September 20th, 2021


The candidates and the Golden Calf

Suzanne Fields

By Suzanne Fields

Published April 22, 2016

The clever presidential candidate tries to mix politics with Passover, eager to join the Jews in celebration of the triumphant exodus from Egypt — maybe the Chosen People will make him — or her — the Chosen One. But they had to work at not looking too clever by half. Lessons learned will be crucial as they enter the homestretch of the primary season.

New York, with the largest Jewish population of any of the states, provides the most dyspeptic Passover pathway. Ted Cruz, the evangelistic Christian, toured a matzoh bakery in Brighton Beach, Hillary Clinton wrote an essay about her record on religious freedom and put it in English, Yiddish and Hebrew. John Kasich asked a group of Hasidic men he met in a Jewish bookstore in Brooklyn to "pray for me." (He needs a miracle of the size of the parting of the Red Sea.)

Bernie Sanders, the Jewish guy, described by The New York Times as "more comfortable speaking about Pope Francis, whose views on income inequality he admires, than about his own religious beliefs," flew off to meet the pontiff a week before Passover. But a self-described "leftist feminist Jewess" writing in The Forward, the Jewish daily in Gotham, imagines him as a modern Moses in robe and sandals, shaking his staff at evil, standing up for social justice and income equality.

Bernie thought he was on a roll as the first Jew to win a presidential primary (in New Hampshire), but he turned out to be a prophet without honor in New York. He is not beloved by New Yorkers who love Israel. He accused the Jewish state of "disproportionate" responses to Palestinian terrorism. That's a hard sell to those who have to duck rocket fire and try to avoid suicide bombers on their way to work. Hillary is much more popular among Jews.

Donald Trump, whose daughter Ivanka converted to Judaism when she married Jared Kushner, boasts that his new Jewish grandson is an "Easter baby." Maybe the Donald has a knack for inclusion, after all. He was in trouble with many Jewish voters for saying he would be "neutral" in negotiating peace between the Israelis and Palestinians but won some of them back with a strong speech to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, a speech his son-in-law helped write.

Since the late primary season coincides with Passover, and the candidates are eager to display curiosity if not necessarily faith, they might consider the Bible story of the golden calf, as set out in the Book of Exodus. The lesson of the golden calf is a particular problem for Hillary, who must have read the lesson in her Methodist Sunday school. George and Amal Clooney threw a fundraiser four days before the primary in Los Angeles, where the top ticket was $353,000 per couple. Bernie Sanders fans protested by throwing real dollar bills at Hillary's motorcade.

When George Clooney was asked on "Meet the Press" about the "obscene amount of money" required to attend his dinner, the movie star said he agreed with the outraged folk. But he said it was going to a good cause. Outrage is likely to grow over the months leading to November over Hillary's romance with the golden calf, which the ancient Israelites made, forgetting God, on their way to the promised land. The golden calf survives as a symbol of the way that the worship of money corrupts the spirit.

The "honorarium" Hillary Clinton collected from Goldman Sachs, $675,000 for three speeches, as Bernie Sanders says, must have been a bargain for oratory in "Shakespearean prose." We don't know because she won't release the transcripts of what she told them. Some unusual inquiring minds want to know. Investment bankers usually expect value for money.

Simon Head, writing in The New York Review of Books, no right-wing journal, asks how, after the exposure of Goldman Sachs' aggressively deceptive marketing of financial derivatives and the billion-dollar penalties exacted for them, she could now portray herself as an opponent of the big banks and their excesses.

"According to an analysis in The Wall Street Journal in 2014, from 1992 to the present," he writes, "Goldman Sachs has been the Clintons' number one Wall Street contributor, based on speaking fees, charitable donations, and campaign contributions." Figures like these hardly reflect "the disinfectant of transparency" she promises the left-wing grass-roots turnout crucial to Democratic prospects.

The Passover Seder teaches the lesson that both the bitter and the sweet contribute to a renewal of the spirit. The Bible is good reading for Hillary and all of the candidates, but merely reading it is not enough. They have to pay attention.

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