VIDEO: Iran, Mel Brooks Parodies, and GOP Pandering

| Mon Aug. 23, 2010 2:20 PM EDT

Like most people named Weinstein, I was born into a (secular) Jewish family. Whether or not you stay in the faith, being born or raised Jewish imbues you with a host of idiosyncrasies. For example, like me, you're probably pretty sensitive to anti-Semitism, and you love Mel Brooks.

Which is what makes this political ad so hard to swallow:

Mattie Fein is running against incumbent Jane Harman for Congress. Fein was a strategist for the Moonie-owned conservative magazine Insight, which is credited with coining the term "Islamophobia" and spreading the unsubstantiated rumor in 2007 that Barack Obama attended a Muslim madrassa.

Fein is also reportedly a GOP political communications consultant. But notwithstanding the fact that she got me to repost this thing, she's not very politically astute. Beating up on Iran's nuclear ambitions with a Brooks-ian parody is meant as a not-so-subtle signal that she's a friend of the tribe. Yet Fein doesn't know her punim from a pupik. To wit:

  • The scene parodied here also happens to be the movie's most sympathetic moment toward Frau Blucher, the Jane Harman character. ("He...vas...my...BOYFRIEND!") Anybody who knows anything about Young Frankenstein knows that. Fein does not know anything about Young Frankenstein.
  • Mel Brooks is funny most of the time. But even when he's not, he's ridiculous, especially when it comes to politics. (Brooksian analogy: American racism : flatulence :: torture of Jews : variety gameshow.) Point is, he typifies a type of Jewish humor that goes for the absurd joke, not the biting political critique, paradoxically delivering both. Fein delivers neither.
  • Black and white political ads nowadays are typically reserved for very serious messages. Makes sense if you think about it. Young Frankenstein was in black and white to poke fun at the camp of old horror flicks: It's funny because they were silly films with corny premises that took themselves oh so seriously. Somewhere in all this, Fein's message gets lost. Does this please anyone that actually takes the Iranian nuclear threat seriously, or does it just show the bedrock silliness of turning Ahmadinejad into America's Next Top Dictator©?

Here's the real problem with this ad, though: A token nod to anti-Iranian fears and Jewish film comedy...A total misunderstanding of both, to serve a conservative end...This isn't a pro-Jewish gag so much as a cynical pander, and in not giving viewers much credit for intelligence or humor, it hits me as anti-Semitism of a low order. I have a feeling I know where Fein's next campaign ad is going to go, since her name is a homophone for one of the most cynical "funny" Jewish stereotypes in American sitcom history.

Fein would have you believe that she's lighting a candle for American security and the Chosen People of California's 36th District. But maybe she should stick to the voting issues and put the candle back.