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Monday, May 22, 2006

Shanda!

It's Yiddish for shame. And that's what most of the people who have contributed to the bruhaha of the past several days by accusing Jim Webb of jew baiting should feel.

Oh how one small comment can blow up all out of proportion. In the May 19, Washington Post, in an article on a debate between Harris Miller and Jim Webb on Joel Rubin's "On the Record" television show, Jim Webb referred to Harris Miller as the "anti-Christ of labor."

Now, I'll admit that was an impolitic thing to say. And it was disrespectful of Christians. However, Webb was simply trying to convey the fact that Miller is anathema to organized labor and to many high tech workers in unions like CWA. It's a term that others have used to refer to Miller's stand on outsourcing, guest worker programs and even the union movement itself. Miller is on record for many disparaging remarks about labor unions and the harm they do to big business. Ok, he's allowed his opinion.

And Jim, next time, please simply refer to him as Darth Vader to the labor movement. You may lose the aliens from outer space vote, but then they won't make it back to earth for the June Primary anyway.

Meanwhile back here on planet earth, the Virginia blogosphere has erupted with charges against Webb of jew baiting. In this blog, Shawn Kenney gives a whole explanation of jew baiting and its history. Since he starts by attacking a piece in Not Larry Sabato, Ben Tribett responded that he was pissed. And then Lowell, at Raising Kaine, chimed in.

Apparently, real Jewish bloggers, Ben Tribbett, Lowell Feld, Josh Chernila, and I are all pissed at Kenney and even at some Miller supporters who've run with this charge. And here's why.

There's something really despicable about accusing an innocent person of anti-semitism. I'll be the first to agree that Jim Webb came up with probably a poor choice of language. But blowing it out of proportion for personal fun and profit as some Miller supporters and a lot of blowhard, pompous Republicans are doing is dangerous because it trivializes the real thing.

I know something about anti-semitism. My father came to the U.S. from Poland when he was 12 years old. Then he served as an American GI in World War II. He was one of the first Americans to march into one of the concentration camps. Because he spoke German, Russian, Polish, Yiddish and English, he helped translate. He saw a lot of sights and heard a lot of tales that caused him nightmares well into the 1970s. And I heard a lot of those tales from him. Plus the anti-semitism he endured as a child before he left Lublin, Poland.

I only say this because I resent mightily when the term anti-semitism is bandied about to score points off a candidate. Again, nothing is more dangerous than trivializing the charge because then when the real deal occurs, people won't believe it. If you cry wolf too often, someday you'll get eaten alive.

Nobody should realize that more than Harris Miller, a fellow Jew. Whatever else I think of his political stands and what he does for a living, he is a Jew, like me. He should realize how dangerous the flames of this thing can get if blown out of control. He needs to put a stop to it by announcing that he does not believe that Webb meant the "anti-Christ remark" as anti-semitic or as Jew baiting.

And it wouldn't hurt for Webb to say that he is not anti-semitic and that it never crossed his mind that his remark would be taken in that context.

And then lets put a rest to this whole ugly chapter. And those who can't let it rest should be exposed as the ones who really aren't the friends of Jews.

7 comments:

Alice Marshall said...

post was pulled at the request of the Miller campagin.

J.C. Wilmore said...

But you Alice have refused to admit its falsehood or apologize.

This makes you the "Darth Vader" of the Left side of the Virginia blogosphere.

Apologize now Alice, before it's too late.

Jason Kenney said...

I'm sorry, but what everyone wants to forget is that the base of Shaun's post and my subsequent comments and posts is not the "anti-Christ" statement but Ben's attempt to counter a Miller comment by stating that Miller is a Jew. Even now knowing that Ben is a Jew I still have to question exactly what the point in Ben's statement was. It does nothing to counter the point of the comment, it is an attempt to smear Miller's words by using his faith, which is entirely uncalled for. THAT is the issue and no one, not Ben, not anyone else, has been able to explain this. No one has even tried. Instead they cry "INSULTED!" when it's a simple question.

AnonymousIsAWoman said...

Jason, I obviously can't speak for Ben. Miller's analogy about inviting somebody to the church but not making them the choir director the next day does not bother me. It's just an analogy. Somebody in another blog pointed out that he once overheard a woman say she had to get to the church on time for a wedding. Actually she was trying to get to a synagogue on time for that wedding, but "get me to the church on time," is a famous line from a song. It's just an expression.

But what I thought I saw being discussed on Shawn's blog was the anti-Christ comment and I clearly recall Webb being accused of Jewbaiting because of it. But, like those other expressions, it's just an expression. I've called people the anti-Christ many times - including various bosses I've worked for - while my tongue has remained firmly planted in my cheek. It had absolutely no religious connotation. Although, on second thought, it might be disrespectful to devout Christians so I've decided to refrain from using that expression.

