Words are the tools of people who do things political for us. President Obama’s historic political career is in part in place because of how he uses words. President George Bush stumbled so in expressing himself, it kept people from hearing what he actually said. People in the public arena have to take care in not only what they say, but how they say things. Words are important.
It’s odd then to run across an aspiring political figure who uses words that just don’t come together right. How it comes out must at some level reflect on what a person is really saying and while misusing words wrong once is pardonable, offensive language, when it happens more than once, can indicate that maybe there is something more going on. That’s why Erie County Executive Chris Collins’ “Some of my best golfing friends are Jewish” defense is so jangling. As part of an apology for comparing the Orthodox Jewish Speaker of the Legislature to Adolph Hitler, it just doesn’t work.
Back in October, Collins, who is being mentioned as a Republican gubernatorial candidate in New York State, not only compared Democrat Sheldon Silver to Adolph Hitler, but dug deeper into his framework of historical references and invoked Nostradamus when he called Sheldon Silver the embodiment of the anti-Christ. No mere slip of the tongue this. Maybe there’s too much History Channel being watched in the Collins household, These, though, aren’t conversational words that might have several meanings and they weren’t things just easily roll off the tongue. There is some thought behind them and not the product of casual conversation. In attempting to make things right, Collins then came up with this gem.
“Anyone that knows me knows that I’m not an anti-Semitic person. My grandfather’s Jewish. My daughter’s boyfriend from Boston College is Jewish. A lot of my friends – my golfing friends and so forth.”
So far, Collins’ Jewish ‘golfing buddies’ have been silent while the erstwhile politician struggles to get his foot out of his own mouth. Not an auspicious start to a campaign in the State of New York. All of this might not play too well in New York City or Long Island.
Words matter. Especially for those in the political spotlight. Collins has used them twice now in a distasteful and distorted way and in the doing has dramatically hurt himself and his political aspirations.
(Note: This is an online editorial. It has not appeared in a Jewish Ledger print edition)