Re: Romney and Kosher Meals

by Patrick Brennan

Jeffrey Lord at The American Spectator has attempted an apologia for Newt Gingrich’s odious and dishonest assertions about Romney and kosher meals for seniors. There is no defense for the Gingrich campaign’s most scurrilous claim, made to thousands of Florida voters, that, thanks to Governor Romney, “Holocaust survivors . . . for the first time, were forced to eat non-kosher.”

Lord admits that he has “no idea” if it’s true. It seems, therefore, he should not be defending Gingrich’s campaign for saying it. And it is untrue — categorically so. Non-kosher meals were never given to seniors, and Romney’s actions, which were overridden by the legislature, wouldn’t have made that happen.

First, Lord seizes on one of my statements, that Romney vetoed a special bill intended to provide new funding for kosher kitchens in nursing homes “due to state budget constraints.” Lord is correct to point out that Romney was not acting subject to statutory constraints, but making choices to rein in a budget deficit. But the choice came up only because nursing homes had planned to cut spending on kosher meals to allocate resources elsewhere, after Medicare subsidy cuts had forced them to make tough budgetary choices.

As one of those budget choices, some nursing homes planned to find a cheaper source of kosher food — bringing it from other nursing homes nearby or contracting the service out to caterers — and to close their kosher kitchens. The state legislature, after lobbying by Jewish groups, then proposed $600,000 in extra funding to nursing homes so they could continue operating their own kitchens.

Lord is thus incorrect in claiming that Romney “deliberately picked the kosher food cut” — the nursing homes were making their own budgetary choices, the state wasn’t making any cuts at all, and Romney decided the state shouldn’t spend more and give them more funding specifically for them to continue operating kosher kitchens.

Lord is right to note that Gingrich’s robo-call is not technically dishonest to claim that Romney “vetoed a bill paying for kosher food for our seniors in nursing homes.” But on the stump, Gingrich has argued this more deceptively, saying that Romney “eliminated kosher food from retired Jewish senior citizens on Medicaid,” which isn’t accurate at all, since Romney was vetoing a new budget proviso, not eliminating an existing program, and would have just required nursing homes to change their source of kosher food.

The worst of Gingrich’s lies bears repeating: “Holocaust survivors . . . for the first time, were forced to eat non-kosher.” No Jewish seniors were served non-kosher meals. The nursing homes were to continue serving kosher meals even if Romney blocked the extra funding, and the funding did go through anyway.

There could have been Holocaust survivors in those nursing homes, but Gingrich’s campaign deserves censure here, too, for the invidious and unsubstantiated, even vaguely offensive, jump from a discussion of Jewish senior citizens to “Holocaust survivors.” Lord seems determined to abase himself defending every lame emanation from the Gingrich campaign — and is succeeding quite brilliantly.

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