Lame Specter, Blumenthal and Kagan show– the American Jewish revolution is over

The Jewish revolution is over. The Jewish social miracle that transformed the American Establishment a generation ago– it’s over. The good fun energy is over. A copy of a copy of a copy excites no one. Saul Bellow has petered out into Nathan Englander, and Allard Lowenstein has petered out into Joe Lieberman. Jews used to be William Kunstler and Jerry Rubin and Mark Rudd and Barney Frank and Noam Chomsky. They turned the known world on its side. Now Jews are Goldman Sachs and Larry Summers. Howard Berman the antiwar insurgent became Chairman Howard Berman who crushes any criticism of Israel. Our Chicago streetsmart political geniuses, Saul Alinsky and Studs Terkel, turned into Rahm Emanuel and David Axelrod, in the offices closest to the president. No wonder they play their cards close to their chests.

Worse, we’re Arlen Specter who represented nothing but a worn out Establishment and Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut who claimed a Vietnam record when he wouldn’t have been caught dead there and Elena Kagan who has conducted her whole career without a misstep for this moment and as a result is as interesting as American cheese. Kagan once clerked for Thurgood Marshall, back when Jews stood for something. Now she represents a generation of calculating achievers and hacks.

When I was a kid we were outsiders and had that fierce energy. My mother praised the Rosenbergs to me. Izzy Stone changed his name but he was a Communist too. Norman Podhoretz studied English literature like the talmud and brought his ethnic fury into the discourse; but his successor for intelligence is Adam Kirsch, who steps into the New Yorker and all the other magazines with an air of entitlement, and who can blame him, Jews run the important magazines, with all the passion of printing a train timetable. (Back when, Robert Gottlieb was weird and loved Doris Lessing and discovered Haruki Murakami and didn’t gaze into the mirror of his success.) Alan Dershowitz was filled with fury at Derek Bok, when Bok ran Harvard Law School, and called him an anti-semite; Dershowitz also was a poor boy from Brooklyn with the element of surprise. But that was a long time before Martha’s Vineyard; and now Elena Kagan is followed as Harvard Law Dean by another Jewish woman and I don’t know what these people stand for, oh Kagan stands for gay rights and her successor Martha Minow stands for rationalizing Israel’s blight on Palestinian civil rights.

Yes the demands of the Israel lobby have done a number on the famous Jewish intelligence and values. That’s what Peter Beinart is saying in the New York Review of Books, Beinart whose princely professorial salary is on the internet, and the Nation.

The journalists all make too much money, that’s part of our problem. Tom Friedman married a gazillionaire and has a house with the biggest carbon footprint in his congregation; Andrea Mitchell did the same and seemed to tremble in fear of the tea partiers last night on MSNBC; and Ira Glass in a fundraising pitch on NPR this morning warns that the blogosphere is a threat to good "oldfashioned" journalism. Protecting his status against the hordes.

Kagan is the ultimate sign that our brand is finished. She is the best of breed, as they say at Westminster. According to this Times profile, she comes out of the same hothouse I came out of, in her case the Upper West Side. Achievement, liberalism, and no partying. Arguing at the dinner table. Presumably no physical life. My favorite part is when her father, a liberal synagogue communitarian and Yale Law School grad, "was said to have been crushed when his daughter chose Harvard Law though she also had been accepted at Yale."

Blueblood Protestants don’t care about this kind of thing– but there are no Protestants on the Supreme Court. 

Kagan’s world is the Jewish success world, she stepped into it like Kirsch did. She loved the hothouse. She emulated Felix Frankfurter, who didn’t stand for much either, and is pals with Sarah Walzer, daughter of Michael Walzer, the political theorist and Jewish parochialist. She went to Jeffrey Toobin’s wedding, she was picked by Larry Summers at Harvard around the time he was saying that divestment was anti-semitic. Eliot Spitzer, Ted Weiss and Elizabeth Holtzman were among her backers. She clerked for Abner Mikva, a Chicago macher who backed Obama.

Oh and Kagan did very little to promote racial or even gender diversity while dean of Harvard Law School (as Duke law prof Guy-Uriel Charles points out). It’s her brother Marc who was drawn to radical causes, and I bet he’s interesting, he has something to say, he has values.

