Such self-loathing is, of course, nothing new. “Who hates the Jews more than the Jew?” Henry Miller once asked. But Mamet has a ready answer for Miller: everyone else. The world hates the Jews, he writes, always has, always will. Liberal Jews who read The New York Times or listen to National Public Radio may not think so, but they are naďve; when the pogrom comes, he predicts, even lapsed Jews will search frantically for doorways with mezuzas. In fact, apart from various Internet wackos, anti-Semitism, at least the American strain, has waned; how else to explain the very assimilation Mamet so detests? But he writes as if Father Coughlin is still on the radio, Henry Ford still hawks The Dearborn Independent and Fritz Kuhn’s German American Bundists still march through Yorkville.
With equal fervor, Mamet depicts lapsed Jews as figures from Dante, full of pain and guilt and “anomie,” languishing in an ethnic limbo, scorned by Jew and gentile alike. Pathetic, self-lacerating losers, he calls them (sort of like gay Republicans). Naturally, no one’s fooled: to both themselves and those who hate them, they’ll always be Jews. Mamet subscribes to what an old Jew from Chicago — one a generation older than he — once told me: “You can change your noses, but not your Moses.”
But as near as I can tell, few wayward Jews feel such angst. We are no longer in the age of “The Jazz Singer,” where children steeped in Jewish learning break their poor pious fathers’ hearts by trading pulpits for prosceniums. They may feel a pang or two around their Christmas trees, but as assimilated children of assimilated parents, their Jewish ties were pretty attenuated already. Here, too, Mamet seems a generation or two too late. Given his prodigious talent and insight, one wonders why. Maybe it’s a bizarre form of nostalgia, for a time when, thanks largely to their enemies, Jews felt more fraternal, and many were shtarkers — tough guys — rather than the deracinated wimps he thinks we’ve become, people whose favorite Jew, as he puts it, is Anne Frank.
It is hardly surprising, therefore, that Bush, the ur-"freedom agenda" sentimentalist, ended up (in words Woodward attributes to Cheney) "a big fan" of Kissinger. And, in the passages Woodward attributes to Kissinger in State of Denial, you can see how he insinuated himself: with a masterful understanding of Bush's psychology. The passages that leap out are the ones that serve to salve an imperiled sense of presidential masculinity in the face of failure: "For Kissinger, the overriding lesson of Vietnam is to stick it out"; "Even entertaining the idea of withdrawing any troops could create momentum for an exit that was less than victory"; "Kissinger claimed that the United States had essentially won the war in 1972, only to lose it because of weakened resolve"--the weakened resolve of others.
At this point, nobody should have any illusions about Mr. Bush’s character. To put it bluntly, he’s an insecure bully who believes that owning up to a mistake, any mistake, would undermine his manhood — and who therefore lives in a dream world in which all of his policies are succeeding and all his officials are doing a heckuva job. Just last week he declared himself “pleased with the progress we’re making” in Iraq.
In other words, he’s the sort of man who should never have been put in a position of authority, let alone been given the kind of unquestioned power, free from normal checks and balances, that he was granted after 9/11. But he was, alas, given that power, as well as a prolonged free ride from much of the news media.
Perle goes so far as to say that, if he had his time over, he would not have advocated an invasion of Iraq: "I think if I had been delphic, and had seen where we are today, and people had said, 'Should we go into Iraq?,' I think now I probably would have said, 'No, let's consider other strategies for dealing with the thing that concerns us most, which is Saddam supplying weapons of mass destruction to terrorists."
Tucker also excelled at ending things. In 1997, after 22 years of directing her beloved institution, she did another thing people don't do much: She voluntarily stepped aside. Nudge-nudge, museum people everywhere, and I suppose also art critics. Like I said, Tucker was a hero.