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April 20, 2007

Tommy Thompson's botched joke

Remember John Kerry's botched joke? Here it is:

"You know, education, if you make the most of it, if you study hard and you do your homework, and you make an effort to be smart, uh, you, you can do well. If you don’t, you get stuck in Iraq."
The noteworthy thing about this joke is that it's just plain mean-spirited. It's a put-down of the American troops -- or, if you believe Kerry's explanation, George Bush.

But not all botched jokes are mean-spirited. Some are meant as compliments. Like Tommy Thompson's botched joke at a conference on poverty sponsored by the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism:
Republican presidential candidate Tommy Thompson began his speech by saying that after 38 years in government, the former Wisconsin governor was for the first time in the private sector and earning money. That, he said, is "sort of part of the Jewish tradition, and I do not find anything wrong with that. I enjoy that."
According to the article, at the end of Thompson's half-hour talk, Rabbi David Saperstein "alerted him to the crowd's murmurings." And Thompson made this immediate clarification:
Returning to the podium, the former secretary of health and human services said he didn't "want to infer or imply anything about Jews and finances." He said, rather, that he was referring to "the accomplishments of the Jewish religion and the Jewish people. You have been outstanding business people and I compliment you for that and if anybody took what I said wrong, I apologize. I may have mischaracterized it. You are very successful. I applaud you for that."
Unlike Wesley Clark's "New York money people," this really is nothing to complain about. After all, jokes about making money are a staple of Jewish humor and have been for years.

One of my favorites: Moish and Sam are walking past a church, and they see this notice on the message board: "Become Baptized, Get $20." Moish says, "You know, Sam, I'm going to do it." Sam can't believe it. "You're going to get Baptized?" Moish says, "Yeah, I'm going to go inside right now." And he does. About a half hour later, Moish comes out of the church. Sam says, "Nu? Did you do it?" Moish says, "I did." Sam says, "So, did you get the $20?" Moish looks at him with contempt. "Is that all you people think about?"

Another oldie: A mother is in the park with her two young boys. Another woman says to her, "What lovely boys you have. How old are they?" The mother responds, "The doctor is six, and the lawyer is four."

So Thompson's apology puts this all to rest, right? Well, not exactly. The article reports that Thompson made two other "gaffes." First, he referred to "Jewish" bonds, when he meant "Israel" bonds. Second, he said "Jewish Defense League" when he meant "Anti-Defamation League."

Each of these is amusing in its own way, but if this gentlemen really thinks he's ready to be our President, I wonder if Jacob Weisberg is ready.