- - Monday, February 8, 2016


Modern America is an ethnic minefield, and everyone must mind his step. It’s getting more dangerous as the presidential campaign moves toward crucial primaries in the bigger states. The unwary among us can step on one of those mines and blow holes in the peaceable land, and all unaware.

Criticize Barack Obama, even in the mildest, most respectful terms, and you’re branded a bigot and a secret klansman. Confront feminist absurdities, and you’re revealed as someone who wants to keep women barefoot, pregnant and in the kitchen.

Everyone, it turns out, is guilty of sins and transgressions, led to perdition by a dog whistle. We’ve become a nation of dogs and only some of us get the whistle. A dog whistle is a whistle at a register that only a dog, with his acute auditory gifts, can hear. In politics, a dog whistle is code for verbal offense that only the like-minded can hear.

Dana Milbank, a columnist for The Washington Post with a gifted ear for hearing what others can’t, says Ted Cruz, one of the devils who haunts every liberal’s dreams, was using code for despising Jews when he warned against “New York values.” Mr. Milbank says everyone knows that “New York values” is code for “the Jews.” He cites Mr. Cruz’s faulty pronunciation of the Yiddish word “chutzpah” as proof.

This is arcane information for many Americans, who learn things that many of them had not heard before, such as that “New York values” are “Jewish values.” Who knew? New York values, to most Americans, are reflected in the condescending opinions about the people who live in flyover country that New Yorkers are eager to share with anyone who will listen — even if they don’t want to listen.

Ted Cruz, to hear Mr. Milbank tell it, is even worse than Donald Trump, who leaped to soothe the delicate feelings of New Yorkers. Ironically, the Donald, a sometime Presbyterian, with his loud, vulgar and rude manners, is for most Americans the very expression of “New York values.”

Ted Cruz is the woods’ colt at the family reunion, who takes pride in being the most despised Republican in the salons of the elites. That’s part of his appeal to the voters who are unimpressed by New York values. Only he knows what’s in his heart. He is obviously not to the taste of many Americans; betting that he would carry Manhattan is not the way to bet. But accusing him of anti-Semitism, and by innuendo accusing the conservatives who like him of similar bigotry, is a dog-whistler’s reckless use of a term that should be reserved for the real thing.

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