He refers to the president’s reference last week in a health policy conference call with rabbis to the High Holy Days "U’netana Tokef" prayer; Obama was quoted as saying that while — as the "Who shall live, who shall die" prayer determines — God is the ultimate arbiter, Jewish tradition does not absolve men and women from preventing death; "We are God’s partners in matters of life and death," he said.
This was typical fare in a conversation with clerics. The rabbis speaking to Politico that Kaus describes as "bending over backwards" to defend Obama are simply making that point.
In other words, there’s room for wondering whether the whole health care debate should be kept far, far away from the precincts of faith and whether it is appropriate for a non-Jew to preach Judaism to rabbis, but imputing to the remarks proof of the crazed "death panel" rumors when the president was making a case for extending life is, well, dishonest. Even more dishonest: Kaus omits any reference to the prayer — and, I suspect, knows that depriving it of that context lends the comment the patina of policy instead of piety.
What drove me out of my vacation to blog this is that Kaus tweaks Rabbi David Saperstein for lacking "brevity" in dismantling the whole sorry story. Kaus prefers rabbis who tweet.
Because, you know, when someone explains something there’s not much room for conjuring up rumors.
I’m boring, I know, but I’ll take Saperstein’s policy analysis over Kaus’s any day.