Kinky Friedman’s fiercely independent politics: a unique Jewish take on 2016

 

 

Click photo to download. Caption: Kinky Friedman. Credit: Kinky Friedman press photo.

By Jacob Kamaras/JNS.org

My recent interview with popular singer-songwriter Kinky Friedman was arranged as part of my article about Friedman’s upcoming concert for the 85th anniversary of a restored historic Texas synagogue, Congregation Beth Jacob of Galveston. But alas, Friedman is an outspoken former gubernatorial candidate, so politics inevitably entered the conversation. I didn’t even need to ask.

“Jews in America have a decision to make” in the 2016 presidential election, explains the Jewish musician with the provocative nickname—which derived from the non-provocative origin of his curly hair—and provocative album titles like “They Ain’t Making Jews Like Jesus Anymore.” 

“I don’t think the Democrats have treated Israel very well,” Friedman tells me, describing himself as a “Democrat most of my life, and definitely now an independent at best, and maybe a Republican.”

If that’s not fierce independence politically, I don’t know what is. 

Friedman—who as an independent candidate finished fourth in the six-person Texas governor’s race in 2006, receiving 12.6 percent of the vote—says politics will have “very little place” in his March 26 concert for Congregation Beth Jacob. But they have a very large place in the following interview, which is short on questions and long on commentary because I spent most of my time on the phone simply listening to Friedman.

JNS: So who are you backing in the presidential election?

Kinky Friedman: “I don’t know. Anybody would be better than what we’ve got. What we’ve got is Forrest Gump, and nobody could see it coming because we elected him kind of in an ‘American Idol’ type of situation. He’ll probably be best remembered for either sending Winston Churchill’s bust back to the Brits…or maybe taking selfies at Nelson Mandela’s funeral. I’m not sure which one. But that’ll probably be pretty much his legacy. And I don’t like to pick on [President Barack] Obama, because all those politicians are like that. [Secretary of State] John Kerry was sent here from outer space to try our patience. What you do is you judge a president by how he grows in office….Obama campaigned as an agent of change and yet, ironically, he seems incapable of any change himself. So he’s hardly gone a millimeter from the time he came into office. And the rest of the politicians of course…the only two that I know that are not corrupt that are running for president are [Donald] Trump and Bernie [Sanders]. And I think I support Bernie because I want to see a Jeeeeeeeeeeeeew in the White House. (Editor’s note: That isn’t a typo on ‘Jew.’ That’s exactly how Kinky said it.) If he wins, it’ll be the first time a Jewish family ever moved into a place a black family moved out of.

“That the Jews could still be supporting Obama…they’ve got to know that out of all the brutal dictatorships that exist in the Middle East, there’s about 23 of them, we’ve tried to execute regime change in only one country in the Middle East. That is Israel. We actively attempted regime change [during the 2015 Israeli election, in which Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ultimately retained his post]. Yet nowhere else. So that’s why you have [Syrian President Bashar] Assad in power and on and on and on.”

What do you think about the nuclear deal with Iran?

“It’s just a horrible idea. Even a child could see that it makes no sense. No matter what you say about it…appeasement has never worked, anytime. It didn’t work in World War II and it won’t work now. It’s pretty clear…well it’s not pretty clear why they wanted to do it, it’s baffling. All the effort and time that was put into that, they probably could’ve put together a multi-Arab [nation] type of force to wipe out ISIS. They could’ve done a lot of things. But this is what they chose to do. And appeasement, whatever form it takes, it just doesn’t work. As Mark Twain said, ‘History does not repeat itself, but sometimes it rhymes.’ And I hear this one rhyming pretty good, with Neville Chamberlain, except that Neville Chamberlain was very sincere, the way he believed in peace, that he could really negotiate with Hitler. I don’t think these guys [in the Obama administration] are even sincere. I think they’re thinking of a legacy or having something that they created. It just doesn’t make any sense at all. It’s exactly like rewarding the Castro brothers. Starting [rapprochement] negotiations with Cuba is one thing, but these two brothers have been busy for the past 50 years arresting librarians. That’s what they do. To reward them does not make a lot of sense, either. This strategy did not work in North Korea, and it doesn’t really work anyplace. You don’t really need to be John Wayne to know that.

“Israel is an isolated country to begin with, because of all the anti-Semitism and the majority of Muslim countries around the United Nations [committees and councils], and so forth and so forth. Obama and Kerry have succeeded in isolating her further. And that’s just a pretty clear view, I’m not a super-Zionist or anything like that.

“I’m not here to lecture Jews. They can vote for anybody they want, if they want to be Democrats, let ’em be Democrats. But the people that are going around calling themselves Democrats aren’t really Democrats, that’s kind of my point. [Senate Minority Leader] Harry Reid, [former White House chief of staff and current Chicago Mayor] Rahm Emanuel, Obama, Kerry—they all think they’re Democrats. I used to be a Democrat, and now I’m not a Democrat. They’re not Democrats either, but they just don’t know it yet. Democrats are like [civil rights leader and former Texas congresswoman] Barbara Jordan. Like [former Texas governor] Anne Richards. Or [former president] Harry Truman. [Former U.S. House speaker] Sam Rayburn. [Former governor of both Texas and Tennessee] Sam Houston. Those are Democrats, people who stand up for the people, independent thinkers. That used to be what a Democrat was.

“Because of Obama’s efforts to isolate Israel and to engineer regime change, you see every college idiot in the country looking around for a cause will pick on Israel. And with Assad paving his streets with his own people, just as his father did…I mean which [issue] is more important [for America]?

“It’s easy to protest something when you’re far away from it. It’s easy to live in Utah and aggressively campaign for ‘Black Lives Matter.’ It doesn’t really affect you. If you lived in Cleveland or Detroit, it might….Politics is still what it always was. When I ran for governor in 2006 as an independent in Texas, a race I won everyplace but Texas, I said that my definition of politics was that ‘poli’ means more than one and ‘tics’ are blood-sucking parasites. And that’s pretty much what we have today….Limit every elected official to two terms, I say: one in office, and one in prison.”

Download this story in Microsoft Word format here.

Posted on March 7, 2016 and filed under Features, U.S..