But he’s a throwback. He’s the school teacher and Kagan is best of breed, another meritocratic cipher on the make, worth $1.6 million. We’re in the decadent last phase, the dying fall of a generation. Wake me when it’s over. 

About Philip Weiss

Philip Weiss is Founder and Co-Editor of Mondoweiss.net.
Posted in American Jewish Community, Beyondoweiss, Israel/Palestine

{ 62 comments... read them below or add one }

  1. Mooser says:

    “Wake me when it’s over.”

    So you can say “Don’t blame me, I slept through it?” Fat chance!

    Phil, did it ever occur to you that your view of what Jews did for America is just a wee bit, well, parochial? (if that’s the word I want) I mean, who told you that if it wasn’t for Jews, America would have sunk into a dystopia of Gentile crony capitalism and social inequity? Yeah, that’s who told me that, too.

    • MRW says:

      who told you that if it wasn’t for Jews, America would have sunk into a dystopia of Gentile crony capitalism and social inequity?

      ;-)

      Phil, you need to let Mooser post on the homepage. We need the occasional ‘Machers, Mavens, and Mooser’ kind of article.

      • Mooser says:

        Phil, you need to let Mooser post on the homepage.

        I think Mr. Weiss’s blog is fine as it is. There’s no reason ruin it.
        Besides, as I’ve said more than once, I hardly know anything about it. I gave Zionism up as a bad lot long ago, and the excruciating details of how my religion (as anemic as my connection to it is) is being used as a front for theft, and to mislead Jews, really doesn’t interest me. I think Jews are pretty much the same as other people, and will do political minipulation, colonialism, land theft, expropriation and oppression just like anybody else, with local variations. And anybody who says different is an anti-Semite, in my opinion!
        The only thing I know anything about, because it’s been shoved in front of my face and I couldn’t avoid it, is what Zionism does to its American Jewish supporters.
        And finally, and of course, I would never post for any blog that would accept me as a poster.

        • MRW says:

          I was coming back to this post to write something similar: I think Jews are pretty much the same as other people, and will do political minipulation, colonialism, land theft, expropriation and oppression just like anybody else, with local variations.

          I was going to write: All this proves, Phil, is that Jews are part of the human race, and we have as much right to ding them for whatever as any other group, and vice versa. And if they get identified in the heated process as Jews, BFD. Who gives a shit? But that eras of victimhood crap is not going to fly. Not no how. Not anymore.

          I’ve got Shanty Irish, Royal Irish, and Scottish clans up and down both sides of me with Celtic blood going back eons, even though we spent over 125 years in Russia starting in the 19th C with the claim they went home to procreate — imagine taking a horse and buggy every time you wanted to get laid…not…but the family told this falsehood anyway — and the Irish were considered indentured slaves in this country until Kennedy won the election 110 years after the first famine brought them here. We have a wonderful victim tale at the hands of the British should we want to peddle it. But it’s bullshit.

        • imagine taking a horse and buggy every time you wanted to get laid…not

          umm, if you’re not using the buggy tonight….

        • Citizen says:

          Its all bullshit? MRW, you make a good point, but your absolutist conclusion
          escapes me, unless you merely refer to your own family’s yarns about themselves.

        • Mooser says:

          Isn’t that a little tough on the horse? And what do you do, use the old “ran out of hay” excuse?

        • Homer says:

          A wasp: You know, Ernest, the rich are not like us.
          Another wasp: No, Scott, they have more money.
          ………………………..

          Weiss: You know, Mooser, we Jews used to be smarter than everybody else, but I’m afraid it’s no longer true.
          Mooser: I think Jews are pretty much the same as other people ….
          Homer: No, Mooser, they have more power and money (per capita).

      • Kathleen says:

        “Gentile crony capitalism and social inequity?”

        As if there is no crony capitalism on Wall Street which is lets be honest dominated by Jews. Hell even employees at NPR demanded that NPR’s upper echelon be investigated for “cronyism” That report was never released.

