Free Markets, Free People


Does the Jones joke suggest an attitude?

I’m sure you’ve head about the joke National Security Adviser James Jones told at a recent speech to the Washington Institute For Near East Policy. If not, here it is:

I’d like to begin with a story that I think is true, a Taliban militant gets lost and is wandering around the desert looking for water. He finally arrives at a store run by a Jew and asks for water. The Jewish vendor tells him he doesn’t have any water but can gladly sell him a tie. The Taliban, the jokes goes on, begins to curse and yell at the Jewish storeowner. The Jew, unmoved, offers the rude militant an idea: Beyond the hill, there is a restaurant; they can sell you water. The Taliban keeps cursing and finally leaves toward the hill. An hour later he’s back at the tie store. He walks in and tells the merchant: “Your brother tells me I need a tie to get into the restaurant.”

Jones went on to deliver his speech. But the damage was done. He’s been called everything but a child of God since. Many believe the joke to be anti-semetic.

It certainly plays to a stereotype, doesn’t it? And at a minimum, it was inappropriate.

But Jones obviously thought nothing of telling the joke. And I was rather surprised by his suggestion that he believes the “story” to be “true”. Wiggle out of that one if you can.

So why did Jones feel comfortable in delivering a joke that was obviously of questionable taste and certainly inappropriate for the occasion? Did he actually believe it to be appropriate? Did he not think anyone would take offense? And if so, why?

Those questions get to the heart of my point. There are few rational people who have followed this administration’s dealings with Israel over the last year who would quibble with the word “disrespectful” as a description of how it has dealt with that country. Never, to my knowledge, have the Israelis been treated so badly by the US during their entire existence as a state (and Israel and I share a birth year). The recent diplomatic dust up in which a fairly routine announcement about housing in Jewish east Jerusalem was turned into a crisis by the US, not Israel. Subsequent treatment of the country and its leaders has been just a shabby. So shabby, in fact, that the only bipartisan thing to come out of Congress in a while is a condemnation of the administration’s treatment of Israel.

To me, that suggests an attitude. Jones joke suggest a pervasive attitude. The fact that the White House didn’t demand an apology from Jones only adds to the strength of that suggestion. Frankly it’s an attitude we can ill afford and certainly one that isn’t going to advance any peace process in the region.

On April 20th, apparently recognizing that the administrations treatment of Israel was causing problems within the US Jewish community, President Obama sent a letter to Alan P. Solow, Chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations in an effort to calm the storm that was brewing. In the letter he spoke of the “special relationship” the US has with Israel and promised it would not change. But he also said:

Since we have known each other for a long time, I am sure you can distinguish between the noise and distortion about my views that have appeared recently, and the actual approach of my Administration toward the Middle East.

Typical Obama doublespeak. The actions of his administration are what brought on the concern. It wasn’t “noise and distortion”, it was the words of administration spokespersons and Obama himself that caused consternation among supporters of Israel.

And now, after the letter, we have the Jones issue with no White House disclaimer (remember, this is a WH that felt it necessary to speak about the arrest of a person in DC and condemnation of the police – leading to the infamous “beer summit”).

To me, that points to an attitude – an unproductive attitude – that permeates the administration and clouds its ability to pursue meaningful peace in the Middle East.

~McQ

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23 Responses to Does the Jones joke suggest an attitude?

  • Had a tea partier said it, we’d be hearing about nothing else.

    HIGHLY OFENSIVE

  • Oh come on guys, it’s all part of Imeme’s “Steel” that Erb was in here braggin on.

    Again, no longer an area indicating ineptitude as I thought he was demonstrating in his foreign dealings.  It’s not carefully crafted, but it’s part of some real high school freshman class plan.

  • This is another distraction. Jones is more than a bit of an odd guy. The joke was inappropriate for the setting and mildly distasteful. At it’s worst, perhaps Jones was suggesting that it is the Israeli’s who use the bait and switch in negotiating with the Palestinians (for whom the Taliban was substitute in the joke, in my opinion). But trying to make too much out of it will be a waste of time.

    Bottom line is that I don’t think this incident does anything more than vaguely reinforce how bad these people are. They give power handshakes to Hugo Chavez, who consorts with the Iranians, and treat tough allies like the Israelis with disrespect. The joke barely scratches the surface.

    But I think that the national security establishment is awake to the dangers posed by this administration. That’s why the Gates memo was leaked last week and why former DCI Michael Hayden called them out in a WaPo op-ed a few months ago. You cannot be concerned about U.S. national security and not be seriously worried about Obama. The best case scenario is that he’s reckless. The worst is that it’s intentional. I’m going with the latter.

  • Cue lecture from Maine on “Smart Power” in 3……..2……..1…….

  • But trying to make too much out of it will be a waste of time.

    I agree with you but it does indicate the underlying attitude toward Israel shown by the Administration and its minions.

