Your email is not valid
Recipient's email is not valid
Submit Close

Your email has been sent.

Click here to send another

Life of the Party

The host of Obama’s second inaugural party, Sen. Charles Schumer, is America’s lovable Jewish Uncle Leo

Print Email
President Barack Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama, and U.S. Senator Charles Schumer during the presidential inauguration on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol, January 21, 2013. (Win McNamee/Getty Images)

My dear congregation, you may notice I am sermonizing to you a little earlier than usual this week. This is because I want to talk to you about something that happened on Monday, before Suri Cruise gets a haircut or Kim Kardashian farts in public and we forget all about it. On Monday, on what seemed like an unnervingly warm day for the end of January, we celebrated the second inauguration of our president.

Michelle had flattering new bangs, Malia and Sasha were as usual adorable. Beyoncé wore a full length evening gown and a cool $1.8 million in matched emeralds to lip sync “The Star Spangled Banner,” while Kelly Clarkson, in a triumph of placement through what sounded like a possible cold, appeared to sing the hell out of some parody lyrics to the British national anthem. On a more serious and meaningful note, there was President Barack Hussein Obama delivering the kind of full-throated, unapologetic endorsement of liberal policies and ideals that if you are me, made you weep with joy, and if you are Sen. Mitch McConnell will send you scrambling to the hills of South Dakota or wherever—until you realize that nobody picks up the trash in a libertarian “community” and you come crawling back to the rest of us Marxists with mail delivery.

And if, in a country with legal separation of church and state, all the mentions of Jesus in the various invocations and rousing choral interpretations of “Glory, Glory, Hallelujah!” started to feel, well, a little goyish for you, you could always take a deep breath and look over to the other nice Jewish boy on the platform—the beaming gentleman from New York and my favorite senator: Charles Schumer.

Because he was everywhere. Chairman of the inaugural committee and master of ceremonies. Fulsomely introducing each platinum-selling recording (and in someone’s case, recorded) artist, and ogling with convincing admiration when they had finished—or at least, when Clarkson had finished. From managing to work in references to his beloved home state of New York at every turn (the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir! The wine from the Finger Lakes! Did I mention this painting behind me is of Niagara Falls?) to hilariously photo-bombing the official photos of the president taking the oath of office, Schumer’s was a constant, gleeful presence—equal parts determinedly energetic camp director kicking off the annual Color Wars (not a bad analogy for our current political process, when you think about it) and naches-filled bat mitzvah dad who can’t help himself from dancing along to “Gangnam Style” even though his daughter begged him not to do anything to embarrass her. In fact, I’ll go one further: On Jan. 21, 2013, Chuck Schumer proved himself to be America’s Uncle Leo, Jerry’s avuncular relative on Seinfeld. Barry! Hello! (I’ll let you know if I have a nightmare where he’s got that tattooed on his knuckles. I had Indian food late last night; it’s likely.)

Kidding aside, maybe it was seeing him up there on the beautifully curated It’s a Small World After All inaugural platform—and indeed, in the larger scheme of diversity that makes the Obama coalition so genuinely moving and so genuinely American—that to me, Schumer seemed emblematic of the Jewish-American experience and our unique place in the tapestry of the country. Since the vast wave of Jewish immigrants and their descendants began to make their massive contributions to American pop culture at the beginning of the 20th century, Jews, with the perspective that only centuries of suffering can give you, have long functioned as kind of color commentators on American life—I and others have written at length about how the base sensibility of American comedy is primarily a Jewish one. As Jews began to rise to positions of real power, the wisecracks became imbued with gravitas, the ability to get things done, or further yet, shape circumstances to one’s own worldview. It’s a heady combination, one that can be dazzlingly effective. As Henry Kissinger once said, power is an aphrodisiac, but power mixed with a sense of humor? Forget about it.

But it can also lead to a kind of myopia, a kind of blinkered worldview that puts one’s own interests and preferences first, for no other reason than because you can (and the kind that leaves you looking frantically for another Jew anytime someone tangentially mentions Jesus). That’s why it was so great to see Schumer up there, mugging for the camera, surrounded by civil rights icons like Myrlie Evers-Williams and trailblazers like Richard Blanco—our first Latino, and first openly gay, poet laureate.

