The Campaign Spot

Election-driven news and views . . . by Jim Geraghty.

James Jones Will Never Walk Into a Bar With a Priest and a Rabbi


From the Tuesday edition of the  Morning Jolt:

Keep Up With This Jones? Well, Sometimes His Thinking Is Hard to Follow

Way back in 2008, I, among others, speculated about retired general James Jones as a running mate for John McCain. Since joining the Obama administration, Jones hasn’t been the regular generator of gaffes, controversies, and regrettable decisions the way Biden, Holder, and Napolitano have been. He started out pretty quiet in what had traditionally been a high-profile position, and before long was fending off rumors – unfounded, it seems – that he’s “so forgetful that at times he appears to have Alzheimer’s disease.”

Jones’ recent Jewish joke wasn’t a senile moment, but it required an epic tone-deafness that is best described as Biden-esque.

It’s been noted that U.S.-Israeli relations are at the lowest point in a generation. Yes, an earlier edition of this newsletter noted that plenty of Jews aren’t all that worried about how Obama treats the issue of Israel’s security, and figure Obama is handling all this just fine. But those who are paying attention are recognizing that Americans elected a president who isn’t particularly emotionally attached to the Jewish state and who seems convinced that a newly-conciliatory, peace-minded Palestinian attitude awaits after just one more round of concessions from Israel.

I don’t think Jones is an anti-Semite; I think he’s a clod. This wasn’t the worst joke in the world, but it takes a pretty amazing ability to not grasp the diplomatic ramifications of opening a speech about the Middle East peace process with a joke about those shrewd, tricky Jewish merchants. It takes an even greater ability to not sense the potential backlash to this kind of joke at a time like this. I suppose we should be glad he didn’t describe the South Park episode at length, or begin telling Polish jokes at that nation’s recent funeral.

The Anchoress: “All-in-all, I’d call it a very unwise joke for a security advisor to the American president to make, especially if the president is trying to convince the nation -by his words more than his actions- that he supports capitalism and the free market, the existence of Israel and the defeat of the Taliban.  The truth is the joke would have been inappropriate under any president; the White House and its administrators should never be in the business of laughing at anyone but themselves, because other-directed humor signals insecurity; self-denigrating humor does the opposite. A joke, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder, and -to some extent- so is a slur. How one receives a thing says much more about oneself than any joke or compliment or hateful remark.”

Tom Maguire is underwhelmed  with the rest of Jones’ speech: “Many Palestinians (and their partners in the international grievance community, such as Iran) may believe a narrative in which the tide of history is running their way – Israel is more isolated now with Obama in office, Iran is closer to a bomb, Gaza has been returned to the Palestinians in exchange for not much, and  who knows what the next decade will bring – in this environment, why should Palestinians sign away their imagined “right of return” now?  And how would Palestinians react to a “peace” deal imposed by the US – would they say “Peace at last” and resume something like a normal life, or would this become the Versailles Treaty of the 21st century?”

Worth noting in all this is how so many of these controversies break down along partisan lines; it’s tough to find a liberal blog that considers Jones’ joke a big deal, and yet I’m sure all of them were convinced, instantly, that “macaca” wasn’t a garden-variety insult but a deliberate racial slur. We never seem to think the bad jokes on our own side are worth worrying about, do we?

Tags: Barack Obama , Israel , James Jones


Subscribe to National Review