether is that Dean has competitors for the Democratic nomination.
But imagine if George Bush had been asked to name his favorite New Testament book and replied "Job." Job is, of course, an Old Testament book. Dean added, "But I don't like the way it ends. ... Some would argue, you know, in some of the books of the New Testament, the ending of the Book of Job is different. I think, if I'm not mistaken, there's one book where there's a more optimistic ending, which we believe was tacked on later."
The Book of Job (for an interesting interpretation see William Safire's "The First Dissident: The Book of Job in Today's Politics") recounts a bet between God and Satan. Satan challenges God, saying that Job is faithful only because he has been fortunate. So God strips Job of his wealth, his family and his health. Job questions God's justice. God challenges Job's capacity to judge Him. In the end, God restores all of Job's wealth and health, and he acquires a new family.
Now some people find God's unwillingness to justify Himself to man unsatisfying. He does not explain evil, far less injustice. But Dean seemed to be saying something different -- that the story itself had an unhappy ending. An hour after his original slip, Dean returned to the reporters he had entertained with his Bible scholarship and corrected the placement of the Book of Job. But he went on to say: "Many people believe that the original version of Job is the version where there is not a change, Job ends up completely destitute and ruined. It's been a long time since I've looked at this, but it's believed that was added much, much later."