Grayson: ‘My words don’t matter’


I wrote earlier about Alan Grayson using the term "holocaust" to describe the health care system in the United States, which has led Jewish Republicans to call for an apology. Grayson did appear on MSNBC’s "Rachel Maddow Show" Wednesday night, and admitted that he could have probably picked a better term, but said that wasn’t really important. From TPM:

"Rachel, it may not have been the best choice of words. But I will say this — my words don’t matter. That’s not what’s important here. What’s important is we do what we need to do."

Grayson went on to say that "people want a Democrat with guts," and repeated his classification of Republicans as Neanderthals.

"We’re dealing with people on the other side who are utterly unscrupulous. These are foot-dragging, knuckle-dragging Neanderthals who know nothing but ‘no.’

Meanwhile, Politico examines whether there’s "a difference between talking about the Holocaust and talking about a generic, lower-case “holocaust?”:

The text of Grayson’s statement, e-mailed to reporters, showed the word beginning with a lower-case “h,” not as a proper noun referring to the systematic execution of Jews by Nazis.

For some Jewish lawmakers, there’s a big and appropriate distinction. For others, the word is so loaded that the generic term is as offensive as the specific one. There also appears to be a generational split, with older Jews more likely to cringe at the term.

“I don’t believe that the use of the word holocaust is sacrosanct. There’s a plain-English meaning,” said Rep. Anthony Weiner, D-N.Y., who is 45. “I think Congressman Grayson was using hyperbolic language because this has been a debate that has been dominated by the extremes.”

Jared Polis, a 34-year-old Jewish Democrat from Colorado, approached the question the same way.

“There have been many tragic holocausts,” Polis said.

Older Jews seem uncomfortable with any rhetorical use, arguing it is hard to make a distinction between a holocaust – total devastation, particularly by fire — and the Holocaust.

“To me, there’s only one Holocaust, and I think excessive use of that word has the effect of trivializing the Holocaust,” said Rep. Eliot Engel, 62, who represents the Bronx neighborhood where Grayson grew up. “I know that wasn’t Congressman Grayson’s intention at all. I wish he would not use that word.” 

Recommended from JTA