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Jewish World Review July 24, 2000/21 Tamuz, 5760

Suzanne Fields

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Hillary drives the Jewish wagon into a ditch -- HILLARY CLINTON is a liberated woman. Everybody knows that. But sometimes she needs a little traditional help. In defense of his wife over whether she called a long-ago aide a "blankety-blank Jew bastard,'' President Clinton offered an odd reassurance:

"She might have called him a bastard. She's never claimed that she was pure on profanity. But I've never heard her tell a joke with an ethnic connotation. ... She's so straight on this, she squeaks.''

Parsing this president's pronunciamentos is always crucial, so when he tells us she's straight "on this,'' is he telling us to be wary of everything else? Hmmm. And who said anything about an "ethnic joke?''

The presidential defense certainly dates Barbara Bush, for her description of Geraldine Ferarro as something that "rhymes with rich.'' But the president is right: profanity is different from a racial and religious slur. So is it fair to accuse Hillary Clinton of anti-Semitism?

That may depend on what you mean by "anti-Semitism.'' One Jewish slur, if indeed she uttered it, does not an anti-Semite make. But no matter how you look at her, this reminds everyone that Hillary's spontaneous responses to issues that concern Jews contrast her sharply with Rick Lazio, her opponent for the U.S. Senate.

Not so long ago, it was a cliche that Jews were yellow-dog Democrats who would cheerfully vote for a yellow dog if the mutt was a Democrat. FDR and his New Deal and Harry Truman's fervent support of Israel put Jewish immigrants like my parents and grandparents firmly in the Democratic Party. But that was a long time ago. Lots of Jewish intellectuals -- the neoconservatives -- left the Democratic Party to back Ronald Reagan, and the world didn't crash in on them.

These Jews have become conservative on moral and political grounds. To them, Hillary Clinton is the shiksa -- the pretty blonde Gentile -- that their son brings home to meet the folks. Even if she says she'll convert, take lessons from an orthodox rabbi and promise to raise the kids Jewish, the parents are still suspicious. Something just doesn't seem kosher.

Hillary has a history of insensitivity toward what Jews care most about -- conventional morality and the survival of Israel. If a conservative is a liberal who's been mugged (or a liberal with a daughter in junior high school), then a Jewish conservative in New York circa 2000 is a liberal who has had it up to here with Clintonian pretense and doubletalk.

How ironic that it was the Middle East peace negotiations that Bill Clinton had to interrupt so that he could call the New York Daily News to cross his heart and hope to die that he wife was not an anti-Semite.

You don't have to be an anti-Semite to be chair of the New York chapter of the New World Foundation, as Hillary was in the late 1980s, but you can't be a friend of Israel and of the Jews if you preside without protest over an organization that contributed thousands of dollars to Palestinian terrorists making war on Jews in Israel. A friend with true grit would look closely at the fine print.

You don't have to be an anti-Semite to sit quietly by, with a beatific expression on your face, as Hillary did, when Mrs. Yasser Arafat accuses Jews of systematically poisoning Arab children. But if you're a friend of the Jews you won't leap up to embrace Mrs. Arafat at the conclusion of her remarks, as Hillary did.

The futility of making endless explanations for things she shouldn't have done is expressed in an old Yiddish folk tale that the First Lady might put to profit:

A rabbi was asked to judge an intense, but rather enigmatic debate by two Jewish scholars over this puzzle: A wagon is stuck in the mud. How to get it out? The first scholar says he would put a wood timber under the wheels, and if that didn't work he would use a wooden beam. The second scholar, thinking he had the argument clincher, retorted: "But what if you don't have either a timber or a beam?''

The rabbi, impatient with the argument, held up his hands: "A good driver doesn't let his horses pull the wagon into the mud in the first place.''


