At last week’s State of the Union address (SOTU), Representatives Lauren Boebert and Marjorie Taylor Greene (MTG) disrupted. At one point, Joe Biden made a reference to potentially carcinogenic burn pits in military zones, and Boebert yelled that Biden caused 13 military deaths in Afghanistan. At another point, Boebert and MTG chanted “Build the Wall.” It is nice they have found each other so they do not become dispirited pariahs in Congress, demoralized by isolation. Like The Squad, they seem to be forming a ladies’ clique. Good.
Truth to tell, I have not always been the best behaved either. Without elaborating, during my college years I was quite the pill for those whose left-wing annoyances invited my attention and reaction. However, nigh half a century has ensued. I now have access to some portals of influence, something I lacked then. For example, you read my thoughts on these wonderful pages twice weekly, and I now reach tens of thousands, occasionally hundreds of thousands. In my rabbinic and other professional associations, my leadership roles command respect and attention. In one major rabbinic group, there actually is an entrenched caucus of 1960s Democrats who exist primarily to prevent me from ever becoming that organization’s president. Under their by-laws, only a previous regional vice-president can be eligible to run for president. Fearing for the past ten years since I joined that rabbinic association that I would be a shoo-in for West Coast Regional Vice President, they have diluted my electoral support by adding England, France, New Zealand, Australia, Hungary, Poland, Germany, Austria, Vancouver, B.C., Russia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Ukraine to the region covered by the United States West Coast. Putin should have it so easy to annex territory without cause.
I miss that Lost America. I hate the coarseness that has replaced it, where a sleaze like a Cardi B can become a success by writing the most disgusting lyrics I ever have seen — and yet can be solicited by a Joe Biden during a presidential campaign to help win young voters.
When an organization adds 14 countries to California, Oregon, Washington State, and Arizona just to prevent you from getting elected a regional vice president, you don’t need to heckle. Their nonsense validates my influence. And of course I simply proceeded to co-found a more influential national rabbinic organization where I not only am a Senior Rabbinic Fellow but also am … West Coast regional vice president. And we have not annexed Crimea.
I deeply hope the day will come when the likes of Representatives Boebert and MTG do not perceive it in their interest to further disrupt the halls of Congress during a SOTU. That behavior strikes me as very wrong, almost reflecting weakness. Those without power heckle to be heard. Those with influence get the job done quietly with a big stick. I explain:
We now live in an era of coarseness, cancel culture, intolerance, a refusal to entertain or even listen to conflicting opinions. That is not the America in which I was reared. When I attended Columbia University, two of my best friends in college were communists. It was college, not the Kremlin. One of them took great notes in all the Karl Marx classes. You could not get a Poli Sci bachelor’s degree at Columbia without taking lots of Karl Marx courses. We read Marx, Engels, Frantz Fanon,Herbert Marcuse, and all kinds of related Leftist garbage. Marx, whose father converted the whole family to Christianity before he even was born, was such an anti-Semite that it was like reading Hitler. When possible, I tried to get by solely with Cliff Notes and my communist friend’s class notes. It worked. With that blend, my grade for the course was das kapital “A.” Today, my college friend probably is a Silicon Valley Democrat fundraiser or, having gotten mugged at some point — whether in the street, on the subway, or in his state income taxes — he might be more Randist-Objectivist than I. We lost touch.
I had another good friend in college, an Arab Muslim who hated Israel. His mid-1970s view was that Israel would be gone in 10-20 years, so why disrupt a good friendship if the Jewish guy (moi) was game? And I was game. We simply minimized Mideast discussions, and we went to movies together. We both knew how to pronounce hummus with the guttural “Ḥ.” Oh, and Israel is still doing fine, thank you.
I miss that Lost America. I hate the coarseness that has replaced it, where a sleaze like a Cardi B can become a success by writing the most disgusting lyrics I ever have seen — and yet can be solicited by a Joe Biden during a presidential campaign to help win young voters who otherwise (i) would not touch him, (ii) would not know his name, (iii) would not know that presidential elections are coming, and (iv) would miss voting anyway because they would be stoned while polls close.
