Obamateurism of the Day

We’ve criticized Barack Obama and his White House staff on many occasions for their poor research skills, but there hasn’t been any incident quite as embarrassing as the gaffe made in Obama’s proclamation on Tuesday to commemorate Jewish American Heritage Month. The proclamation listed several prominent Jewish Americans, including Gertrude Stein, a well-known American artist of the early-to-mid-twentieth century:

Their history of unbroken perseverance and their belief in tomorrow’s promise offers a lesson not only to Jewish Americans, but to all Americans. From Aaron Copland to Albert Einstein, Gertrude Stein to Justice Louis Brandeis.

Algemeiner, the self-proclaimed [see update] “fastest growing Jewish newspaper in America,” pointed out that the inclusion of Stein in that list was appalling — since she was an admirer of Adolf Hitler and an apologist for the puppet Vichy regime in France during the war.  The same day that Obama signed and published the order, Alan Dershowitz had blasted the Metropolitan Museum for covering up Stein’s collaboration with the Nazis in France and cheerleading for Hitler (via Breitbart):

Stein, a “racial” Jew according to Nazi ideology, managed to survive the Holocaust, while the vast majority of her co-religionists were deported and slaughtered.  The exhibit says “remarkably, the two women [Stein and her companion Alice Toklas] survived the war with their possessions intact.”  It adds that “Bernard Fay, a close friend…and influential Vichy collaborator is thought to have protected them.”  That is an incomplete and distorted account of what actually happened.  Stein and Toklas survived the Holocaust for one simple reason:  Gertrude Stein was herself a major collaborator with the Vichy regime and a supporter of its pro-Nazi leadership.

According to a new book entitled Unlikely Collaboration:  Gertrude Stein, Bernard Fay and the Vichy Dilemma, by Barbara Will, Stein publicly proclaimed her admiration for Hitler during the 1930s, proposing him for a Nobel Peace Prize.  In the worst days of the Vichy regime, she volunteered to write an introduction to the speeches of General Phillipe Petain, the Nazi puppet leader who deported thousands of Jews, but who she regarded as a great French hero.  She wanted his speeches translated into English, with her introduction, so that Americans would see the virtues of the Vichy regime.  In that respect she was like other modernist writers, such as Ezra Pound and T.S. Eliot who proudly proclaimed their pro-Fascist ideology, but Stein’s support for Fascism was more bizarre because she was Jewish.

Stein’s closest friend, and a man who greatly influenced her turn toward fascism was Bernard Fay, who the Vichy government put in charge of hunting down Masons, Jews and other perceived enemies of the State.  Fay was more than a mere collaborator as suggested by the Met exhibit.  He was a full blown Nazi operative, responsible for the deaths of many people.  After the war, when the horrendous results were known to all, Gertrude wrote in support of Fay when he was placed on trial for his Nazi war crimes.

Perhaps an artist should be judged without regard to his or her political affiliations or actions, but the Met exhibit purports to present the story of the Stein collection and of Gertrude’s life in France.  It ends with a misleading description of her activities during the war years.  It would perhaps be different if this were only an exhibition of the Steins’ art collection rather than a biographical account of her family’s life in France.  By withholding from the viewers an important part of the truth, the Met is engaging in a falsification of history.

So apparently was the Obama administration.  After Algemeiner contacted the White House for comment, the response came that the wrong version of the proclamation had been published, and that the citation of Stein and other specific people had been from just one early draft.  How could Stein be listed at all on any version of such a proclamation?  It took the White House a little while to replace the offending proclamation, but eventually they did.

At some point, the White House has to hire real researchers.  Maybe that’ll be Obama’s second-term agenda. (via E-nough)

Update: Algemeiner points to this Fox News clip to make the argument that their status as the fastest-growing Jewish newspaper in the US isn’t just self-proclaimed:

Got an Obamateurism of the Day? If you see a foul-up by Barack Obama, e-mail it to me at [email protected] with the quote and the link to the Obamateurism. I’ll post the best Obamateurisms on a daily basis, depending on how many I receive. Include a link to your blog, and I’ll give some link love as well. And unlike Slate, I promise to end the feature when Barack Obama leaves office.

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