07/20/00 Conservatives gone fishin'
07/17/00: Snoop Doggy Dogg was a founding father, wasn't he?
07/13/00: When a teenager doesn't need a prime minister
07/10/00: Abortion as cruel and unusual punishment
07/06/00: Surviving 'survivor' TV
07/03/00: Independence Day with Norman Rockwell
06/29/00: Here comes 'something old'
06/26/00: Waiting too long for the baby
06/22/00: Good teachers, curious students and oxymorons
06/19/00: Wanted: Some ants for Gore's pants
06/15/00: Like father, like daughter
06/12/00: Culture wars and conservative warriors
06/08/00: Return of the housewife
06/05/00: Hillary and Al -- playing against type
05/31/00: The sexual revolution confronts the SUV
05/25/00: Waiting for the movie
05/22/00: Pistol packin' mamas
05/18/00: Journalists and the 'new time' religion
05/15/00: There's nothing like a (military) dame
05/11/00: 'The Human Stain' on campus
05/09/00: We've come a long way, Betty Friedan
05/04/00: From George Washington to Mansa Masu
05/01/00: Gore's ruthless doublespeak
04/28/00: Doing it Castro's way
04/24/00: Women's studies beget narrow minds
04/17/00: The slippery slope of anti-Semitism
04/13/00: A villain larger than life
04/10/00: When mourning becomes an economic tragedy
04/03/00: The last permissible bigotry
03/30/00: Seeking the political Oscar
03/23/00: The gaying of America
03/20/00: Pointy-eared quadrupeds on campus
03/16/00: The shocking art of the establishment
03/13/00: Sawdust on the campaign trail
03/10/00: Campaign rhetoric of manhood
03/06/00: The Amphetamine of the People
03/02/00: Elegy for Amadou
02/29/00: With only a million, what's a poor girl to do?
02/24/00: The changing politics of change
02/16/00: Tip from Hillary: 'Let 'em eat eggs'
02/10/00: No seances with Eleanor
02/07/00: Campaigning like our founding fathers
02/03/00: When neo-Nazis have short memories
01/31/00: George W. -- 'Ladies man' and 'man's man'
01/27/00: Dead white males and live white politicians
01/25/00: Smarting over presidential smarts
01/21/00: A post-modern song for `The Sopranos'
01/19/00: When personality is a long-distance plus
01/13/00: French lessons in amour --- and marriage
01/10/00: Reaching for the Big Golden Apple
01/07/00: Liddy Dole as the face of feminism
01/04/00: Hillary: From victim to victor
12/30/99: 'Dream catchers' for the millennium
12/27/99: In search of a candidate with strength and eloquence
12/21/99: The president as First Lady
12/16/99: Columbine with blurred hindsight
12/09/99: Homeless deserve discriminating attention
12/07/99: Casual censors and deadly know-nothings
12/02/99: Why mom didn't make general: A reality tale
11/30/99: Potholes on the road to the Promised Land
11/25/99: A feast for the spirit and the stomach
11/23/99: Fathers need to say 'I (can) do'
11/18/99: Adventures of a conservative pundit
11/15/99: Traveling with Jefferson on the information highway
11/11/99: Wanted: 'Foliage of forbiddinness' for the oval office
11/09/99: Eggs, art and rotten commerce
11/05/99: Al Gore, 'Alpha Male'. Bow wow.
11/01/99: Gay love
10/28/99: Lose one Dole, lose two
10/26/99: Rebels with a violent cause
10/21/99: Reforming parents, reforming schools
10/19/99: The male mystique -- he shops
10/13/99:The campaign of the Teletubbies
10/08/99: Money is in the eye of the art dealer
10/01/99: Lincoln's 'Almost Chosen People'
09/29/99: Introducing Bill and Hillary Bickerson
09/27/99: Must we wait for the next massacre?
09/24/99: Miss America meets Miss'd America
09/21/99: Princeton's 'professor death'
09/16/99: The Cisneros lesson
09/13/99: No clemency for personal politics
09/08/99: M-M-M is for manhood
08/30/99: Blocking the schoolhouse door
08/27/99: No kick from cocaine
08/23/99: Movies don't kill people
08/19/99: A rude awakening
08/16/99: Dubyah and that 'language' thing
08/09/99: Chauvinist sows -- oink oink

©1999, Suzanne Fields. Distributed by Los Angeles Times Syndicate