the schmooze
Marjorie Gottlieb Wolfe
Syosset, New York

A rabbi had a teenage son, and it was getting time the boy should give some thought to choosing a profession.  Like many young men, the boy didn't really seem too concerned about it.  One day, while the boy was away at "cheder" (Hebrew school), his father decided to try an experiment.

He went into the boy's room and placed on his computer desk four objects:  a Bible, a silver dollar, a bottle of whisky and a Playboy magazine.  "I'll just hide behind the door," the rabbi said to himself, "and when he comes home this afternoon, I'll see which object he picks up.  If it's the Bible, he's going to be a rabbi like me, and what a blessing that would be!  If he picks up the dollar, he's going to be a businessman, and that would be okay, too. But if he picks up the bottle, he's going to be a no-good drunkard (a "shiker"), and, Lord, what a "shanda' (shame) that would be.  And worst of all, if he picks up that magazine, he's going to be a skirt-chasin' bum."

The rabbi waited anxiously; he had "shpilkes."  Soon he heard his son's footsteps as he entered the house whistling and headed for his room.  The boy tossed his books on the bed, and as he turned to leave the room, he spotted the objects on the desk.  With curiosity in his eyes, he walked over to inspect them.

Finally, he picked up the Bible and placed it under his arm.  He picked up the silver dollar and dropped it into his pocket.  He uncorked the bottle and took a big drink while he admired this month's centerfold.

"Oy, gevald!" (cry of anguish, suffering), the rabbi disgustedly whispered, "He's gonna be a Politician!"

Kurt Anderson (New York Magazine, 8/18/08) wrote a piece titled, "The Humor Deficit."  He states that McCain and Obama are "two appealing human candidates.  And each man's menschiness (especially McCain's) derives in part from a manifest instinct for irony.  There have been funny presidential nominees before--Jack Kennedy,  Ronald Reagan, even George W. Bush in his way--but never in my lifetime (unless you count Reagan versus Walter Mondale) two at a time."

Jackie Mason also writes about the Yiddish word "mensh":  "If a politician, for example, is behind in an election but still can't bring himself to say a bad word about his opponent, people say, 'Ooh, this is a mensh."  There are no such politicians, of course, but if there was one, people would call him a mensh."

And now let's look at some political humor:


"Barack Obama's staff and John McCain's staff are busy now negotiating when the presidential debates will take place.  That's good, yeah.  Yeah, Obama wants them to be in September, and McCain wants them to be after his nap, but before 'Wheel of Fortune.'"       Conan O'Brien

"This week, Barack Obama, true story, campaigned on an Indian reservation and the tribal chief adopted him.  Yeah, the Indians actually prefer Obama to John McCain, because they still remember when McCain took their land."        Conan O'Brien

"I'm older than dirt, more scars than Frankenstein, but I learned a few things along the way..."  
John McCain    (The man who could be the oldest first-term president)

"Barack Obama was speaking to a Jewish group, and he told them that his name Barack is the same as the Jewish word 'baruch,' which means one who's blessed. That's what he said, yeah.  Obama had a harder time explaining his middle name, Hussein.  Things got quiet there."   Conan O'Brien

"Well, the Democrats are now preparing for their convention in Denver, and they have hired the first ever director of greening.  They say that this year that everything about their convention will be green, including nominating a candidate who's only been a senator for a couple of years."      Jay Leno

"You had a birthday," late-night comedian David Letterman mentioned.  "Tragically," McCain said dryly.

"It turns out the Chinese faked part of the opening ceremonies.  They made the fireworks look more lively.  It's the same technology they use for John McCain."  Craig Ferguson

"A lot of people have said a guy [John McCain] who can't use a computer is the wrong person for the White House.  Last time I checked, the resident only needs to know how to press one button."  Stephen Colbert


Al Gore, in a giddy moment (Bush vs. Gore, 2000) in the Jewish resort areas of New York's Catskill Mountains presented a new type of music emerging in Nashville (Tennessee is Gore's home state), the Jewish country-western song.  He named the popular, "I Was One of the Chosen People--Until She Chose Somebody Else." And "The Second Time She Said 'Shalom,' I Knew She Meant Goodbye."


"Is it finally over?"  His response:  "Freddie Krueger always comes back, Jason re-emerges from the pond once more. Dracula had so many comebacks, nobody was surprised to see him hanging with Abbott and Costello." Jonah Goldberg (N. Y. Post)

[During the 1992 presidential race, Leno and Letterman would focus on "Big Mac" jokes about Clinton gorging himself on junk food.]

"Bill Clinton's foreign policy experience stems mainly from having breakfast at the International House of Pancakes."  Pat Buchanan

"We have a new president [Clinton] and the first thing he wants to see on his desk is flowers."                    
Henny Youngman


A Bush TV ad accuses John Kerry of "missing key Senate votes" while campaigning.  Hey, that's not as bad as George Bush missing two wars while vacationing."       Frank King

[Bush says he insulates himself from the "opinions" that seep into news coverage by getting his news from his own aides.  He says he scans headlines, but rarely reads news stories.]  "I appreciate people's opinions, but I'm more interested in news. And the best way to get the news is from objective sources, and the most objective sources I have are people on my staff who tell me what's happening in the world."        George W. Bush                      (Source:  The Associated Press)


"Riding the wave of space mania, President Kennedy declared that before the end of the decade, America would land a man on the Moon (he never said so, but I suspect that the specific man he had in mind was Richard Nixon.)"                     (Source:  unknown)

[JFK, Jr. carried self-deprecating humor forward.  When he was criticized for appointing his younger brother Attorney General, he innocently observed], "I see nothing wrong with giving Robert some legal experience before he goes out to practice law."  [Robert protested that this joke was not funny, and his brother told him to get used to kidding himself, because people liked it.]  "Yes, but you weren't kidding yourself," Robert responded.  "You were kidding me."                     

