Power Soup for the Soul: Jews and the President
   The New York Observer
   March 15, 1999 Philip Weiss
   Power Soup for the Soul: Jews and the President
   by Philip Weiss
   Blacks and Jews have often helped one another politically, and this
   has been the case in the Clinton scandals. Were constantly being told
   about black support for the President. "Blacks Stand by a President
   Who Has Been There for Us," The New York Times says. Or Toni Morrison
   declares that Bill Clinton is black, in The New Yorker. These
   statements do a kind of double duty by allowing the media not to have
   to talk about Jewish support for the President. But Jews have stuck by
   Mr. Clinton to nearly the degree that blacks have. A Quinnipiac
   College poll of New York State voters shows that while black approval
   of the Presidents job performance has hovered over 90 percent since
   the Lewinsky scandal broke, Jewish approval has gone between 76 and 83
   percent, far above the average.
   Jewish support is actually more important than black support, and not
   just because Jeffrey Katzenberg has a house in Deer Valley, Utah. Jews
   are more powerful. Not one black person voted to acquit President
   Clinton of impeachment charges. But 11 of 100 Senators are Jewish and
   they each cast two votes on his side (22 of 105 acquittal votes).
   No one talks about Jewish support for Mr. Clinton. For one thing
   because denial of the obvious is now the central mode of intellectual
   discourse when it comes to the Lipbitersorry, alleged lip biter. More
   important, because a discussion would require an acknowledgment of
   Jewish power. The Establishment is now heavily Jewish, from Alan
   Greenspan and Robert Rubin on down. There are unprecedented numbers of
   Jews in the White House and in Congress, Mr. Clintons two appointees
   to the Supreme Court have both been Jewish, and, out from there, Jews
   are among the big winners in the economic boom and are all over the
   Ivy League and the statusy jobs of the information age, the news
   The Clinton scandals teem with Jewish helpers. I will mention Sidney
   Blumenthal only once in this article. "Lewinskys Jewishness had become
   Topic A in Jewish circles," Daniel Kurtzman of the Jewish Telegraphic
   Agency (a news service for the Jewish press) recently wrote, looking
   back on the scandal. "Jews have been there at every major turnwhether
   as Clintons confidants, steadfast defenders, repairers of the breach,
   or other bit players."
   When asked where he had first heard the name Monica Lewinsky, Mr.
   Blumenthal (oh, well), said that he had tapped into the Drudge Report
   while "I was at my parents house in Chicago for my young cousins bar
   mitzvah." Monica gave the President a Yiddish book, Oy Vey, and her
   former lawyer, William Ginsburg, suggested that Monica wasnt going to
   cooperate with Ken Starr because he and Monica and the President were
   all friends of Israel. Mr. Starrs investigators asked several
   questions about a Passover seder attended by Clinton adviser Harold
   Ickes and Pentagon spokesman Kenneth Bacon after Mr. Bacon had given
   out Linda Tripps confidential (and mendacious) file, in violation of
   law, to The New Yorker.
   From my spot as a happily-assimilating-but-still-very-Jewy Jew, I
   lament the degree of Jewish support for Mr. Clinton. I grew up
   idolizing Jews of political conscience who battled the Establishment:
   Daniel Ellsberg, Victor Navasky. Thats what I thought Jews in public
   life stood for. Now they seem to stand for the view that we know all
   we need to know about this Administration, and anyone who asks
   questions deserves to have their motives examined. Of course, anyone
   who finds Bill Clinton as despicable as I do has lots of other
   Americans to deplore.
   But smart liberal Jews have been particularly insistent, and stupid.
   Last August, after Mr. Clintons staggeringly terse admission, after
   seven months of lying, that he had had "inappropriate" relations with
   Lewinsky, Barbara Boxer congratulated him for taking "full
   responsibility" for the relationship and the American Jewish Congress
   offered that "It is time to set aside our preoccupation with foolish
   things and for the Congress together with the President to deal with
   those matters that count."
   I think Jewish thinking about Bill Clinton is distorted by two
   (1) The close identification of Jewish success culture with the
   Administration has made it all but impossible for Jews to separate
   their interests from President Clintons.
