Despite terror warnings, the French, the Germans, the Belgians
and the bizarre doings of the "king of pop," there is a bit of fun to be had
in the news these days, and for that we can thank the Democratic candidates
Discovering one's Jewish ancestry is suddenly all the rage in
the Democratic Party. You will recall that when she assayed the
possibilities of winning a Senate seat from New York, Hillary Clinton
disclosed that some distant relation had been Jewish. But that was nothing
compared with former NATO commander Gen. Wesley Clark. Clark, who has so far
merely showed a little ankle in the presidential sweepstakes, and who was
raised as a Baptist, has proclaimed that he descends from "generations of
rabbis in Minsk." Ah yes, the Minsker Clarks.
Generations of rabbis may be hard to outbid, but John Kerry --
that is, John Forbes Kerry -- has managed it. He claims no mere distant
relations but instead an actual paternal grandfather. It seems Frederick A.
Kerry was born Fritz Kohn in Czechoslovakia. In 1902, he changed his name to
Kerry and, in 1905, emigrated to the United States. Kerry, of course, was
raised Catholic and only recently discovered his Jewish heritage. On his
mother's side (which is the only side that really counts from an orthodox
Jewish perspective), he is pure WASP.
Sen. Joe Lieberman has first claim on Jewishness, of course. And
his press secretary clinched it by assuring The Washington Post that only
Lieberman had a genuine "lox box."
Howard Dean, the governor of Vermont and a declared presidential
aspirant, proudly points to his Jewish wife. It seems President Clinton's
secretary of state, Madeleine Albright, actually started a trend when she
revealed her Jewish roots, though one sensed in her case that she would much
prefer to have kept the matter under wraps.
What goes on here? For generations, Jews have sought to reinvent
themselves as Protestants in America. This is best illustrated by the joke
about Mr. Schwartz who becomes very wealthy, marries a blond Protestant,
buys a horse farm and changes his name. "Well, Mr. Smith," declares the
membership director of an exclusive country club in Long Island, "you
certainly have an impressive resume: a seat on the New York Stock Exchange,
homes in New York, Paris and London, a 60-foot yacht and prize-winning
horses, but you seem to have omitted your religion." Mr. Smith replies: "My
religion? Oh, I am a goy."
There was a time when being a goy carried social cache. Or at
least being Jewish was considered a social demerit. Is it now a bonus? Is
this reverse snobbery? Or could it be something else that is motivating
Two possibilities leap immediately to mind: One is named Bush
and the other Sharpton.
There is real worry among Democrats that President Bush's bold
and steadfast defense of Israel will sway Jewish voters in 2004. It has
already begun to show in the donations flowing to Republican coffers. If you
cannot match the president in support for the Jewish state or willingness to
confront terror all over the globe, you can always tell voters about your
great uncle Moishe.
And then there is the Rev. Al Sharpton. These Democratic
candidates will be appearing at debates, Jefferson-Jackson Day dinners and
teachers union conventions all across America
ITAL) Sharpton, by all accounts, jazzes these highly partisan audiences more
than any of the others. But he also has a despicable history as a racist
provocateur. He is responsible for inciting two murderous rampages in New
York and was the mouth behind the Tawana Brawley hoax.
The brave and right thing for any Democratic candidate would be
to disdain Sharpton pointedly and publicly. But none seems willing to risk
charges of racial insensitivity, or worse. All of them, including Lieberman,
joke about become Sharpton's running mate.
If you shrink from war with Iraq, and you don't dare to
challenge even such a scheming, racial spoils artist as Sharpton, tell them
about great granddad Solomon.