In this issue
April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review July 18, 2008 / 15 Tamuz 5768

Laugh, Obama, laugh

By Kathleen Parker

Kathleen Parker
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http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | Oh, for a good riposte.

Barack Obama's levity-free reaction to the now-famous New Yorker cartoon leaves one reluctantly wondering: Is he humor-challenged? Perchance, does he take himself too seriously for a nation of wits and wags?

So soaring has been Obama's rhetoric and so dazzling his smile that we've missed the possibility that the Illinois senator is less the lanky rock star and more the purse-lipped church lady, clucking his tongue in disapproval of the chuckling masses.

His campaign's angry reaction to the magazine cover shows a stunning lack of political dexterity. It wasn't always so.

In earlier days, Obama was self-deprecating and light of touch. But something happens as people get closer to Washington, as Obama himself has pointed out in other contexts. A popular story that Obama tells concerns a Las Vegas debate during which he was asked about his weaknesses.

Obama answered that he has trouble keeping up with paper, that his desk is a mess. OK, it wasn't knee-slapping hilarious, but it was honest and, therefore, endearing. A real answer from a real person.

In contrast, two of Obama's contenders, both Washington veterans, responded to the same question with the kind of painful earnestness that makes dogs cynical. As Obama recounts it, one of them said his biggest weakness was that "I'm just so passionate about helping poor people." The other said, "I'm just so impatient to help the American people solve their problems."


Obama continues the story: "So then I realize, well, I wish I'd gone last and then I would have known." (Laughter, applause.) "I'm stupid that way, I thought that when they asked what your biggest weakness was, they asked what your biggest weakness was. And now I know that my biggest weakness is I like to help old ladies across the street."

Now, that's funny. And there's a reason the other two candidates — John "passionate" Edwards and Hillary "impatient" Clinton — aren't leading the Democratic ticket.

Obama's self-deprecation was his most charming bit, but lately he is, well, less charming. He and his wife seem more like a finger-wagging principal and teacher tag team, with Michelle Obama promising that her husband will make us work harder when he becomes president. You get the feeling that should the Obamas take over, we'll all be staying after school. They used to call that detention.

Of course, John McCain isn't exactly a merchant of mirth. He didn't like the cartoon either, or so he said. Although his usual disregard for politically correct reverence is refreshing, his humor often seems not offbeat, but off-a-beat. Spontaneous jokes, such as his singing "Bomb-Iran-bomb-bomb-bomb," are actually less funny than the fact of his telling (or performing) them. Does he get it?

When I hear McCain "being funny," I'm reminded of a booklet of after-dinner jokes my father compiled to help pay his college tuition. The World War II-vintage jokes simply aren't amusing anymore. They belong to another time and place, another set of cultural markers, the common understanding of which is crucial to humor.

What's missing — and much missed — are the timeless, biting quips of politicians past who put the "rip" in riposte. Classy, biting and pandering to no one, these elder statesmen knew something about language — and American attitudes — that we seem to have forgotten.

Chris Lamb, a College of Charleston (S.C.) journalism professor and cartoon historian, reminds us with his recent political-comeback collection, "I'll Be Sober in the Morning," that the wicked retort is invariably more effective than righteous indignation. A couple of sample anecdotes:

Arizona Sen. Barry Goldwater, told that he couldn't play golf at a Chevy Chase, Md., country club because it was restricted, replied: "I'm only half Jewish, so can't I play nine holes?"


U.N. Ambassador Adlai Stevenson was giving a speech in Dallas when a heckler demanded to know the ambassador's beliefs. Replied Stevenson: "I believe in the forgiveness of sin and the redemption of ignorance."


There's no better tonic — nor better defuser of enemy bombs — than humor. How refreshing it would have been had Obama merely pointed to the New Yorker cartoon and said: "He didn't get my ears right."

With a deft trip off the tongue, the cartoon and the baseless controversy would have been rendered impotent, revealed as what they were: laughable.

It's not too late. Humor us.

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