        Cronyism exist in many cultural, religious and economic groups. Disproportionately so in some groups of people

    • LeaNder says:

      The cryptic Mooser is almost as interesting as the entertainer.

      Yeah, that’s who told me that, too.

      If that means he makes abrupt shifts in perspective occasionally (Kagan). I agree with you.

      wee bit, well, parochial?

      A wee bit … I wondered if he isn’t talking about Zeitgeist. I admittedly loved this line though, among other things:

      Elena Kagan who has conducted her whole career without a misstep for this moment and as a result is as interesting as American cheese.

      While obviously, I am not sure if this is strictly a Jewish narrative only.

      • Colin Murray says:

        Elena Kagan who has conducted …

        I second that … great line.

      • Mooser says:

        “as interesting as American cheese.”

        I just realised something very significant LeaNder. We Jews are supposed to be such great accomplishers, good at everything, but there is no Jewish cheese, is there? American, Swiss, of course the French, the Italians, even the English Cheddar or Stilton.

        But we Jews don’t have cheeses! Is it just not part of our culture, or did we reject cheeses? I know some people think we did even worse! (So that’s what those kids from Catholic school used to yell at me: “You killed cheeses!” No wonder they’re mad, it’s hard to blame them. Man cannot live on grilled toast alone!)

        • Colin Murray says:

          Mooser, you just made me realize that I’ve never seen a restaurant with traditional Jewish cuisine. I’d like to try it out.

        • jimby says:

          Who needs cheese when you got schmaltz.

        • Mooser says:

          “Mooser, you just made me realize that I’ve never seen a restaurant with traditional Jewish cuisine. I’d like to try it out.”

          For over 2500 years, Jews all over the world have made the same thing when they want to bring the most traditional Jewish attributes to a meal- reservations!

          Look, I have to do that.

        • would the world have single-serving pan pizza if Israel hadn’t invented cherry tomatoes?

          If Israel hadn’t invented hummus, who would bother listening to the Platters “Great Pretender.” oh oh oh oh oh oh YES, I’m the great pretender…

          PRETEND you have cheese. Improvise. It’s the heart of Italian cuisine.

        • yonira says:

          Cherry Tomatoes:
          The cherry tomato is regarded as a botanical variety of the cultivated tomato, Solanum lycopersicum var. cerasiforme. It was widely cultivated in Central America when the Conquistadores arrived and is thought to be the ancestor of all cultivated tomatoes. The most popular varieties today were developed in the Rehovot Faculty of Agriculture of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel.

          link to absoluteastronomy.com

        • yonira says:

          nice Mooser!

        • Citizen says:

          Ah, Mooser, that was funny! “You killed cheeses!”

        • Tobias says:

          Oh man that was brilliant … ‘you killed cheeses!’ made me guffaw.

        • Mooser says:

          What an easy crowd!

    • Chu says:

      The American Jewish revolution is over because of Richard Witty,
      who represented nothing but the worn-out establishment!

      • Citizen says:

        Good thing Cheeses loves Witty anyway even if Witty softly ridicules Finklestein by wishing Finkle could wrap his loving arms around the powerful jewish establishment.

    • Todd says:

      “Phil, did it ever occur to you that your view of what Jews did for America is just a wee bit, well, parochial? (if that’s the word I want) I mean, who told you that if it wasn’t for Jews, America would have sunk into a dystopia of Gentile crony capitalism and social inequity? Yeah, that’s who told me that, too. ”

      I think you stole everyone’s thunder with your comments.

      I do think that Phil gives a giant pass to the previous generations of Jewish elites who largely supported Zionism abroad while pushimg for equality in the United States. At the very least, the purity of the revolution has to be called into question. I think it’s interesting the Phil even uses the term revolution. Is that what really happened?

      Also, I don’t think anyone has pointed out that WASPs did hold sway in a nation that they founded, and that was largely populated by fellow WASPs. Do Jews have a right to destroy that by rising to power?

  2. annie says:

    phil, please check your link@ “Martha Minow stands for rationalizing Israel’s blight on Palestinian civil rights.” it isn’t opening for me.

  3. Don says:

    I wonder if “wealth and power” aren’t inherently self-extinguishing?

