Memo to Dick Gephardt

Dick, the recent revelations that most of the Democratic candidates have Jewish roots requires us to take swift action. Just to review the recent news: Howard Dean’s wife and kids are Jewish, Dennis Kucinich keeps kosher (because of his Jewish girlfriend), General Wesley Clark comes from a line of rabbis in Minsk, Hillary Clinton’s grandmother married someone named Max Rosenberg, and John Kerry, of all people, learned that both his paternal grandparents were Jewish (Kerry was originally Kohn).

Call me paranoid, but I suspect these candidates saw how well the Jewish thing polled for Joe Lieberman and did some creative genealogy to come up with Jewish roots. Kerry’s polling, in fact, revealed a 6% hike in his favorables when voters were asked, “How would you feel if it turned out that Senator Kerry had Jewish roots?” This polled much higher than when they asked about Hinduism or Baha’i.

My polling shows a similar pattern. Apparently, while being Jewish used to be associated with greed, disloyalty, and pushiness, it now is associated with good SATs, strong families, and fiscal responsibility.

Unfortunately, we’re too late to simply find some Jewish ancestors for you. We’re going to have to devise ways for you to seem Jewish despite the baggage of having all gentile ancestors.

1) Announce you are Lactose-Intolerant. Most candidates have some medical problem, and if yours is Lactose intolerance, a common affliction of European Jews, you can imply that you have Jewish roots without actually having to prove it.

2) Throw Yiddish Into Stump Speeches. Try getting the crowd to chant, “Bush is a Schmuck; Don’t Buy His Shtick.” For your big speech coming up at the Longshoreman’s union, let’s announce “the European Union is meshugenah!”

3) Work With Jane. You know I think the world of your wife, but she is–how should I put this?–about as shiksa as they come. We need to make her seem more Hadassah Lieberman, less Barbara Bush. Can she learn to bake potato kugel?

4) Turn More of Your Statements into Questions. In accordance with Jewish rabbinical tradition, you should now answer all questions with questions. For instance, if a reporter asks you, “What do you think of forcing a regime change in Iraq?” you should not answer that “a properly orchestrated regime change could stabilize the region, and promote American national security interests.” Rather, you should say, “So, what’s not to like?”

5) Eat More Chinese Food. While I don’t fully appreciate Jewish people’s fondness for Chinese food, I have taken the liberty of asking our research and oppo folks to locate a Chinese restaurant in every midwestern state. If we can find one, I recommend replacing the classic coffee-at-the-diner-outside-the-factory with a mu-shu-at-the-Chinese-restaurant-near-the-outlet-mall.

6) Develop a Streisand Strategy. I’m working on a separate memo on how to get her endorsement. But we need to have a plan B. I recommend that we simultaneously court Mandy Patinkin, a move that would fly below the radar screen of the mainstream press, which fails to understand Patinkin’s apparent status as a major Jewish cultural figure.

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Steve Waldman

Steven Waldman, a Washington Monthly contributing editor, is the co-founder of Report for America, a national service program for journalists.