If there was ever a figure that embodied the ideal mission of The Recovering Politician, the world lost him yesterday after his gracing us with his strength, faith. and compassion for more than 95 years.
Indeed, Mandela’s experience makes the absurd 21st century U.S. politicial debate that we’ve discussed ad naseum here — from debt ceiling collapses to fiscal cliff freefalls — seem so miniscule in comparison. This was a man who was the leading force in turning a country from a ruthless, discriminatory apartheid system, into a majority rule democracy, albeit imperfect like all forms of government turn out to be.
But more significantly, once he secured power, he did the impossible: Mandela forgave the white rulers who had imprisoned him, who had tortured and killed so many of his friends, his allies, his people. Mandela’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, chaired by fellow Nobel Peace laureate Desmond Tutu, was perhaps the greatest historical example of a moral value that so many of us try and fail to accomplish — forgiving those who have wronged us, moving forward in a spirit of reconciliation and peace.
Mandela’s example truly embodied the treachings of Jesus, whose challenge to “turn the other cheek” and “love your enemies” are potentially the most difficult religious teachings to truly follow. And as my fellow Jews reflect upon our own transgressions every Yom Kippur — the Day of Atonement, where we are taught that before we can earn God’s forgiveness, we must forgive ourselves and atone to our neighbors — we’d be wise to reflect on Mandela’s historic achievement.
Mandela’s life will be celebrated here at The Recovering Politician with a day and weekend of rememberance. Our contributors will share their thoughts on the man and his legacy. But we are also opening our virtual pages to you, our readers. If you have any thoughts to share, please send them to us at Staff@TheRecoveringPolitician.com. We will be publishing the best of your submissions today and over the weekend.
Over the past few weeks, politicians, comedians, and the lamestream media have joined in what can only be referred to as The Shandah of the 21st Century: the trenchant desecration of the sacred holy day of Thansgivukkah.
In case you missed the Stephen Colbert satire, the Bostonian turkey-shaped menorah, or even the Presidential shout-out; millions of Americans have been exposed to the rare and historic confluence of Thanksgiving and Chanukkah with snide laughter and tweeted snarkery, treating Thanksgivukkah as just some ironic day of mock-celebration — akin to The O.C.‘s lame interfaith mashup, “Christmukkah,” or the brilliant, yet secular Frank Costanza inspiration of “Festivus.”
Indeed, while Thanksgivukkah has been only celebrated formally twice before in our nation’s history — in those extraordinarily rare cases in which a late November fourth Thursday coincided with an early winter Hebrew lunar calendar — the holiday once served as an integral thread that wove together the Jewish and American fabrics.
And yet, there is a dark, forgotten undercurrent to this Festival of Turkey Light.
I’m here to set the record straight and remind my fellow Jews and my fellow Americans of the secret, sordid history of the holiday of Thanksgivukkah:
In a global conspiracy rivaled only by the fake Moon landing, the coverup of Paul McCartney’s death and the transparently fabricated long-form birth certificate of our Kenyan-born President, the anti-Semitic textbook industry has scrubbed all records of America’s first Jewish citizen, Shecky Howard.
Escaping religious persecution as a Jew in late 16th century Europe, Shecky pretended to convert to Christianity, and chose the faith with which he seemed most comfortable — the big black hats, mother-inspired guilt-trips, and victimization of Separatist Puritanism.
OK, not a great choice for a guy fleeing religious persecution…
But Shecky made the best of a bad situation. And after serving as the mohel, pediatrist and the stand-up entertainer on the Mayflower (Sample joke: ”Take my wife’s apron…please!), Shecky was primarily responsible for the early peaceful entente reached among the Pilgrims and Native Americans in Plymouth, after he quietly confided to the Indian leadership that he too was a Member of the Tribe. Perhaps most poignantly, the Puri-Jew Shecky convinced both sides that turkey was the appropriate protein of choice (and carved the first bird with his circumcision tools), by arguing that pork chops would be inappropriate…because…uh…well…applesauce hadn’t been invented yet.
The official American holiday of Thanksgiving was first declared in 1862 by our first Jew-ish President, Abraham Lincoln.
(OK, I said Jew-ish, not Jewish. Read the difference here and consider his black hat and beard, his über-protective wife, his passion for minority civil rights, his Kentucky birthplace (we’re all Jewish here), and most of all, HIS NAME WAS ABRAHAM, FOR MOSES’ SAKE!)
