Politics & Policy

Total Request Live

A little journalistic brunch.

This is a very slow week, so I’m gonna try something different. In the last couple months, I’ve asked readers to send me suggestions for column topics and for cash. So far you’re batting .500 with zero cash and a lot of topics. So, I figured I’d start a new occasional column feature, and go through the backlog of reader requests.

It’s sort of a journalistic brunch.

(Brunch?” You ask. “What’s that?” Well, it’s not quite breakfast, and it’s not quite lunch, but it comes with a slice of cantaloupe at the end. You don’t get completely what you would at breakfast, but you get a good meal).

In other words (for the Simpsons-impaired), this isn’t quite a corrections column, it isn’t quite a regular column and I’m afraid you can’t have a slice of cantaloupe — I didn’t bring enough for everybody — but hopefully you’ll get a good column in the end.

Alas, I must start with a real, fairly embarrassing correction in regard to my column on the signers of the Declaration of Independence. Slate’s Tim Noah has caught me in a mistake. If you click here, you can see his piece and the letter and mea culpa I’ve written in response. All will be clear.

Anyway, back to the good times, i.e., French bashing. By far the most common request is for more speaking truth-to-power about our strategic partners in peace. Indeed, I am rather proud of my reputation as a leading opponent of the forces of Gallic hegemony. Whenever a news story breaks about how the French are being smug or brave in their “Hold me back! Hold me back!” kind of way, I’m delighted that so many of you feel it’s necessary to notify me. Many of you are perplexed, however, by the fact that I do not write whole columns attacking the “cheese-eating surrender monkeys” (a Simpsons phrase I believe I’ve been at the forefront of popularizing).

Well, first of all, I have written several whole columns attacking the French. Here are three:

1. Click here; 2. or here;

3. or here.

And, if you simply type “French” into NRO’s search engine, you’ll find a lot more bashing. Still, I am pleased to announce that this Bastille Day I will reprise the tradition of “Happy Cheese-Eating Surrender Monkey Day” and do a whole column of French bashing. If you’ve got ammo, send it my way — God knows the French never used theirs when it mattered.

Another frequent column request is for me to explain why Jews are so liberal. This usually comes from first time readers who stumble on the column and have to keep checking back and forth between the name “Goldberg” and the conservative content. Occasionally, the shock manifests itself in slightly ick-making anti-Semitism, but usually it’s just shock. “How can a Jewish journalist be so reasonable?” is a pretty common question in one form or another. Another common question comes from Jewish liberals who ask, “How can a Jew support racists and fascists like you do?”

Honestly, of the two I’m way more offended by the latter question than the former. Most people who ask “How can a Jew be a conservative?” are asking a fairly empirical question. Most Jews are liberals. Almost fifty years ago Nathan Glazer wrote, “Jews are the most liberal group in the country,” and that hasn’t changed. If you think conventional media liberalism is unreasonable and you know that most Jews in the media are conventional liberals, why shouldn’t you be surprised by a guy named “Goldberg” who quotes Burke?

But the Jews who ask how I can betray Judaism by being a conservative are pretty much idiots as far as I’m concerned, and pretty offensive idiots at that. Their basic argument inevitably boils down to the idea that because some racists agree with me about lowering taxes or because I agree with some Evangelical Christians that we should leave Bob Jones University alone that somehow I am betraying my faith. I betray my faith by not being observant enough and by thinking pigs taste really good, but politics has nothing to do with being a good Jew, or at least it shouldn’t. Who cares if some Christians want to convert Jews? As I understand Christianity, the desire to convert people is based in love not hate — though the actual record on this score ain’t too hot. As Irving Kristol likes to say, “The real danger from Christians in America is not that they want to kill or convert Jews, it’s that they want to marry them.” And to be honest, in all my travels among the hate-filled Christian Right, I haven’t met a single person who was very religious and anti-Semitic.

As for the actual question, “Why are Jews so liberal?” that’s a long story and anyone really serious about it should go read Commentary magazine and A Jewish Conservative Looks at Pagan America by Don Feder and If I Am Not for Myself… : The Liberal Betrayal of the Jews by Ruth Wisse.

But if that’s too much of a hassle, here’s a short and very partial answer in the meantime. Ever since the Diaspora, Jews have had a cultural strategy which relied heavily on two things: education and the good will of the State. The education part was a great idea and has served Jews very well, especially in the United States. Unfortunately, faith in the benevolence of the State was never too hot an idea. Whatever can be granted by a Czar or King can be taken away just as quickly. Sometimes Jews would thrive for centuries, as they did in Spain or in parts of Russia. But eventually the Inquisition or the Pogrom would come. The Holocaust, shockingly in my mind, reinforced the idea that an active state was a good thing. The Holocaust also serves as a legitimate and permanent reminder of the importance of protecting minority rights.

Today, a combination of hyper-education, guilt, victimology, and the confusion of liberal means with ethical Jewish ends is almost perfectly knotted together. Jewish liberalism is not monolithic; many of the best conservatives are Jewish. But if you’re hoping for a mass migration any time soon, don’t hold your breath. As Don Feder has written, “shrimp will learn to whistle Hava Nigilah before American Jews escape the liberal ghetto.”

We only have room for one more. And since its fresh on my mind I’ll pick a request stemming from yesterday’s column. I mocked Skidmore College for having the temerity not to accept me in their ranks when I applied to college so many moons ago. This prompted a bunch of you to ask me, “Well, what school did you go to?” Well I went to Goucher College in Baltimore, Maryland. I’ve written about this before, but Goucher was an all-women’s college. I was accepted because my freshmen year was the first year they admitted men and I got in through affirmative action. It was a very strange place to go to college and someday I’ll tell ya more. In the meantime, you can read an old column about it.

Or you can check out NRO Weekend. We’ll have Rich Lowry on The Fall of the Yankees….Ben Domenech on Britney Spears….Chris McEvoy on The Who….Kathryn Lopez on “Good Girl Messages”….Jessica Gavora (a.k.a. “The Woman” of many a G-File) on an Alaskan Summer….


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