    Just as you describe (and predict) the rapid decline of Jewish intellectual life (and the probable accompanying decline in wealth and power), so did H.L. Mencken describe and predict the decline of Protestant wealth and power, well before it was an accomplished fact (see his essay “The Anglo Saxon” published in 1923).

    Of course (and I mean no offense, Phil, I think the world of you), Mencken had a serious sense of humor about the phenomenon. And he was, like you, “describing his own”.

    • Colin Murray says:

      I agree. I think it is just the natural way of things. Complaisance and self-entitlement IMO lead to mediocrity and incompetence, irregardless of political system, power structure, religious or cultural underpinnings, etc. Most people when they don’t have to try hard to succeed, don’t. IMO it’s just human nature.

    • radii says:

      You may be onto something with the “self-extinguishing” thought … kinda like the 5 stages of grief maybe?

      I think the couple of generations that have known elitist-level success and power have created children that are entitled, arrogant, lazy, and smug and this had led to a decline in intellectual life and cultural awareness

      … combine with the general dumbing-down, coarsening of culture, and dehumanization that is embodied by Gen-X and Gen-Y and you have a mix that has concocted the gruel Phil describes

  4. marc b. says:

    don’t worry too much. the protestants (well, a few select Episcopalians, anyway) held on long after their ‘sell by’ date passed here in the states, and even the inbred European royals still seem to have some influence, or at least significant land holdings. but it’s true: the beneficiaries of a century of hard work seem a pretty dull, uninspired lot. woody allen? adam sandler (when will he make aliya? please.). harold bloom? *crickets chirping* senile harold bloom. alan dershowitz eviscerating Billy Bulger? *more crickets chirping* understandably it’s difficult to get a grip on the new, talented crop as the old stale lot stinks up the joint. but i wouldn’t expect to see much brilliance or even mild originality from the likes of Ms. Minow or Beinart. (i shouldn’t be too critical. the only tv serial currently worth watching is ‘madmen’, the product of self-identified jewish talent, but the rest is tv produced by people who did nothing but watch tv as children. yech.)

  5. Take a chill pill, Phil!

    Perhaps there just isn’t any there “there”.

    • RE: “…Kagan who has conducted her whole career without a misstep for this moment and as a result is as interesting as American cheese…she represents a generation of calculating achievers and hacks….” – Weiss
      SEE: Gen X Justice: Standing for Nothing , By David Michael Green, Counterpunch, 05/19/10
      (EXCERPTS) Elena Kagan is the perfect Supreme Court pick for Barack Obama…
      …Perhaps what they both had in common is little to risk. In any case, by the time Gen X came around, the doors were already slamming shut. In part this was because we were actually living beyond our means anyhow….
      …Whatever the explanation, I don’t think it’s an accident that the people coming of political and career age under such conditions have exhibited a certain degree of conservatism in their outlook on life. I don’t mean here ideological conservatism, though there is that as well, but more of a hunkered-down, blinkered, instrumental, cautious, personal conservatism – one that is devoted to the narrowest agenda of self. One might even call it peasant conservatism, to which it is akin.
      I don’t mean that term entirely pejoratively. It seems to me a natural human survival instinct to act conservatively in times of scarce resources….
      ….Where there used to be a left in America, only a black hole exists today, sucking in everything around it, including light and truth….
      …Where once there was a right, now there is a rabid right. And where once there was a left, now there is a collection of apolitical careerists….
      …So the short version of the story is that the aberration of partial economic justice and democracy that characterized the middle of the twentieth century is collapsing all around us….
      ENTIRETY – link to counterpunch.org