It’s no wonder, then, when the second official Thanksgiving coincided with Chanukkah, Lincoln invited Shecky Howard’s great-great-great grandson Mordechai to officiate the very first Thanksgivukkah ceremony at the White House.
And it was then that the Thanksgiving dinner as we now know it took formal shape — a family event loaded with Jewish influence — mothers insisting that their children eat every last morsel of food (THINK OF THE STARVING CHILDREN IN AFRICA!); participants guilted to travel long distances to spend agonizing hours in cramped quarters with their neurotic extended families; even the dreaded cardboard folding Kids’ Tables, a remnant of overcrowded Passover seders.
The Black Friday shopping tradition arose from the rush to purchase Chanukkah gifts before the Jewish Sabbath began that evening. And most significantly, the modern mythical ethic of Thanksgiving — the Pilgrims’ supposed quest for religious freedom — was lifted by one of Rand Paul’s ancestors directly from the story of Chanukkah’s brave Maccabees: Archeological evidence recently revealed that the Mayflower was actually a Gilligan-esque three hour boat tour gone horribly, horribly wrong.
The most recent Thanksgivukkah occurred on the eve of the 20th century, when an elderly Mordechai Howard took the invitation of President William McKinley to introduce merged holiday themes at their White House celebration: turkeys stuffed with sweet potato latkes, jelly doughnuts filled with pumpkin sauce, hora dances circling piles of green bean casserole.
But alas, the ceremony went totally, awfully awry. Mordechai’s three toddler grandsons were playing a robust — some say vicious — game of Spin the Pilgrim Dreidel. After losing all of his cranberry sauce-flavored gelt, the oldest son poked the youngest in the eyes, then banged him on the head with a Star of David engraved musket, accidentally knocking over the brown gravy-fueled menorah, setting fire to the White House curtains, and ultimately killing Vice President Garret Hobart.
The Howard children
With the pogroms furiously raging in Eastern Europe, and the wave of Jewish immigrants desperately finding refuge at Ellis Island, an anti-Semitic backlash was rearing its ugly head, and the notorious Thanksgivukkah fire added (brown gravy) fuel to the hatred. A multifaceted coverup ensued; even the history books were altered to claim that Vice President Hobart died of “ill-health.” (Look it up here.) No one knows what happened to the three Howard children, although one colorized picture of them remains and is posted here.
So alas, we come to today, as we celebrate Thanksgivukkah for the last time apparently until the year 79,811. I urge my fellow Americans — particularly my fellow Jews – to refrain from the easy jokes, and instead honor the great Howard family…Shecky, Mordechai, even the three clownish grandsons..and remember what this holiday is truly about: religious freedom, family togetherness, delicious food, and most soi-tenly, the miracle of laughter.
If you like this piece, please read How Adam Sandler’s Chanukkah Song Saved the Jews and The Five Most Jew-ish Gentiles in Pop Culture.
Great piece in today’s Newsweek by Pema Levy. Here’s an excerpt.
When the rollout of President Obama’s health care law turned disastrous, Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican leader in the Senate, might be excused for suspecting divine intervention. Fighting for his political life — and the Senate seat he has held for 28 years — against Democratic challenger Alison Lundergan Grimes, currently Kentucky’s secretary of state, the embattled McConnell set to work using Obamacare to attack his opposition.
“Anything short of full repeal leaves us with this monstrosity,” McConnell said at a press conference in Kentucky last week. “The question you should be asking [Grimes] is, are you for or against getting rid of it?”
McConnell is one of many Republicans hoping to win in red states next year by campaigning against the troubled health care law. But it may not be the killer issue he hopes it is: In Kentucky, of all places, Obamacare is going remarkably well.
“Most people don’t sign up for something until the deadline,” said Jonathan Miller, a Democrat and former Kentucky state treasurer. “If that is true in Kentucky, then the positive success the program’s been having is only the tip of the iceberg.”
For the success of its affordable health care campaign, Kentuckians can thank second-term Democratic Governor Steve Beshear, whose ambitious plans have been thwarted by Republicans in the state legislature. With one in six Kentuckians uninsured, Beshear saw health care reform as the place he could make his mark. He bypassed the legislature to become the only southern state to expand Medicaid and implement a state-run insurance exchange. Then he set about making sure the law worked.
