As Dan blogged yesterday, National Security Advisor General James Jones over the weekend started his remarks to the Washington Institute For Near East Policy with a joke I heard when I was in grade school.*
Quite the furor from all sides. Nobody seems to be giving the guy a pass here. As usual, I find I’m the only one who seems to feel the way I do. Which is:
First: Um, it was a joke. Without getting into a long discussion of the use of hyperbole and stereotype in humor, I’ll leave it at: Some stuff’s funny, some stuff’s not. I don’t think Jones did a great job with his delivery (took way too long), and perhaps any joke with racial or cultural overtones would be inappropriate if you’re representing your boss. But it was a joke. Have we grown so calous as a Nation to the actual things going on around us that it’s peoples’ choice of humor that drives us so mad with indignation? Isn’t that (granted, on a much, much smaller scale) what we’re fighting against?
Second: I have much more problem with this Administration’s anti-Israel positions than the jokes his NSA tells. Here’s a guy who brow-beats Israel for building apartments in Jerusalem. (Um, is there any part of the “peace process” that takes that off the table?) Here’s a guy who is cuddling up with Syria. Here’s a guy who seems, shall we say, cavalier about Iranian nukes. Here’s a guy who treats their head of state like some sort of pariah. Looking for some sort of “undertone” or “hidden anti-Semitic agenda” in a silly joke is along the lines of the old sledge-hammer analogy. Obama’s anti-Israel agenda is pretty clear to see.
What I care about is what he’s doing. There’s enough there to not spend my energy getting too wound up about a joke.
-Nick (ColoradoPatriot, from HQ)
*(Full disclosure, when I was a kid, I knew an old Jewish guy. He loved his Jewish jokes, thus early on I was exposed to the self-depricating humor one appreciates when he’s a wise old guy. Methinks this has a lot to do, also, with my historic lack of sensitivity to most charges of “racism” based only on things someone says, rather than his actions. Perhaps having been raised out West and among tolerant people, I developed my aw, get over it reaction to perceived slights.)
UPDATE (from Dan): Nick, it’s one thing for a Jew to tell a self-deprecating joke. It’s quite another for a man with a questionable record on Israel telling the joke. Not just that, given the Administration’s anti-Israel positions, it showed a terrible absence of judgment. There’s no problem with telling a joke. That’s not the issue here. The issue is the context which you get at with your second point.
There is an emerging tension between this Administration and its Jewish supporters as per its Israel policies. (See e.g., this Jewish Obama supporter‘s lament.) And this joke exacerbated the tensions while playing into the worst stereotypes of Jews.