Jewish World Review July 24, 2000/21 Tamuz, 5760
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
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
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
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
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©1999, Suzanne Fields. Distributed by Los Angeles Times Syndicate