“He’s a lame duck and he’s term-limited,” said Republican Trey Grayson, a former Kentucky secretary of state. “This could be his legacy.”
Beshear, who tried unsuccessfully to unseat McConnell in 1996, may be helping Grimes as well as the uninsured. “Kentucky’s exchange has been a model of success for the nation,” said Rep. John Yarmuth, the lone Democrat in Kentucky’s congressional delegation. “As more Kentuckians receive coverage, opponents’ attacks of the law will ring hollow.”
“I think that ultimately this could really backfire on McConnell,” said Miller. “The fact that he’s using so much time and energy to tie her to [Obamacare] could ultimately be a waste of resources.”
McConnell’s situation mirrors a predicament that former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney faced during his failed 2012 presidential bid, when the central message of his campaign — a flailing “Obama economy” — began to conflict with improving economic forecasts. As unemployment dropped in key swing states like Ohio and Florida, Republican state governors began to tout economic progress, undermining Romney’s argument that the president didn’t know how to fix the economy. Romney’s message was further eroded when unemployment fell below 8 percent – a symbolically important number – just one month before the election.
“It’s a little jarring when you see a governor talk about how great [Obamacare] is and a senator talking about how terrible it is,” Grayson said.
Still, Grayson, who campaigned against the Affordable Care Act during a 2010 Senate bid in Kentucky (he lost to Senator Rand Paul) believes McConnell is right to go after Obamacare now, presenting himself as a stalwart opponent to an unpopular law. Also facing a primary challenger from the right, McConnell seems to have little wiggle room on the issue. And since neither Obama nor Obamacare is popular in Kentucky – a state that backed Romney by 23 points over the president last year – strategists see McConnell’s attempt to tie Grimes to the two as the right tactic.
McConnell will try nationalize the race, tying Grimes to Obama and the reputation of the health care law nationally, Miller said. For Grimes to win, “this has to be about Kentucky versus D.C., and she can use Obamacare as a way to say, ‘Things are better in Kentucky than in D.C. and I want to take that Kentucky attitude to D.C., against the guy that is the ultimate symbol of what’s wrong with D.C.’ I think that’s where she has a very potent message.”
Click here for the full piece.
Last night, Kentucky hall of fame journalist Bill Goodman and his guests on “Kentucky Tonight” discussed the federal budget and debt ceiling. Scheduled guests: Jonathan Miller, former Kentucky state treasurer and former chair of the Kentucky Democratic Party; Brad Cummings, former chair of the Jefferson County Republican Party; John Heyrman, political science professor at Berea College; and Stephen Voss, political science professor at the University of Kentucky.
Click below to watch:
The RP’s column this week for The Daily Beast was his most popular ever, blowing up the Internets. Here’s an excerpt:
Politics in my old Kentucky home has, for centuries, been awash in irreconcilable contradictions.
We stuck with the Union in favor of our favorite son, Lincoln, but then joined in common cause with the Confederacy after the Civil War had ended. A century later, we boasted some of the nation’s most progressive civil rights laws; yet, to this date, we still feature many of America’s most segregated societies. And while Kentucky’s been one of the largest beneficiaries of the New Deal/Great Society welfare state, the dominant strain in our politics remains a fierce anti-government, anti-tax worldview.
Kentucky’s perplexing and hypocritical aversion to big government has been exploited brilliantly by our senior senator Mitch McConnell, who’s capitalized on our cultural resentment of elite interference to transform the Bluegrass State into a deep-red citadel in federal elections. More recently, our junior senator Rand Paul catapulted McConnell’s vision much further than Mitch intended, placing Kentucky in the crosshairs of the Tea Party revolution. But while these two political icons and their surrogates clash over the depth of government slashing, they’ve been steadfastly united behind one common vision: the defeat, and, more recently, the repeal of the Affordable Care Act.
It’s no coincidence then that Obamacare is beginning to expose the political fault line that divides the two Kentuckys. The GOP’s effective—and quite misleading—messaging plays into the anti-establishment populace’s greatest fears about out-of-control outside interference: the myth of a government-run-health-care system, engineered by a President with socialist tendencies (and whose skin pigmentation and exotic name frankly heighten popular anxiety in some of the nation’s least educated counties). And yet, when you wade through the propaganda and understand the law’s true impact, Kentucky needs the Affordable Care Act…desperately. It’s a state consistently ranked near the bottom of nearly every national health survey, where one out of every six citizens remains uninsured.