E pluribus unum, reads the great Seal on the platform. Out of many, one. But we are also just one voice out of many, some of whom are being heard for the first time. There’s room for everyone at the table, and we’ll all eat better for it.

Now, have another helping of strudel. The apples are from the Hudson Valley.

***

Like this article? Sign up for our Daily Digest to get Tablet Magazine’s new content in your inbox each morning.

Print Email
Armorer says:

It seems very curious, at t a shame your “lovavble Jewish Uncle” also h to be the Court Jewish sell-out that gave Hagel the cover he needed to surmount any serious objection to his appointment as Secretary of Defense. He was chosen by Obama precisely because, like the President, he has been a supporter of outreach to Israel’s worst enemies. But even worse, the “lovable Jewish Uncle” has given his sanction (we don’t have a grand rabbiu

    Anybody that live in NY knew that it would take Schumer about 10 seconds to fold on Hagel

      Armorer says:

      Bill,
      I couldn’t agree more. He’s a “company man” all the way, with no independent principles or scruples of any kind.

Uncle Leo from Seinfeld was an embarassment. I know you wanted to praise Schumer, but not by comparing him to that kvetch of an alte kaker.

ajweberman says:

Obama is lulling the Jews into a false sense of Security. A Jew becomes Secretary of the Treasury, a Jew hosts his inaugural bash. But a former VVAW member heads the DOS and an isolationist the DOD. Hagel is the anti-Wolfowitz. Thank the neo-cons for his nomination.

Obama can sell out Israel all he wants but he has to keep in mind the cross hairs are on the Middle East oil fields so if Tel Aviv gets destroyed the rest of Western Civilization goes down with it. This country is an oil junkie. Jews will never leave their fate in the hands of non-Jews after the mass murders of the Nazis that the West let go down.

The Republicans are going to have to give up this Laissez-faire bullshit economics which historically never works or they are destined to become a permanent minority party.

Martin Fridson says:

How ironic that in an offhanded swipe at libertarians, the author chooses the classic issue of garbage collection! William F. Buckley alluded to the same issue around the time of the Korean War. Is the author unaware that a lot of garbage in this country IS picked up by private companies? One can argue about the relative merits of private and public trash hauling, but the notion that the job would not get done were it not for the government is ludicrous. And by the way, citing the postal service as an example of the necessity of government involvement in a routine service is even more outlandish. Readers may have heard of companies called Fedex and UPS. The inefficiencies of the state-run version have been a scandal for decades.

    By “inefficiencies” you mean paying people a decent wage? Or covering the godforsaken areas of the country, as opposed to the population centers with a shortage of postal workers.

      Martin Fridson says:

      Thanks, Olterigo, for noticing and responding to my comment. Here is a link to a good, short discussion of inefficiencies of the state-monopoly post office: http://www.forbes.com/2009/04/16/usps-postal-service-mail-opinions-contributors-monopoly.html. Note in particular that research does not uphold the standard argument that government involvement is necessary in order to ensure satisfactory mail service in sparsely populated areas.
      I certainly agree that workers in the mail=delivery industry, and all other industries, should be paid full value for their labor. That level is ultimately determined by the productivity of the U.S. economy as a whole, which is pretty high on a global scale. True supporters of a market economy oppose any attempts by an employer, private or public, to earn rents by somehow evading the discipline of the labor markets in order to pay less-than-competitive wages.
      As for potential shortages of postal workers, I find it hard to imagine that ever becoming a problem in the way that many rural communities have difficulty attracting doctors. I don’t suggest postal workers are less essential to a community than doctors. But compared with physicians, it’s clearly less costly to train an individual to whom employment in postal work would represent an improved opportunity But if you are aware of research documenting a chronic shortage of qualified postal workers, please do bring it to the attention of this forum.

What has Obama offered you Mr Schumer to cause you to turn coat

    Armorer says:

    Ronnie, He’s told him he will succeed Harry Reid as Speaker of the Senate — but only if he toes the line. That’s the way the game is played, even when Israel’s survival is on the line.