However, I recall seeing Miller referred to as the anti-Christ of IT workers because of his outsourcing positions. I've seen that expression used on blogs for a while before Webb ever picked it up. I think Webb just ran with it because he saw it and thought it was expressive. Anti-semitism and Jewbaiting were probably the furthest thing from his mind.

Anyway, my main point is that I don't think Miller is the anti-christ of anything. I just oppose his positions. And I don't think Jim Webb is anti-semitic. And I do think that those who would fan the flames of this thing higher may not be intentionally anti-semitic but they certainly aren't helping Jews. Because every false accusation trivializes a real problem. You can't cry wolf without someday getting bit.

And Alice, Awwww... put the comment back. I missed it and I'm curious. Now I won't sleep tonight.
Heck, email it to me. I promise I won't tell. But the suspense, that's unfair.

Jason Kenney said...

anon - As I said on my site, I felt the "anti-Christ" statement was tame aside from the fact it makes no sense (wouldn't the "anti-Christ" of something be its enemy?).

My issue is with Ben taking Miller's quote and countering it simply by stating that Miller is Jewish. What does Miller's faith have to do with his usage of "church" and "choir"? To someone who does not know Ben's faith, the insinuations of such a post can lead to calls of "jewbaiting", especially with the post coming so hotly on the heels of the "anti-Christ" dust-up. Knowing Ben's faith makes the post that much more odd because I still don't get the point he was trying to make. Was it tounge in cheek? Was it a smear? Was it Ben just having a bad day?

Instead of responding rationally to my questions they attack, which really blows my mind.

I think Webb's comment lacked the kind of tact we should expect from a Senatorial candidate but I'm not about to crucify him over it (oh, crap, a religious reference!). I think Ben's reaction to Miller's comment was inappropriate as well and if Ben had merely explained himself this wouldn't be an issue, but instead he went on the attack.

And I quoted most of Alice's initial post here, if you're interested.

ThomasPainePatriot said...

Harris Miller is Jewish. Jim Webb's second wife is Vietnamese. I'm a WASP. Who cares! Let's get to the issues. Webb has never had any connection to labor. The Sheet Metal Workers Union that endorsed him has given more than $150,000 to Republican congressional candidates over the last six years. Who is the real Democrat? Harris Miller, of course.

AnonymousIsAWoman said...

Jason, point taken. For as long as I've known Ben - and I've known him for a long time - I would guess that he was a)having a bad hair day; b)had his tongue firmly planted in his cheek; c) actually just has a sarcastic sense of humor - as do many journalists and not a few politicians behind the scenes. And bloggers, as you probably know, like to be a bit outrageous and inflammatory at times. It's the one thing we can do that the MSM has gotten timid about since the demise of the golden age of yellow journalism.

However, I think the anti-Semitism charge has taken on a life of its own. I am going to do a post either tonight or tomorrow about why I think there is a disconnect between well-intentioned non-Jews and the Jewish blogging community over this. I really believe there may be two different ways of viewing our universe. And we don't always realize that we are looking at one thing through very different filters of experience. Anyway, I don't mean to be mysterious but I promise I'll explain it more fully later today.

And Thomaspainepatriot, the fact that the Sheet Metal Workers Union gave money to the Republicans is as understandable as Harris Miller donating to major Republican candidates. It's not personal, it's business.

They both did it for the same reason. Those candidates were friendly to their particular causes.

It sounds cynical. But stop and think. If you were an idealistic environmentalist or peace activist and wanted to get people who supported your cause elected or re-elected - and that cause might be on the side of angels - you too would raise money and give it to the candidate most likely to promote your ideals.

It looks cynical when a large corporation does it, or even a union, because we all suspect that their reasons are to promote their own narrow interests over the general welfare. And that's all too often true.

But unless we all want to become socialists, the basic economic well-being of business could benefit all of us, as long as there are proper checks and balances on abusive business practices.

Likewise, a lot of things that unions support benefit those who will never join a union. Things such as minimum wage, overtime laws, even family friendly leave and Americans with Disabilities Act, all of which organized labor supported.

The dangers of lobbying come with its abuses not with lobbying itself. To be against all lobbying is actually to be against citizen access to elected officials. Everybody can lobby a congressman. Church and other volunteer groups do it all the time on special "social action days" or days dedicated by representatives to meet with folks from their hometowns.

Again, the problems come when money buys inordinate access. And when representatives lose sight of their responsibility for the common good.

As to who’s the real Democrat? When Ben Nighthorse Campbell or Phil Gramm or Billy Tauzin became Republicans, few in that party asked if they were "real Republicans." They knew a windfall when they saw it and ran with the advantage.

It might not hurt us to do the same. But perhaps yours is a valid question. I keep hearing about real Democrats and our core values. But what are the core Democratic values? I suspect that if I put up what I think they should be, based on the tradition of Jefferson, Jackson, FDR and Kennedy, we might be shocked at how few of our own Fairfax Democrats still actually hold those values.

I'll do a post on it someday. And when I do, I don't expect to get a whole lot of thank yous from elected officials.