With our long-standing tradition of timid politicians fearful of incurring the wrath of the anti-government mobs, it wouldn’t have been surprising to see Kentucky join much of Red America and reject both Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion to the working poor, as well as its option of establishing a state-run health benefit exchange to provide affordable health care to the remaining uninsured.
But in a delicious irony, Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul’s home state may ultimately serve as the proving ground of Obamacare’s success. That’s due to the political chutzpah of one man: Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear.
Love this from The Times of Israel:
New hasbara YouTube sensation “Boycott Israel” could only have been written by musician Ari Lesser.
A political science BA from the University of Oregon, the 27-year-old ba’al tshuva reggae rapper is probably the only musician around capable of undertaking the long hours of research involved in making the extremely informative, catchy six-minute song.
“Boycott Israel,” sponsored by the pro-Israel campus advocacy group Here Is Israel (with the motto “get HII for Israel”), is a fascinating, rhythmically rhymed exposure of the double standards involved in the global BDS (Boycott, Divest, Sanction) efforts against Israel.
The fledgling organization, actively running since July, is trying to create content to appeal to US college students, says Lesser from his Cleveland home.
“The campus can be a rough place for Jews and Israel, I’ve experienced that first hand. There’s definitely some intense stuff out there.”
Lesser was commissioned by HII to create something that would reach college students and show how to defend against BDS claims.
Lesser decided to focus on showing what he calls “the double standard inherent in the boycott argument.”
In “Boycott Israel” Lesser raps about the obscene human rights failings of dozens of countries, from China to Saudi Arabia to the United States. Accompanying the straightforwardly shocking lyrics are graphic images of horrific events, some ongoing, around the world.
“Big props to Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International for going to these countries and doing good reporting. I wouldn’t want to go to a lot of those countries; I’m glad someone else did it for me.”
He’s quick to say that while as a religious Jew he feels a deep connection to the Land of Israel, he doesn’t always agree with what the State of Israel is up to.
“It’s not to say that Israel is always right — I definitely criticize when I disagree — but I don’t think a boycott of the whole country is honest.”
“Really, you see if you’re not willing to boycott every major country — and minor country — in the world, then BDS is anti-Semitism, or anti-Israelism, or whatever.”
Crisis management and scandal recovery have captured the moment, from big-league sports to New York City’s current political silly season. PR firms are rebranding themselves as crisis advisers. Ex-White House aides are peddling their bona fides. While the public sees scandal through a tabloid lens, at its heart are flawed human beings making mistakes, acting emotionally, and trying to preserve their reputations and careers. “Recovering politicians” who suffered highly publicized scandals share their stories, offer guidance, and comment on the latest attempts to launch second acts.
A conversation with:
Krystal Ball, co-host, MSNBC’s “The Cycle;” former Virginia congressional candidate
Jonathan Miller, Daily Beast columnist; No Labels co-founder; former Kentucky state treasurer
Michael Steele, co-chairman, Purple Nation Strategies; former Republican National Committee chairman
Jeff Smith, assistant professor of politics and advocacy, The New School; former Missouri state senator
From POLITICO’s Morning Score:
Two recovering pols: in 1988 and today
GORE ’88 REUNION: A tipster emails: “Over the weekend, Al Gore reconnected with much of his 1988 presidential campaign team at a 25th reunion party at John Jameson’s 150-year-old wood-frame house near Eastern Market. In attendance were: Roy Neel, Peter Knight, Jackie Shrago, Jean Nelson, Jack Quinn, Jacquie Lawing Ebert, Mitchell Berger, Fred Duval, Sonny Cauthen, Alan Kessler, Katie McGinty, Pam Eakes and Ambassador Alan Blinken and his wife, Melinda Blinken. The reunion was organized by former Kentucky State Treasurer Jonathan Miller, who started his political career on the 1988 campaign as director of Students for Gore. One attendee described Gore as ‘fit and full of great energy’ and remembered the campaign as the first presidential race where ‘big ideas about the environment and technology were discussed.’”
Writes attendee David Crossland:
Al Gore looks Fabulous! He’s tan—the ozone factor suits him. He’s dressed to make us feel comfortable, even though his made-to-measure look must cost more than a Nissan Leaf. Tonight, Al is downright sexy.