   As Barbara Walters sadly debased excitement over Monica Lewinskys
   emotionally retarded affair suggested, there is a secret Jewish pride
   and security in the fact that Bill Clinton loves Jews and Jews love
   Bill Clinton. Absent of racism, Mr. Clinton is also absent of
   anti-Semitism. When he first met the then-very-seasick Robert Reich on
   a boat going over to England, Mr. Clinton brought chicken soup to his
   room and kept exclaiming what a marvel it was that the two of them
   were going off together to England.
   My generation grew up fearing WASPs of the haut-George Bush variety.
   "Texas and MaineMr. Bushs circle was very old-fashioned WASP and didnt
   contain Jews. His air is cool, diplomat, detached colonial," said
   Stephen Silverfarb of the National Jewish Democratic Council. Linda
   Tripp, who loved George Bush and sees virtue in ambitionless
   employment, evokes some of these same feelings. (Am I the only member
   of the powerful Jewish media who had to call his Protestant
   mother-in-law to find out what Linda Tripp meant by the furnishing she
   said she stowed the tapes on: a "huntboard"?)
   By contrast, Bill Clinton is the kind of WASP Jews love. White-trash
   beginnings that allowed him to look up to us and us to look down at
   him. And (as my friend Dan Swanson frequently reminds me) Mr. Clinton
   was not, like most other Presidents, even Richard Nixon, on the high
   school football team. No, Bill Clinton went out for band (a decision
   Mr. Swanson assails because Mr. Clintons beefy body was needed on the
   Hot Springs High School line rather than "puffing on his tuba"). Band
   over football: Thats an important cultural signifier members of a
   cerebral culture unconsciously identify with.
   The Jews and Bill arrived at the top at the same time, and his
   Administration is now filled with meritocratic Jews who adore prestige
   (2) The second factor distorting many Jews response is a noble
   tradition of identifying with persecuted outsiders.
   Jews tend to think of the Bush Administration (with its lukewarm
   feelings toward Israel), the religious right and Ken Starr as elements
   of a goyishe anti-Semitic America that is far more powerful than the
   Clintons. Sidney Blumenthal (sorry, Sidney, let me take you to lunch)
   put this culture war most plainly when in his speech at Harvard last
   year he painted Mr. Starrs deputy as a "religious fanatic," apparently
   because he goes to church. Mr. Kurtzman, in the Jewish Telegraphic
   Agency, invokes a parallel among some Jews that I have also heard
   among my friends: Monica is Queen Esther. If you remember your Bible,
   Esther is a Jewish woman, celebrated in the festival of Purim, who as
   a member of Persian King Ahasueras harem went to the king and
   convinced him to save the Jews from a genocidal plot by the evil
   Haman. In this reading, Ken Starr figures as Haman Ken Starr the
   thin-lipped former Bible salesman, as Andrew Morton characterizes him
   in Monicas Story (S.I. Newhouse Jr. and the Lewinskys agree: Hire
   English). I think theres anti-anti-Semitism in these views, prejudice
   against Christians.
   And while Anthony Lewis endless attacks on Ken Starr remind me of the
   nobility of Jewish conscience, there has always been something
   Bostonishly off about Mr. Lewis perspective, something preciously,
   quixotically out of touch. Wouldnt he be more persuasive if he
   occasionally acknowledged the grave abuses by the executive branch
   that Mr. Starr was appointed to investigate? The F.B.I. files, say. Or
   when Mr. Lewis talks about Mr. Starrs thuggish treatment of Monica,
   does it ever cross his mind that in the real world, U.S. attorneys are
   often meanies to felons, and that Ms. Lewinsky had lately committed a
   felony completely unrelated to a private consensual affair: She had
   pressured Linda Tripp to lie under oath about the Kathleen Willey
   matter, even supplied her with false testimony? Barbara Walters also
   ignored that crime.
   Lately, Jonathan Alter wrote in Newsweek that Ms. Lewinsky had been
   censored by Mr. Starrs "henchmen." Hes right; she was censored. But
   where is the sense of proportion? Is Monica someone who has had
   difficulty expressing her (trashily banal) thoughts? For that matter,
   when Victor Navaskys Nation does a tab on the giant legal fees Clinton
   aides have racked up, why isnt a central issue the pressure that these
   aides have faced, from an ethically degraded
   youre-with-us-or-against-us crowd, to lie about matters of public
   concern, often by coordinating lawyers?