    • RE: “…Dershowitz also was a poor boy from Brooklyn with the element of surprise. But that was a long time before Martha’s Vineyard…”
      SEE: Stanford ‘A Wreck Of A Man’ As Defense Team Turns To Dershowitz, By Zachary Roth, TPM, 05/19/10
      (excerpt) Allen Stanford has been reduced to “a wreck of a man” and fears he is “losing his mind” as he awaits trial in a Texas prison, according to his attorneys. They’ve brought in celebrity lawyer Alan Dershowitz to argue that the conditions in which Stanford is being held are hindering his ability to prepare a defense, and to request his immediate release….
      …In a plaintive jailhouse email written in January and included in the motion, Stanford — who faces charges of orchestrating an $8 billion Ponzi scheme through the company he founded, the Stanford Financial Group — complained that he is “stuck in prison literally rotting away mentally, physically, emotionally and not doing ANYTHING to prepare for trial.”
      To craft the motion, Stanford’s defense team recently turned to Dershowitz, who has defended a slew of high-profile clients including O.J. Simpson, Mike Tyson, Klaus Von Bulow, and Leona Helmsely, and is currently in Israel. Martin Weinberg, who was brought in along with Dershowitz, told TPMmuckraker that the motion raises “profoundly important constitutional issues … at the intersection of a presumed innocent man being required to prepare for a complex case without bail.”…
      ENTIRE ARTICLE – link to tpmmuckraker.talkingpointsmemo.com

    • just finished reading Barbara Will’s article in MFS, Gertrude Stein and Zionism. There’s quite a lot there.

  6. Pamela Olson says:

    It seems only natural. Nothing lasts forever. And yes, power is self-extinguishing, because it gets trapped in legitimizing and perpetuating itself and loses touch with reality. And reality always wins in the end.

    The British had their empire, the Soviets had their union, the US is having a good run as the sole superpower. Jews worked hard and worked their way into power, and now the new generation simply feels entitled to that power. Which means they probably won’t have it long. Meanwhile, Chinese and Indians are the ones working hard and having no fun in college these days (broadly speaking — there are always loads of exceptions), so they’ll probably be next. And just as boring. That’s how the system is set up.

  7. annie says:

    i’m practically falling over laughing. sorry for the OT but i’m working my way thru the links and intercepted that post outing Beinart’s salary. having already spent way too many hrs reading responses to his article all over the internet i couldn’t help but crack up @ the economics blog writing about the “Reverse Robin-Hood effect” as a creative segue to take a stab at him.
    amazing.

  8. Oscar says:

    Great piece, Phil. There’s a best seller to be written on the subject of the decline of WASPs after three generations of monopolizing American power and the rise of the Jewish intelligensia. Will the Jewish power elite fall into the same trap as WASPs (namely, that the third generation basically became lazy with old money wealth and was susceptible to the hunger of Catholics and Jews who broke through the artificial barriers preventing them from success). The WSJ had a brief page 3 story last weekend on this topic, with a third generation Johnson from Johnson & Johnson making this very claim.

  9. Chu says:

    There’s always Canada. Canada, the new frontier, Oh Canada!

    When all that’s left is nepotism and defending Israel, their ain’t much
    to be excited about. Daniel Pipes article yesterday about affirmative action for Muslims through a beauty pageants is another realization the ‘brand’, as you say, is dying. What could be more lame that that? (except Elana Kagan’s man-suits)

  10. javs says:

    How does this equal it being over?? Phil please understand my reasoning that there are over 1000 groups which have off shoots of them that run,( I mean rule) the establishment. Any one would be hard pressed to prove otherwise. You were possibly day dreaming about what could be. When the aparthied lobby has all of its off shoots and state and government held positions through nepotism and imprisons the 437, 000. members that have been brainwashed and administration personel past and present are also imprisoned for these crimes against humanity, (not war crimes-that would only be if there would have been a real state and not concentration camp for Pals) then I will believe it is over, just as in Nurenberg, all must and eventually will be jailed etc…But until then, not in any way shape or form is it over. Besides when that happens the aparthied’s nuclear set up will be used as a last resort like twisted minds do, to have a nuclear holocaust by their own hands. When the world can question the protocol without being blacklisted at the least, and actually get real answers, (which will never happen) & most of all the medias and claim to land that does not belong to them given back completely and reperations paid…just a the jews have had ever since…THEN you will be right on the money. Then they can do what they do best…what ever it may be ..as long as they stay out of certain areas of controlling positions which pursue the nepotism to a degree that is mind boggleing

    • Mooser says:

      javs, that’s what happens when you reject cheeses! What a friend we could have had in cheeses!