This is the 25th anniversary weekend of Al Gore’s run for the Presidency back when he sought the nomination in 1988. Then, he was the fresh Senator from Tennessee, still dancing the two-step in his kitchen with Jello Biafra’s nemesis Tipper. Everyone is here at John Jamison’s beyond gorgeous home on Capitol Hill, which feels more like Savannah than DC. Is that really Spanish moss?
The texture of this swell Democratic crowd is pleasantly what you’d expect. There’s a two year old toddler weaving through legs, goosing peeps in all the fun places. The Folsom family-an Alabama political dynasty–holds court in the sunroom. Some A-gays (handsome as ever) are on the terrace chatting with Eleanor Clift. An elegant looking grandmother from NC steals a moment to smoke a cigarette under a moon vine in night bloom. It’s old magnolia south, but with an updated passport.
Most famous people don’t know how everybody looks before they walk into a room. Jane Fonda or Oprah walk in to a Georgetown dinner party and everyone has perfect posture. Al’s star is still rising. When he walks in, everyone stands a little taller, and tucks it in—looking a little thinner.
Clearly, the biggest purses south of the Mason Dixie want Al to throw his hat in for 2016, and we are celebrating the guy that could have/ would have steered this country boldly where no man has gone before.
Al preaches to the choir, but his gospel resonates. I can’t help getting angry at Justice O’Connor; now saying she regrets her decision that changed the course of our world. Al is certainly in better shape than Hilary right now, and I bet he could make it. Problem is–Washington treated him so badly. If we ever actually asked the man to dance again, would he?
WARNING: PLENTY OF SPOILERS AHEAD
Wow. The greatest television show in the history of the program is over. And it was a brilliant sendoff.
(I have only one qualm: Why did Walt tell Lydia that her flu-like symptoms were the result of ricin poisoning? Doesn’t that give her the opportunity to get medical help? I only see two explanations — it is too late for Lydia’s salvation, or this yet another example of Walt’s hubris/sloppiness thwarting his intentions.)
Nearly two dozen members of the RP Nation submitted entries in our first/last annual “Breaking Bad” series finale (“Felina”) prediction contest. Most of our entries were quite creative, but WAY WAY off. So many of you had Skyler, and even poor Holly, dying; others were convinced Walt would off his former Gray Matter partners. And no one forecast the cameo return of the most hilarious comedy pair since Lucy and Desi — Badger and Skinny Pete.
Check out all of the entries here.
BUT we did find a winner — and it turns out he is a future recovering politician — Madison County (KY) Attorney Marc Robbins. Here’s Marc’s entry:
Walt rescues Jessie (bitch), blows away Todd and crew, and takes the ricin.
Much to Marc’s discredit, his summary was quite brief; we all knew from the flash forward several weeks that Walt took the ricin from his old home; and Walt doesn’t “blow away” Todd — Jesse strangles him (kudos to Stuart Cobb for guessing that detail!) And what’s with that Facebook profile pic, Marc?!!!?!?
But one of the central unanswered questions was how Walt would treat Jesse should they meet again — and with Walt returning to his somewhat sympathetic roots, Marc was on the money. So he wins my two lower Rupp Arena tickets for the UNC Asheville game in November. Mazel Tov, Marc Robbins!
The prize for the most humorous entry goes to recovering blogger, Bob Layton. Here was his entry:
Bob Layton · Top Commenter · University of Kentucky Alternatively, Walter goes straight to the compound, is in the process of busting Jesse out when the neo-Nazis arrive. During the ensuing brawl, Walter, Jesse, and the neo-Nazis all spill through the fourth wall, onto an adjoining soundset where Buddy Bizarre is rehearsing a glitzy musical number called the French Mistake. Walter and Jesse then find their R.V., and hand in hand, ride off into the sunset.
While the competition was far tougher in this category (honorable mention to Adam Gibson, Sandy Levy, and Mike Mabry), Bob gets kudos for his evocation of two of my favorite things: marriage equality and Jewish humor (Buddy Bizarre and the French Mistake are references from Mel Brooks’ extraordinary film, Blazing Saddles).
So for kissing the tuchus of the judging panel, Bob wins autographed copies of both The Recovering Politician’s Twelve Step Program to Survive Crisis and John Y’s Musings from the Middle.
Guess I got what I deserved
Kept you waiting there too long my love.
All that time without a word
Didn’t know you’d think that I’d forget
Or I’d regret the special love I have for you -
My Baby Blue.