Too bad there are so many right-wing people on this site. I was kvelling over the Obama speech, and so were all my friends. Just saying that there is another point of view, and there is no reason to call our delicately balanced approach to Middle East politics “selling out”. Nobody wants a nuclear Iran. Especially Obama. And Schumer.

    Armorer says:

    I’m not a “right-wing” person. I support gay marriage, women’s rights, civil rights, a progressive tax system, a high wall of church/state separation, etc. How am I a “right-winger.” I am a realist about the Mideast, which makes me tough on Israel’s behalf. It may be that Obama and Schumer don’t want a nuclear Iran, but neither has the courage or sense of urgency to stop them. By the way, instead of trying to vilify people that disagree with you (such as calling them “right-wingers”), how about coming up with some strong counter-arguments.

      and how do you believe iran can be stopped? perhaps we knock on a door and announce our disapproval? israel, has bombed an earlier site and iran rebuilt it. you seem to believe there is an easy solution to this monster problem. america, has armaments up the wazoo and we mostly scare each other.

        Armorer says:

        Someone has ill-informed as you shouldn’t display your ignorance. There has NEVER been an attack on Iran’s nuclear installations by Israel or anyone else to date. What do I propose: a massive air/missile assault by US forces using the highese ordinance bunker-buster bombs followed by an unceasing barrage of deep-penetrating missiles and other munitions. That will take care of the nuclear facilities. It will also create a very serious and dangerous situation because Iran will strike back at US targets and Israel, as will its proxies, such as Hezbollah. That’s a very unhappy scenario, but the alternative — a nuclear Iran capable of wiping Israel off the map is totally unacceptable.

    Obama stated on several occasions, including in the debates, that he would not allow Iran to obtain nuclear weapons. If the sanctions don’t stop Iran from developing the nukes, do you really believe he will initiate military action against Iran before they have the nukes or was that just another one of his lies?

      If you believe almost anything that the president promises we have several bridges to sell you. As indicated only massive military action could delay Iran from getting nukes if they want them. Now regime change could work but is almost impossible when the folks in charge have the guns and will use them.

What the fuck is this shit of Israelis thinking that they can control the political tastes of Obama, and the foreign policies of the US government. Israel is not a state of USA. Israelis should not have a say in US politics. Why don’t you people stay out of the USA completely and let USA rulers and politicians decide their political agenda. Israel has 300 nuclear bombs and Iran doesn’t have any nuclear bomb. The real threat in the Middle East is ISRA-HELL, not Iran !!

    Armorer says:

    You are one ugly mf in terms of your rhetoric and attitudes. You are a racist anti-Semite, and, yes, Virginia, brown and black people can be racist. Let’s drop the childish idiocy of that little moronic piece of political correctness.

Pam Green says:

Rachel is as despicable and repulsive as ever! As she sees it, she’s young and has money, so all is right with the world! I hope you’re kidnapped on one of your overseas vacations, Rachel, and are sold in a sex slave market in one of your favorite Islamist countries. Then you might understand the reality you’re working so hard to create for the rest of us.

Jim Potter says:

Reference “The Tattler:” So what else is new, yep we have here in America, a weak, confused, two faced and inept president – sorry about that. But this too will pass…..

BethesdaDog says:

Does reading this women’s articles give you a headache?

mikey248 says:

People like Rachel will be talking about things like bagels-and-lox, schlepping, schmaltz and Seinfeld if and when Iran uses its nukes…what a disgraceful excuse for a fellow Jew.

2000

Your comment may be no longer than 2,000 characters, approximately 400 words. HTML tags are not permitted, nor are more than two URLs per comment. We reserve the right to delete inappropriate comments.

Be a Mensch. Support Tablet.

Thank You!

Thank you for subscribing to the Tablet Magazine Daily Digest.
Please tell us about you.

Life of the Party

The host of Obama’s second inaugural party, Sen. Charles Schumer, is America’s lovable Jewish Uncle Leo

More on Tablet:

Manhattan’s Biggest Menorah Mystery, Solved

By Stephanie Butnick — The story behind the massive Hanukkiah atop a Fifth Avenue building