The Clare Spark Blog

March 30, 2010

Who are you, this week, Jake Tapper?

Filed under: 1 — clarelspark @ 9:19 pm
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Michelangelo's Horned Moses

[Added 3-31-10: I am now blocked from Tapper’s Facebook page, an odd move for a liberal. My only question is what in this blog prompted the silencing? (I should explain that I and a few others had not found his Twitter to be funny, and Mr. Tapper had multiple opportunities to acknowledge our feelings on his thread, but did not. Hence I had time to think about why I didn’t find his Tweet amusing and wrote this blog. It did not come at him out of the blue.)]

Jake Tapper, Senior White House correspondent for ABC News, and noted for his confrontations with authority, twittered this today and posted it on his Facebook page. “At the same time Jews worldwide commemorate being led out of bondage, RNC struggles with opposite dilemma.”   Tapper was referring to the recent report that some RNC members (not including Michael Steele) had improperly spent RNC funds for an evening at a S-M Club in Los Angeles; i.e. they were enjoying themselves with bondage fantasies. Some of his FB friends found this joke amusing; I and a few others did not—rather I was offended and said so. I consider this little dustup significant enough to blog about it, for it raises the question of what it means in Obama’s America to be an assimilated Jew, also the aggression that may be hidden in what we take to be humorous, for Tapper pounced on the RNC debacle with an attempt at wit in a field that prizes wit over precision, no matter how lame the “joke.”

   But first, some family history. Tapper is the son of a pediatrician and a psychiatric nurse, whom he characterized as “hippies” in a profile written by Howard Kurtz for the Washington Post. He attended Dartmouth College, majoring in history and visual studies, graduating magna cum laude, then briefly attended film school at USC. He is known as a liberal reporter, “pushy,” and within that group, something of a maverick as he attempts to maintain the aura of objectivity.

   Starting in high school, Jake Tapper attended Akiba Hebrew Academy, a “pluralistic” Jewish private school near Philadelphia that emphasizes training for future leadership. Surely, Mr. Tapper learned either there or elsewhere that the Moses-led Exodus that preceded the giving of the Ten Commandments is the central event in Jewish history, and indeed a landmark in the history of civilization. Certainly that was the impression I received from reading the Tanakh. To be sure, Yom Kippur, the day of atonement is said to be the holiest day in the year for Jews, but I am writing now of the core of Jewish identity, and whether one is a religious Jew or a secular one, the idea of emancipation gets at the core of who I think we are as a people, if indeed we are still a people.  Antisemites may wish to characterize us (along with America) as slave-driving capitalists or genocidal communists and Zionists with world domination (i.e., the bondage of non-Jews) as our goal, but I have never heard such ambitions voiced by any Jew, let alone in words written by Jewish authors, whatever their politics of the moment.

   I am not an observant Jew (my children are though), but the thought of juxtaposing the bondage of the Israelites under the Pharaohs with the theatrical “bondage” enjoyed by voyeurs in the RNC is not the funniest of linkages, and suggests to me that Jake Tapper, somewhere in his journey to the top of his profession (he is rated the third most influential journalist), lost his sense of history, of propriety, and whatever Jewish identification he may have carried from his teen-age years at Akiba Hebrew Academy (now renamed Barrack Hebrew Academy).  Call me a puritan bluestocking if you like, gentle reader, but at least my lips are not sealed.


  1. An over-reaction to a harmless joke. And if Alan Dershowitz had made it, you’d probably be rolling in the aisles, Clare.

    Comment by Harry Shapiro, MD — April 4, 2010 @ 9:53 pm | Reply

  2. Thanks for your comment, Ronnie. I don’t think that Tapper was thinking about the exodus at all, but using a topical reference to highlight the embarrassing conduct of some junior staffers in the Republican National Committee. I was objecting to the scale of the Jews’ escape from bondage/slavery contrasted to so the pretended “bondage” of some sex workers.

    Comment by clarespark — April 3, 2010 @ 5:40 pm | Reply

  3. I don’t know if you’re a Puritan bluestocking, but I think you overreacted to Tapper’s joke. I live a relatively intensely Jewish life and I wasn’t offended. I’m much more offended by the various “seders” organized this week by the usual assortment of leftist Jews and their fellow travelers. Tapper at least didn’t try to turn Passover into something it’s not and acknowledged the central theme of the holiday which is that HaKadosh Baruch Hu brought the Jews out of bondage in Egypt. Had that not happened, I’d be a slave today.

    Speaking of Passover, God deliberately delayed the Jews’ entry in Eretz Yisrael for 40 years in part because of the debilitating effects of having a slave mentality. Permanent dependency is not a healthy thing.

    Comment by Ronnie Schreiber — April 2, 2010 @ 2:39 pm | Reply

  4. You ask: “My only question is what in this blog prompted the silencing?”

    How about the title, for a start? There’s nothing like the “How long, O Catiline” approach to get people’s backs up.

