Obama declares war on Christmas and Hanukkah!

The standard fare from the right this time of year gets a new twist


Mike MaddenAlex Koppelman
December 12, 2009 4:18AM (UTC)

By now, the "war on Christmas" has become a familiar feature of the, um, holiday season, with right-wingers from Bill O'Reilly to Focus on the Family and even Chuck Norris seeking out and doing battle with imaginary secular humanist forces of darkness. This year, though, with a left-wing Marxist Muslim in the White House, conservatives are also worried that the Obama administration is being insufficiently solicitous toward Jews during Hanukkah.

Not to worry, though, because there are people on the case. Below, a rundown of what the forces of godless ACLU-ism are doing to ruin the season for us, and what some brave souls are doing to fight back.

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Christmas

"A Republican lawmaker with a mission to save Christmas is aiming his latest salvo at President and first lady Obama, who've followed in a recent tradition to eliminate the mention of Christmas in the White House holiday cards," FoxNews.com's Todd Starnes wrote in an article published Thursday.

You might want to have your kids leave the room before reading the content of the card -- it is shocking. As summarized by Starnes:

The card selected by the Obamas announces: "Season's Greetings." Inside, it reads: "May your family have a joyous holiday season and a new year blessed with hope and happiness."

Rep. Henry Brown, R-S.C., wasn't about to take this lying down.

"I believe that sending a Christmas card without referencing a holiday and its purpose limits the Christmas celebration in favor of a more 'politically correct' holiday," Brown told Fox News Radio.

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So he's fighting back -- he's introduced a resolution "expressing the sense of the House of Representatives that the symbols and traditions of Christmas should be protected for use by those who celebrate Christmas." Under the resolution -- which, even if passed, would be without any legal force whatsoever -- the House would also "strongly disapprov[e] of attempts to ban references to Christmas."

Of course, there really aren't any "attempts to ban references to Christmas," and neither the resolution nor a statement that Brown put out about it point to any. (The common complaint about various stores trying to appeal to as many people as possible with religiously neutral holiday greetings doesn't come close to being a "ban.")

That hasn't stopped 58 representatives -- all Republicans -- from signing on as co-sponsors, of course.

Hanukkah

Not satisfied with waging a war only on Christmas, Obama has also, apparently, taken it upon himself to declare one on Hanukkah. At least, that's the impression some Jewish conservatives are trying to foster, kvetching about the number of invitations the White House did -- or didn't -- send out to prominent Jews for the one Hanukkah reception nestled in among the Christmas bashes that keep 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue humming this time every year.

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Only 550 people were invited to the Dec. 16 Hanukkah party, the New York Times reported Friday, which has some Jewish Republicans trying to stir up some tsuris for the White House. George W. Bush's administration, according to former White House Jewish outreach adviser Tevi Troy, used to invite twice that many people. The implication, of course, is that the new crew just doesn't care as much about Jews as the GOP did. In an Op-Ed for the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Troy warned that the party was contributing to "a nagging sense that there may be a studied callousness at work here."

Oy vey, where to begin. For one, the Times found little evidence that the Bush Hanukkah parties were as well-attended as Troy recalls. "Administration officials also noted that White House records showed that Mr. Bush never had more than 584 guests at his Hanukkah parties," the paper writes. "Most years there were fewer than 500, they said."

For another, though the Obama Hanukkah invitation prompted some grumbling for calling the party a "holiday reception" instead of naming the specific holiday involved, that still doesn't top Bush's 2008 (or 5769) gaffe. Last year, the invitation for the last-ever chance to eat latkes with George and Laura Bush featured, on the front, a painting of a Clydesdale horse schlepping a Christmas tree up the White House driveway. "It is something that just slipped through the cracks," said a spokeswoman at the time.

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Besides, it's not that convincing to believe Bush was ever that into the holiday to begin with. Sure, he had the first official White House Hanukkah reception. (Obama, it should be noted, had the first official White House Passover seder.) But considering the foreign policy adventures that Bush's administration launched, isn't a holiday commemorating the victory of a small band of fundamentalist religious insurgents over an occupying power a little too on the nose?

The Hanukkah reception nonsense is clearly just the latest attempt to paint Obama as somehow hostile to the Jewish community and its interests. (Set aside the fact that that effort, in turn, paints the Jewish community as monolithic; like most other Jews, I don't vote for politicians based solely on their views on Israel.) During the campaign last year, there were constant efforts to insinuate that Obama couldn't hold the same share of the Jewish vote that Democratic presidential candidates have come to depend on. And yet, when all was said and done, Obama took 78 percent of the Jewish vote -- 2 points better than John Kerry did in 2004. Which just goes to show the whole thing is, as Rabbi Levi Shemtov -- head of the Washington office for the Lubavitchers -- told the Times, "one big overblown latke."


Mike Madden

Mike Madden is Salon's Washington correspondent. A complete listing of his articles is here. Follow him on Twitter here.

MORE FROM Mike Madden

Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

MORE FROM Alex Koppelman

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