    They give power handshakes to Hugo Chavez, who consorts with the Iranians, and treat tough allies like the Israelis with disrespect.

    Can you imagine someone of authority from the Bush (both), Clinton, or Reagan adminstrations making a public statement like that?  They would be shown the door and ostracized by virtually the entire political structure from that day onward.  Taday, it is just one more example of the Obama administration playing to the sympathies of the left.

    But I think that the national security establishment is awake to the dangers posed by this administration.

    I can only hope this is true.

    The best case scenario is that he’s reckless. The worst is that it’s intentional. I’m going with the latter.

    My take is that these attitudes are those of a sophmoric mindset cultivated during his formative years.  I also believe these attitudes regarding foreign affairs have not evolved past the attitudes of his youth.  Evidence?  Take a look at the OpEd Obama penned in 1983, Breaking theWar Mentality - one of the very few examples of his writings available for review – and can be accessed at the following:

    http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/news/2174704/posts

    Then take a look at his current Nuclear Manifesto upon which he bases his current Nuclear stance for the US.  Note any serious discrepancies between the two?  Now, from the article he penned, take a hard look at the kinds of organizations he supports with his writings.  Can you now wonder where his attitude toward Israel comes from?  Now, at the same time I can be criticized for extrapolating far too much from a simple article – but at the same time you can’t dispute my conjecture with any of his other writings to conter my points, there arn’t any.  Use his speeches all you want - it has already been shown that he will say whatever he needs to gain a momentary edge with his audience.

    • I think you’re right about the “sophomoric mindset,” but I would add that the Left is always and necessarily sophomoric. In that piece written while he was at Columbia he certainly hits all of the standard platitudes. It’s nothing original. It’s typical of the Left package that is laid on undergraduates at American universities today, although the issues might be different.

      But, something written while an undergraduate does not necessarily mean it indicates an uninterrupted straight line to current thinking. I think that Obama is still sophomoric, but that he is also in a state of what I’ll call “deepened superficiality,” where the early silly beliefs have become deep, critical, and serious commitments. He believes that the United States is the problem, and he is intentionally trying to do something about it. He’s the first anti-American president.

    • You guys are too kind putting them all the way into the sophomore class.

  • …this is a WH that felt it necessary to speak about the arrest of a person in DC and condemnation of the police – leading to the infamous “beer summit”).

    I think you mean Cambridge, MA.  Although, that just makes your point even stronger, IM(NSV)HO.
    Meanwhile, regarding the President’s statement:

    I am sure you can distinguish between the noise and distortion about my views that have appeared recently, and the actual approach of my Administration toward the Middle East.

    Yes, we can distinguish between the two and they would appear to be peas in a pod.  Next question?

  • Well, at least Jones showed the proper deference by using the PC term “Taliban militant”…

  • “In order to desensitize the public to the coming atrocity, one must dehumanize the enemy”

    This statement was as true today, as it was in 1936.

    Jones doth play the role of Brownshirt, willingly.

  • The WH (or someone there) knew the joke was bad. I base this on the fact thar the joke doesn’t appear in the official transcipt, and the video the WH has on its website starts right after the joke (you can still hear the laughter dying as the vodeo starts). He hasn’t been made to apologize because it would be an admossion that it ever happened. The administration is trusting the media to ignore this until it goes away.

  • I thought it showed that the Jewish fellow is way smarter than the Taliboy.

    • I agree. I’ve heard this joke dozens of time over the years and always from my Jewish friends. It demonstrates the foresight and intelligence of the Jew.

  • To be fair, I’d like to believe that Jones’  “I believe this to be true” was just a lead-in to the joke.  I can imagine saying something like that prior to a tall tale in order to sell the story to my audience.  That joke has been floating around in various forms for long enough that I doubt anyone really thought it was a true story.
    It was still a stupid decision on Jones’ part to tell the joke, but then again it’s not like it’s possible to say anything that won’t offend someone these days.

    • Well, jokes that feature a specific race, creed or nationality usually have a reason why they had to mention the race, creed or nationality.   There really ARE inoffensivel jokes out there.

      There is no pass for “everyone does it” on this.

      Let’s tell the same joke, only instead of a jew and a member of the Taliban, we replace them with an African American, and a Mexican woman who just snuck across the border at El Centro.   Regular laugh riot no?

  • Perhaps the US-Israeli moment of similar tension would be 1956…but that was when Israel, France, and the UK invaded Suez. Uncle Sam did not approve.

  • I am going to dissent from the conventional wisdom here.  Several years ago, a very good friend, who happens to be Jewish, sent me this joke.  He thought it was funny and so did I.

    • I’ve heard more jewish jokes from jewish friends than any other source.  They are generally very witty.

      I don’t think as a government foreign relations official, and a non-jew, I’d start off my official government presentation with ANY of them as a way of breaking the ice with my audience.