There is value in respecting discrete core rules of civility. Not necessarily all of civility, just the core. So we eat with flatware rather than with our hands, even if some of us do not distinguish properly between the fish fork and the salad fork. There is a correct way to hold a fork even if these are the tines that try men’s souls. One does not talk nor even whisper when Cavaradossi sings E lucivan le stelle or when Tosca sings Vissi d’arte. Frankly, you don’t talk during an opera or a symphonic concert, and should not at any public performance. Nor should you chat in church or synagogue or mosque or temple. Nor eat crunchy munches at other sound-sensitive entertainments.
There are norms of behavior. And it is wrong — it always is absolutely wrong — to shout out during the president’s State of the Union address.
But here’s the thing: It also is unacceptable, and outside all bounds, for a Nancy Pelosi to tear a President’s SOTU speech, even after he has finished. And therein lies the warning to the Woke:
Dear Wokesters, you do not live in a vacuum. Rather, under a scientific law of physics as applied to politics, know that every despicable action you initiate generates an equal and opposite reaction. Harry Reid suspends the filibuster for presidential executive appointments and the Supreme Court, so Mitch McConnell responsively does what he never otherwise would have done and suspends the filibuster for all other presidential judicial appointments. If Democrats add six seats to the Supreme Court after terminating the filibuster rule completely, Republicans will add eight SCOTUS seats just as easily and even more quickly when their turn comes.
If Democrats add Puerto Rico and D.C. to the U.S. Senate, the GOP will add one or two red states, too, if it means breaking off Kevin McCarthy’s conservative San Joaquin Valley region from California and likewise clipping off the conservative northern region of California or New York or both. Republicans also can consider adding American Samoa as a state. Until now, that American territory, with political status equal to Puerto Rico, has had one elected non-voting delegate to the U.S. House of Representatives. They elected Amata Coleman Radewagen, a Republican, in 2014. She was reelected in 2016 with 75.4 percent of the vote. In 2018 she got 83.3 percent. In 2020 she won 83.5 percent. So she could be a GOP U.S. Senator.
Before Republicans showed disrespect to a Democrat president at a SOTU address, it was Obama who broke protocols by insulting Supreme Court justices attending a SOTU. That just is not done. Obama did it once and never again because, as of the next SOTU, the attacked justices predictably reciprocally stopped attending Obama SOTU addresses. Trump was treated disrespectfully for four years, so now Biden is treated that way. For all the fun of chanting “Let’s Go, Brandon!” this did not emerge from a vacuum. That is how it works.
If Obama had not behaved in manners aimed at humiliating opponents like John McCain, and if Democrats had treated Trump civilly, and if Nancy Pelosi had been proper with Boebert and MTG, they would not have broken protocol at SOTU. Unfortunately, Pelosi has denied MTG committee assignments, banned Republican selections for her January 6 hatchet commission, and regularly flouts civility. Therefore, expect Kevin McCarthy to oust Ilhan Omar from her perch on the House Foreign Affairs Committee when payday comes. As for Rashida Tlaib on Finance and on House Oversight and Reform, we shall see.
Thus the warning to the Congressional Woke: Nothing goes unnoticed. You can destroy curricula in inner-city public schools, where Black kids tragically will pay years later for curricula and text books based on critical race studies, 1619 history, woke math, and no cursive writing or graded exams. But laws of physics — like Newton’s three laws of motion, his law of universal gravitation, and the laws of thermodynamics — assure that, for every Squad or other Woke outrage, there will be an equal and opposite reaction that will come back to bite. If not for Obama, there would not have been Trump. If not for AOC, there would not be MTG. And if not for Biden and Pelosi, we would not soon see a GOP House and, two years thence, a coherent President.
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