      • MRW says:

        There’s your reason. They rejected cheeses.

        • Mooser says:

          All those smart, smart Jews and not one of them was curious about what happens when milk spoils? Or where the holes come from?
          We could have been the “people of the block” (of cheese, of course).
          Oh well.

  11. Kathleen says:

    “Yes the demands of the Israel lobby have done a number on the famous Jewish intelligence and values.”

    Most so called liberal Jews have often gone blind when it comes to the injustices and crimes that Israel has dished out for decades

    In the last five years far more Jews have finally stepped up to the plate when it comes to the crimes being committed by Israel. Medea Benjaman, Naomi Klein etc. Better late than never. The willingness to step out and apply human rights and justice issues to the Palestinians by so called progressive Jews is a new and growing development

  12. Debonnaire says:

    If you want to see the kind of dull, dime a dozen old before their years stand for nothing chubby behemoth Jews referenced here go to neoliberal chickenhawk Matthew Yglesias’ blog where they huddle together in their sweater vests, cry “anti-Semite!” at the drop of a hat and call Peter Beinart’s piece a “blockbuster”.

  13. Isn’t Norman Finkelstein’s next book going to be on the shift among American Jews away from Israel? I wonder what the effect of his work will be on this discourse that is now taking place.

    • Homer says:

      Thanks for your comment, MC, and thanks for the link to your own website. Though I had only a few minutes to peruse it (as yet), I saw much thoughtful discussion there of issues of interest to readers of Mondoweiss.

  14. Elliot says:

    Great piece, Phil.
    Jews as the Establishment flies in the face of Jews as the outsider – which had been a constant in Jewish life. This concept even survived the transition from the ghetto to modernity two centuries ago. Being the outsider was perhaps the only traditional Jewish concept that united all Jews among themselves and with their past.
    Now, that is gone, what is left?
    It’s no wonder that American Jews identify with the Israelis against the Palestinians. It’s not just about tribal loyalty.

  15. Elliot says:

    Total identification with the powerful White immigrants. Pity about the indigenous folk, but what can you do? In the Israeli imagination the Palestinians do not exist. They may as well be living on reservations.
    In the early days of Oslo, there was even a casino in Jericho on the West Bank for Israelis who weren’t allowed to gamble in the State of Israel.
    The American yeshiva students in the picture feel no tension between being American and supporting the Israeli settlers.

    • Excellent, Elliot.
      The analogy with the white European settlers and the Native American tribes is very appropriate.

    • Citizen says:

      You’re right, Elliot–they feel no tension. Being American must mean nothing to them. It’s obvious being Zionists means everything to them.
      Maybe there’s some Israeli girls somewhere outside the snapshot, some girls they are trying to impress by taunting an old Palestinian lady standing in front of her stolen home.

      • Elliot says:

        Citizen:

        You’re right, Elliot–they feel no tension. Being American must mean nothing to them. It’s obvious being Zionists means everything to them.

        umm…so, the tens of millions of Christian Americans – Jews and Christians and everybody else are un-American?
        These young men subscribe to a narrative that seamlessly works on both sides of the Atlantic: they’re into Motherhood, Apple pie, baseball and cars. They’re equally into falafel, Jerusalem-is-Israel’s-eternal-undivided-capital.
        Underpinning all that is the Whites first ideology.

  16. RoHa says:

    I’ve eaten American cheese. It isn’t that bad.

  17. demize says:

    You want traditional “Jewish” cuisine? Order Chinese.

    • Citizen says:

      Or you could snack on some dry historical crackers and gulp some bad wine? Hey, I should talk–I grew up on oatmeal and powdered milk.

  18. Homer says:

    This is just a sudden thought and I know I will probably get creamed for it, but how did it happen that Jews gained so much power and influence in America? I mean, I just woke up from a forty-year nap (or was it twenty?) and I thought the wasps were safely in control when I lay down. Look, Jews were only about two percemt of the population back then. Did they get the atomic bomb?

    What happened? And what’s all this talk above about nepotism? Wouldn’t that be illegal racial or religious discrimination under the recent civil rights legislation of around 1965?