’s Michael Takiff’s Most Unkindest Cut of All — the Anti-Semitic Attack on Rep. Eric Cantor

–Richard E. Vatz
Jewish people are justifiably proud of their (our) history and accomplishments as citizens of this great country.

They (we) are also justifiably proud of their achievements throughout American life, not because they are Jewish, but because they are hard-working, democratic and honorable citizens who play by the rules.

In America, for the most part in public discourse, the unstated assumption is that a Jewish political person’s actions and positions will be discussed and/or disputed only on their merits. Gone, one thought, is the irrelevant calumny that those actions and positions should be criticized in establishment media in terms of a person’s religion or race.

The latest exception to these rules of civil discourse is found in’s Michael Takiff’s attack [“A Debt Ceiling Shonda; My fellow Jew has been pushing his party — and the country — toward a disastrous default. How could this be?” July 22, 2011] on House majority leader Eric Cantor’s conservative position on the budget and debt ceiling debate.

Takiff/ calls Rep. Cantor “deeply embarrassing to our country.”

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Takiff/ calls Rep. Cantor’s positions and behavior “shonda fur die goyem,” a Yiddish phrase meaning shameful as witnessed by non-Jewish people.

Takiff/ analogizes Rep. Cantor to “rich Jewish financiers screwing millions of ordinary people.”

Takiff/ links Rep. Cantor to what he characterizes as bloodthirsty neocons, “so keen on sending other parents’ children off to war.”

I cannot imagine a more irresponsible, reprehensible piece.

To use Cantor’s Jewishness to shame him for his positions on taxes and government spending, maliciously interpreted in Takiff/’s piece as motivated only by his desire to “curry favor among a bunch of mouth-breathing fanatics” (I didn’t say the attack was diluted with any sophistication) is one of the most contemptible arguments I have ever read in a mainstream publication, notwithstanding some soft “please like me because I am cute” paragraphs about his Jewish lineage.

And then there’s the rough stuff on “bullshitting” and gratuitous “above all else…Jews should not be Republicans.” Takiff/ goes through a thoroughly despicable misrepresentation of Republicans to which I cannot do justice, but that false description, too, is in service of the admonition that Rep. Cantor should “stop embarrassing your people.”

Takiff’s self-serving and cruel sophistry should be rejected by all serious democrats and Democrats. It reflects terribly on people who represent and on Takiff himself, not as a Jewish person, but as a public figure with public responsibilities.

Dr. Vatz is a professor at Towson University

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