"I was campaigning for Bobby [Kennedy] in Oregon, when he lost the primary there. It was the first time a Kennedy had ever been beaten in a primary.  But we were looking forward to a better result in Los Angeles, where a big gala was scheduled. I couldn't stay for the L.A. show, because my son Andy's bar mitzvah was to take place on Saturday night of that week... Bobby had been invited to the bar mitzvah. I'd sent him a wire saying, 'Can guarantee you four hundred Jewish votes if you show up.' He wrote back, 'How many more votes can I get if I come to the synagogue in the morning?'"                     Alan King ("Name-Dropping")


"I believe that Nixon provided some of the greatest pure entertainment this nation has ever seen.  When he was president, if you could disregard the fact that he was (a) the most powerful man in the world and (b) clinically insane, you could really enjoy watching him look into the TV camera, trying SO hard to appear to be a sincere humanoid life-form."   Dave Barry

"Writing about the Nixon administration is about as exciting as covering the Prudential Life Assurance Co."
  Art Buchwald

"He [Nixon] told us he was going to take crime out of the streets.  He did.  He took it into the damn White House."   Ralph Abernathy

"The Nixon Political Principle:  If two wrongs don't make a right--try three."    Lawrence J. Peter


"I feel great.  I'm on the new Joe Lieberman diet.  No matter what I do I just keep losing and losing and losing."
Jay Leno


[In Yiddish, "Er redt on a mos" means "He talks endlessly."  This habit was the focus of many jokes about Hubert Humphrey.]

In his race in 1968 against Nixon, Humphrey said, "When I get home one night after four appearances on TV programs, I opened the door of the refrigerator to get something to eat.  When the light went on, I gave a ten minute speech to a head of lettuce."   Hubert Humphrey

"I can still remember the first time I ever heard Hubert Humphrey speak.  He was in the second hour of a five minute talk."     Gerald Ford


"Would you rather go hunting with Dick Cheney or riding in a car over a bridge with Ted Kennedy?  At least Cheney takes you to the hospital."   Rush Limbaugh

"The government tells Americans to behave normally [after 9/11]," Mason said, "and to go to restaurants just like normal. Meanwhile Cheny and Rumsfeld are in a bunker, 300 miles under the ground."   Jackie Mason


[wearily campaigning in Mississippi for the Democratic nomination, Carter shook the hand of a plastic department store mannequuin, thinking she was a voter. Once he realized his mistake, he said to his staffers], "Better give her a brochure, too."


During the 1988 campaign, the New Republic described the Bush/Quayle ticket as "999 points of light, and one dim bulb."

"I looked into those blue eyes [speaking of Quayle], and I might have been looking out the window."                    William Cavanaugh, Professor

While in the Senate, Quayle tried to persuade Merriam-Webster's dictionary to change the definition of "Hoosier" to "Someone who is quick, smart, a winner, unique, and brilliant."

[Quayle, speaking (from notes) to school- children about the important aspects of Thankgiving], "The first would be our family.  Your family, my family--which is composed of an immediate family of a wife and three children, a larger family with grandparents and aunts and uncles.  We all have our family, whichever that may be."


"He is going around the country stirring up apathy."     George W. Bush, Jr.


[Jane Wyman, on her former husband, Ronald Reagan] "Ask him the time and he'll tell you how the watch is made."


[In 1939, FDR became the first president to appear on TV.  He also spoke in radio "fireside chats."] Alice Roosevelt Longworth said of FDR, "...two thirds mush and one-third Eleanor."


[In 1952, Stevenson at the Democrats' Convention, held in Chicago, was set against running.  Convinced a move to draft him was genuine], he said, "I guess I'm stuck."


[McGovern was making a speech.  He said], "Gentlemen, let me tax your memories." And Ted Kennedy jumped up and said, "Why haven't  we thought of that before"


"About as much backbone as a chocolate eclair."   Pres. Theodore Roosevelt


Three Koch Yiddish-isms: (l) "They're making a big tsimmes out of it." (2) "Stop with your megillah." (3) "You don't agree?  Well, gezinterheidt."

MAYOR FIORELLO LA GUARDIA [who married his secretary, Marie] "I lost a good secretary and found a lousy cook."

"It's reported that Florida Jeb Bush called the hurricane [Charlie] a 'scary, scary thing' so you know he's got his brother's gift of verbal finesse."     Ed Koch

ABRAHAM LINCOLN [about his height and plain looks] "Here am I and here is Mrs. Lincoln.  That's the long and short of it."  And, "The Lord prefers common-looking people.  That's the reason he makes so many of them."


Marjorie Gottlieb Wolfe believes that politics isn't a bad profession.  If you succeed there are many rewards, and if you disgrace yourself, you can always write a 'bukh.'"

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Marjorie Gottlieb Wolfe is the author of
two books:
yiddish for dog and cat loversbook
"Yiddish for Dog & Cat Lovers" and
"Are Yentas, Kibitzers, & Tummlers Weapons of Mass Instruction?  Yiddish
Trivia."  To order a copy, go to her

NU, what are you waiting for?  Order the book!

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