   These points are ignored because they dont fit the outsider paradigm.
   Thats why Juanita Broaddricks compelling story of sexual assault also
   must be ignored or rationalized. When someone on MSNBC suggested that
   he couldnt wait till Alan Dershowitz cross-examined Mrs. Broaddrick, I
   was sickened to my stomach. Is this what Jews stand for now?
   I dont think its just coincidence that many of the most sniggering
   attacks on Bill Clintons accusers have come from Jewish members of the
   media. Hendrik Hertzberg in The New Yorker calling Paula Jones a "pop
   tart." Mr. Alter suggesting that while believable, Mrs. Broaddrick
   reflects as much disgrace on the Republicans as she does on Bill
   Clinton(hows that again?) just as years ago he worked to undermine
   Gennifer Flowers story as unreliable claims by a former cabaret
   singer. Anthony Lewis attacking a Troopers motives in an effort to
   undermine his story. (Essay question: How many meritocrats would like
   a job that includes procuring?) Michael Kinsley producing an on-line
   magazine, Slate, where Mrs. Broaddrick and other former Clinton women
   who have spoken of their fears are generally treated as a source of
   snarky titters. And lets not forget The New York Times disgraceful
   treatment of Mrs. Broaddrick as a right-wing nut case.
   Meantime, all the meritocrats ridicule rude types like Larry Klayman
   and Chris Ruddy, who, for all their right-wing ideology, have been
   asking probing questions about the powerful, going back to Vince
   Foster. (That is one good thing about doing away with the independent
   counsel law. Meritocrats so worship government that they have yielded
   all their investigative brain cells to government. Maybe the
   elimination of this job will force other aspects of professional
   culture to develop a little more independence.)
   Im breaking the rules here; its never cricket for Jews to talk openly
   about Jewish power. As proud as Jews are of their success, they dont
   like to self-identify. "There is a Congressional black caucus, not a
   Congressional Jewish caucus," Mr. Silverfarb points out. Jews downplay
   their influence in part because they dont take it for granted, indeed
   they fear that such identification will unleash anti-Semitism and
   bring their so-far-brief success dream to a violent end. Remember when
   Alan Dershowitz justly blasted Bob Barr for talking about "real
   But Mr. Dershowitz got hysterical, a sign that those fears are
   overblown. And the refusal to talk about Jewish power is a sign of
   immaturity, drawing on the nostalgic belief that we are still
   outsiders. Its a lot more stirring to be outsiders, but its a
   sociological delusion. Wake up. How many Ivy League presidents are
   Jewish? Mrs. Broaddrick, fearful of being destroyed as other Clinton
   women were, forced to lobby NBC to tell her story, slimed by The
   Times, is actually an American outsider.
   Finally, I dont want to leave the impression that Jewish opinion is
   monolithic. Several of the right-wing attorneys who cross-pollinated
   the Jones-Lewinsky matter, and whom The Times is constantly harping
   on, are Jews. Mr. Starrs most thoughtful questioner is Solomon
   Wisenberg. The tradition of independent Jewish inquiry is alive if not
   well, if you read Washington Post columnist Richard Cohens brave and
   honest struggles over the Broaddrick controversy and Seymour Hershs
   report in The New Yorker that the bombing of the Sudanese
   pharmaceutical plant had political motivation.
   Whats more, the Clinton era has produced a fine book of Jewish
   conscience: Locked in the Cabinet, by Robert Reich. Mr. Reich spent
   four years as Labor Secretary trying to meet working people around the
   country to see how they actually spent their lives. (How many
   meritocrats do that?) Three decades after Bill Clinton brought him
   chicken soup, the tiny Jew confronted the President in the Oval Office
   and told him it was "insane" to cave in to the Republicans on welfare
   reform. Then Mr. Reich resigned.
   Is that what Jews stand for? Alas, when I think about Jews and Bill
   Clinton, another book comes to mind. Monicas Story represents the very
   worst values of the new establishment, materialistic, entitled, social
   climbing, self-absorbed, victimized, obsessed with appearances. What
   do Jews stand for in that book? They dont, they are on their knees.

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