POLITICAL CORRECTNESS IN OUR NATION’S CAPITAL So last night I’m playing hunter-gatherer with my television (no that’s not some kinky role-playing game like the president and the intern). In my breakneck search for anything to watch, I stop briefly on the local 10 o’clock news, and there’s a report from City Hall about a top aide to our new mayor here in the nation’s capital. “Jane, it’s tense tonight at City Hall as a second top aide to the mayor has resigned in as many weeks,” or so it sounded to me. Whether it was that intriguing tag line or simply a desire to scratch that caused me to pause, who can say? But pause I did.
” . . . As the story is unfolding, so-and-so has resigned for using a term for “miserly” that was confused for a racial slur. So-and-so is the public advocate for the District and as the rumor spread through City Hall that he had used an ethnic slur he felt compelled to resign. So-and-so is white.” And that was about it. They never said what the phrase was. Considering the sensitivities today, the phrase could have been anything, so I started to think. Maybe he said, “Look there’s just not enough money in the budget, let’s scotch this plan.” The Scottish community in Washington isn’t very vocal, but you never know. They are a rowdy bunch.
Or maybe he said, “Now that we’ve scotched this plan, let’s take up the new budget after lunch. How ‘bout we go Dutch treat.” There really isn’t a Dutch community in Washington. But I knew a couple of Dutch people, and at least one or two of them were pretty sensitive guys. And of course there was the mobster, Dutch Schultz. He was very testy, but he was Jewish.
Which then made me think, hmm maybe he was referring to my people’s famed Hebraic restraint in fiscal matters. Perhaps he said something like “Gosh, I hope the control board doesn’t Jew us to death on the nickel and dime stuff.”
When Jews in Washington aren’t busy arguing about Israel or donating disproportionately their time and money to worthy causes, they get very persnickety about this kind of stuff. But as I subscribe to the Zog Faxwire, I would have heard about it already, and he would have met with an “accident.”
So what could it have been?
Did he say that the Republican-controlled House had gypped the district? Very likely, but the Gypsy lobby hasn’t really made an issue of this slanderous term for years. They’re too busy stealing cameras from American tourists in Italy.
“Let’s put some English on the budget and see if we can get it by them”? Nah.
“Let’s take French leave of these negotiations.” No one uses that phrase anymore since most think it means to lay down your weapons and abandon your positions, in the face of minor German resistance.
“Boy, these pension numbers really leave us in a Mexican standoff!”
“Not investing in the market and sewing all that cash into the mattress would really be a Polish way to handle things”?
None of them seemed to work. So this morning I picked up the paper, and low and behold the answer was there. “David Howard, Mayor Anthony A. Williams’ chief public advocate has quit after using the word some staffers said they heard as a racial slur,” was how the Washington Times began its coverage. The word: “niggardly.”
Now, niggardly is a word that does mean miserly, and does sound a lot like, well, you know what it sounds like. But you see, niggardly is a word with Scandinavian roots. In 16th century Sweden a “nigard” was a miser. Now that other word is derived from the Spanish “negro,” meaning black which in turn comes from the Latin denigrare which literally means “to blacken.” This was also the original meaning of “denigrate,” as well as a metaphorical use meaning to belittle or defame.
To my knowledge, I’m not sure the “n-word” ever meant parsimonious in any common American usage. But I’m not very familiar with the subtleties of the n- word. Where can I get up to speed? I know! I’ll just listen to virtually every rap song on the Billboard charts to learn how to use it properly.
What an unbelievable triumph for the forces of political correctness and deliberate ignorance. The news reporter last night could not even bring herself to use the word niggardly in her attempt to clarify the story! What we’re witnessing here in the capital is a man surrendering to the ignorance of his constituency and resigning (unlike someone else in the capital whose transgressions are pretty well understood by his constituents).
This poor schlub has resigned under incredible pressure for using a near homonym of a bad word whose etymology actually denigrates blond, blue-eyed cheapskates from the 16th century. Apparently the standard for resignation is not met by oh, I dunno, obstruction of justice, perjury, grubby sex with the help, smug lying to the American people, etc., but if you use a word that sounds like a racial slur — watch out! You are out of here.
Public servants, use caution: don’t fly a kite, fish for pollocks, or demand that a check be cancelled, let alone feel a nip in the wind, smoke a fag, or get your house spic and span.
(Of course, this would be a little funnier if I thought that this guy would actually have been ousted for saying “Jew us to death,” but that’s a different column).
HOW’S THAT AGAIN, MR. KENDALL? One little impeachment aside. David Kendall yesterday threatened the Senate with an endless series of delays if the managers were allowed to call witnesses and “let the genie out of the bottle.” The House had impeached the president on the basis of “10,000 pages of grand-jury testimony; over 800 pages of other testimony, such as depositions; 3,400 pages of documentary evidence, 1,800 pages of audio transcripts, and some 800-and-some pages of FBI interviews.” Take a breath David.
Then, Kendall, to great effect, criticized House managers, saying they “sang a different song” about witnesses last year. If they could impeach the president without witnesses, Mr. Kendall argues, as if everyone in the room were morons for not agreeing, we can try the president without witnesses. By this, Mr. Kendall seems to be saying that the Senate requires the same burden of proof as the House in impeachment matters. Essentially, according to Kendall’s argument, if the House saw fit to impeach, the Senate can see fit to convict. Let’s flip it around. Say the House had called piles of witnesses and impeached the president resoundingly. Would it then be reasonable for the House managers to say, “There’s no need for any more witnesses. Let’s have a straight up or down vote right now”? Of course not. In the Andrew Johnson impeachment, the House was essentially a turnstile for the articles of impeachment. In the Senate, though, there were zillions of witnesses.
MUST READ OF THE DAY People often ask why I don’t just walk away from this scandal. The diminishing returns for my career are kicking in like that fifth shot of tequila. Well, the very short answer is: that’s exactly what the White House wants. No, I don’t mean I’m a central or even peripheral part of their strategy. But the strategy remains to stonewall and attack until people get so sick of all this that it just goes away. David Brooks of The Weekly Standard summarizes cogently in today’s New York Times how that strategy got us where we are. Check it out.
MUST NOT READ OF THE DAY Adjacent to Brooks’s piece, Maureen Dowd has managed to summarize her style for the last six months in a single column. She dedicated 90% of her prose to a wonderful explication of why the president is a jerk, a pig, a lout, a manipulator, etc. And then she concludes with no explanation, only assertion, that Henry Hyde et. al. are more “heinous” than the president. Whatever, Maureen.