Monday, April 16, 2007
when i get in trouble with language, the fate of the world is what's at stake:
Matt read aloud to me the quoted remarks of Tommy Thompson to the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism. Among them: making money is "part of the Jewish tradition" and, as governor of the state of Wisconsin, he was among the first to buy "Jewish bonds," presumably meaning Israel bonds. Huh? Thompson didn't really say that, did he?

According to Thompson spokesman Tony Jewell, yes. The Thompson 2008 campaign doesn't have a transcript of his remarks, delivered off the cuff, but he said "we're not disputing" the quotes attributed to Thompson by Ha'aretz reporter Shmuel Rosner. I asked Jewell about a Jewish Telegraphic Agency story -- in which Thompson is cited as calling Winston Churchill the first real leader of Israel -- but the spokesman hadn't seen it. (Update to follow as necessary.)

So, what's up with this? "The governor recognizes that he misspoke in his remarks to the Religious Action Center, and he's been very apologetic, especially given his relationship with the Jewish community," Jewell says. He's been encouraged by people e-mailing the campaign to convey a recognition that the remarks "were not smart, but not malicious."

UPDATE: Jewell spoke to Thompson about the JTA story, and he says he's been misquoted about the Churchill reference. "He says he only spoke about Churchill in the context of Iraq," Jewell says. "He absolutely did not speak of Churchill in the context of Israel. As far as I can tell, yes (he was misquoted), he was genuinely surprised to hear that. In his Iraq policy, he wants the United States to help build the political infrastructure by electing territorial provincial governments to build the political infrastructure and make it stronger. Britain was somehow involved in splitting the regions up way back when. That was the only context he spoke of Churchill." And indeed, the governor meant to say "Israel bonds," referring to Wisconsin's purchase of them during Thompson's administration.

Jewell adds, "The governor has apologized. There was no malice, and he has apologized for what he said." So, what did he mean, exactly? "He was complimenting the Jewish community for their accomplishments, and talking about financially, educationally, and as a community."

--Spencer Ackerman
Churchill is no longer mentioned at the Jewish Telegraph Agency link.
Blogger washerdreyer | 3:55 PM

What did Thompson mean, exactly? He meant he's the kind of guy who when he hears the word "Jewish", automatically thinks "money". A prejudice can't be malicious if it's totally unconscious, can it?
Blogger David Moles | 3:44 AM

the funny thing is that pro-israel forces work very hard to dissolve the distinctions between judaism and israel -- claiming that criticism of the latter is slander of the former.

to say israel oppresses palestinians is somehow considered anti-semitic.

but when thompson says "jewish bonds" it's a problem.

(to be clear, my view is that there ought to be a clear distinction between judaism, the religious tradition, and israel, the political project, and it is well and good that thompson is called to task for his miscues)
Blogger notbrowninggravy | 7:45 PM

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Blogger Fibercement | 3:46 AM