Sunday, October 12, 2008

Huckabee proves Jew-Baiting has a long shelf life

Mike Huckabee's new show is really awful. But at least it has a good time slot- 8 pm on Saturday nights when hopefully no one is really paying attention. The last episode featured a particularly dumb segment, "Are you smarter than your Congressman?" By Congressman, Huckabee apparently meant the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, because the only clips he showed were of her, and they were both about the speech she gave on Sep 29- a scant two weeks ago. How topical!

The first clip featured Pelosi talking about the impending recess and urging Congress to remember that Americans were hurting significantly and needed help. Huckabee then asked a dimwit named Sherrod Small for his thoughts. This is funny for a few reasons:

A- Small is from New York, thereby making Pelosi actually the exact opposite of his Congressman.

B- Small is a quasi-well-known comedian from VH1's Best Week Ever, a show not exactly known for its sympathy to Huckabee's political positions. Why on earth did they pick this guy to be a participant in this segment? Small has nothing in common with anyone in this audience.

But it got better, because Huckabee's spin was that Congress was lazy for going "on a holiday." Small picked up on this and ran with it (Huffington Post has video and transcript):

PELOSI (video): But my colleagues, as you go home and see your families and observe the holiday and the rest, don't get settled in too far. Because as long as the Americ - this challenge is there for the American people, the threat of losing their jobs, their credit, their savings, their retirement, the opportunity for them to send their children to college - as long as in the households of America, this crisis is being felt very immediately, and being addressed at a different level --"

HUCK: Okay Sherrod, are you smarter than a Congressman? What would YOU have said instead of what we just heard Ms. Pelosi say?

SHERROD: Well, first of all, what she said was, 'Before you go home and enjoy your holidays and buy gifts and a Christmas tree, and turkeys, just keep in mind that some people are losing everything.' Which I think was the wrong thing to say. I would have said, before we go on vacation, let's straighten all this out.

HUCK: Yeah. I think that might be a good idea.

SHERROD: [inaudible]...before we go buy a Christmas tree.

HUCK: Sherrod, I think you ARE smarter than a Congressman.

Minor problem. The "holiday" Congress was adjourning for was Rosh Hashanah. Not so many Christmas trees associated with that one. (Also, who has a Christmas tree in September?)

Not only is this little bit of misinformed Jew-baiting disturbing, it's also old news. The past two weeks have seen plenty of stupid commentary on the fact that Congress was taking off during the middle of the financial meltdown. Never mind the fact that the Senate REMAINED in session, or that using the Jewish holidays as the beginning of the recess has been standard practice for years:
Representatives get a break for Easter, Passover, Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, and Christmas Day. The Senate operates according to a very similar schedule, except it remains in session for Yom Kippur and, at least in 2008, for Rosh Hashanah.

The holiday schedule can vary from year to year. Leaders from both parties set up a tentative list of days off every January, before Congress convenes. Lawmakers can adjust the schedule as needed and suspend holidays in case of an emergency. The tentative 2008 schedule for the Senate, for example, listed two days off for Rosh Hashanah. The chamber remained in session anyway, although no votes were scheduled to take place between Monday morning and Wednesday afternoon.

The AP has more:

The first Jews weren't elected to the House and Senate until the 1840s, and through most of the 19th century, Congress only met from December through the spring. Because lawmakers could not easily return home in those days, they often met on Christmas Day, according to Senate historian Donald Ritchie.

Even after the schedule changed in the 1930s, Congress generally worked from January through the middle of the year, not conflicting with the Jewish holidays.

Even when circumstances required Congress to be in session during Rosh Hashanah or Yom Kippur, the day's agenda was usually planned so as to require very little to do, and no voting to take place, which doesn't seem to be very disimilar from the practice of meeting as infrequently as possible around Christian holidays like Christmas or Easter.

The griping about the recess being poorly timed and specifically complaining about the Rosh Hashanah thing seems to be focused in two areas. Some people are using it as a quasi-dig that somehow its the Jews' fault that Congress went home (sorry folks, math dictates it was going to be the same date this year whether there was a crisis or not).

The other point, which I accept to varying degrees, is that given that most members of Congress are not Jewish, perhaps it would have been a good idea to reassess the recess by a day or so. (Then again, how would they have handled not having forty-odd Represenatives present?) Also, I don't buy the line I was seeing throughout the blogosphere that a lot of people would demand Congress stay in session if it coincided with Christmas, too (I can think of a few Congressmen who probably would complain about it, and certainly some conservative commentators who would probably have some line about us not respecting our Jesus-Christian heritage).

Either way there seems to have been a bit of an unfair (and insulting) "it's just the Jewish New Year" attitude circulating around this issue. Which is funny, given that taking a break was probably helpful in getting both parties to regroup and pass the bill.

Oh, and FYI, some people have been bashing Rep. Roy Blunt for possibly suggesting that Republicans were stressed out over the bill because of Rosh Hashanah, accusing him of being anti-semitic (or pandering to that sentiment). Just one problem- Blunt's wife is Jewish. Whoopsies.

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