    Comment by Jonathan Morse — April 1, 2010 @ 5:43 am | Reply

  5. Clare, I’ve been following you on H-Antisemitism for years. Here’s a paraphraseof Acts 19.15: Yochaved and Clare I know, but who the hell is Jake?

    Comment by Bob Urekew — March 31, 2010 @ 11:24 pm | Reply

  6. Perhaps this commentary, Martin Luther King, Jr.’s last, in March, 1968, might assist some in understanding the context of Jews today:
    Civil Rights and The Most Basic Human Right, The Right To Exist.
    Martin Luther King’s Words about Israel’s and Jewish Legitimacy.

    “…You declare, my friend, that you do not hate the Jews, you are merely
    ‘anti-Zionist.’ And I say, let the truth ring forth from the high mountain
    tops, let it echo through the valleys of God’s green earth: When people
    criticize Zionism, they mean Jews – this is God’s own truth… All men of
    good will exult in the fulfillment of God’s promise, that his People should
    return in joy to rebuild their plundered land. This is Zionism, nothing
    more, nothing less… And what is anti-Zionist? It is the denial to the
    Jewish people of a fundamental right that we justly claim for the people of
    Africa and freely accord all other nations of the Globe. It is
    discrimination against Jews, my friend, because they are Jews. In short, it
    is anti-Semitism… Let my words echo in the depths of your soul: When
    people criticize Zionism, they mean Jews – make no mistake about it.”

    — Excerpt from “This I Believe: Selections from the Writings of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.” (New York, 1971), pp. 234-235. Note from Dr. Katz: This is probably Reverend King’s last public speech before his assassination in 1968; delivered at Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts. I was there with a group of other student Class Presidents from Boston and vicinity Universities.

    Comment by Dr. Gary Katz — March 31, 2010 @ 4:04 pm | Reply

  7. Despite his ‘top tier’ status, Mr. Tapper has time and again demonstrated shoddy workmanship in his comparisons and analogies, as well as his frequent distortion of facts. Perhaps he did not have the privilege of studying with Chomsky’s father, who did a great job with his congregations and others in reiterating the core values of the Jewish people and the Jewish reality. I’m sure the father mourns the loss of his son to the post-modernist obsession with completing the genocide of the Jews and providing all necessary apologies and excuses fir their savage terrorists friends.
    Dr. Gary Katz
    Jerusalem, Israel

    P.S. Many have found the lyrics to this one obscure song more helpful than all the combined writings of Tapper and Chomsky:

    Neighborhood Bully
    By Bob Dylan, 1983 (on “Infidels” album)

    Well, the neighborhood bully, he’s just one man
    His enemies say he’s on their land.
    They got him outnumbered about a million to one,
    He got no place to escape to, no place to run.
    He’s the neighborhood bully.

    The neighborhood bully just lives to survive,
    He’s criticized and condemned for being alive.
    He’s not supposed to fight back, he’s supposed to have thick skin,
    He’s supposed to lay down and die when his door gets kicked in.
    He’s the neighborhood bully.

    The neighborhood bully been driven out of every land,
    He’s wandered the earth an exiled man,
    Seen his family scattered, his people hounded and torn,
    He’s always on trial for just being born.
    He’s the neighborhood bully.

    Well, he knocked out a lynch mob, he was criticized,
    Old women condemned him, said he should apologize.
    Then he destroyed a bomb factory, nobody was glad.
    The bombs were meant for him. He was supposed to feel bad.
    He’s the neighborhood bully.

    Well the chances are against it and the odds are slim
    That he’ll live by the rules that the world makes for him,
    ‘Cause there’s a noose at his neck and a gun at his back
    And a license to kill him is given to every maniac.
    He’s the neighborhood bully.

    He got no allies to really speak of,
    What he gets he must pay for, he don’t get it out of love.
    He buys obsolete weapons and he won’t be denied
    But no one sends flesh and blood to fight by his side.
    He’s the neighborhood bully.

    Well, he’s surrounded by pacifists who all want peace,
    They pray for it nightly that the bloodshed must cease.
    Now, they wouldn’t hurt a fly. To hurt one they would weep.
    They lay and they wait for this bully to fall asleep.
    He’s the neighborhood bully.

    Every empire that’s enslaved him is gone,
    Egypt and Rome, even the great Babylon.
    He’s made a garden of paradise in the desert sand,
    In bed with nobody, under noone’s command.
    He’s the neighborhood bully.

    Now his holiest of books have been trampled upon,
    No contract he signed was worth what it was written on.
    He took the crumbs of the world and he turned it into wealth,
    Took disease and sickness and he turned it into health.
    He’s the neighborhood bully.

    What’s anybody indebted to him for?
    Nothin’ they say. He just likes to cause war.
    Pride and prejudice and superstition indeed,
    They wait for this bully like a dog waits to feed.
    He’s the neighborhood bully.

    What has he done to wear so many scars?
    Does he change the course of rivers? Does he pollute the moon and stars?
    Neighborhood bully, standing on the hill,
    Running out the clock, time standing still,
    Neighborhood bully.

    Comment by Dr. Gary Katz — March 31, 2010 @ 3:58 pm | Reply

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