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December 20, 2004

James Lileks Is the Latest Shrill Critic of George W. BushYahoo! News - Text of President Bush's News Conference


Yahoo! News - Text of President Bush's News Conference : PRESIDENT BUSH: Thank you. Please be seated. Good morning and happy holidays to you all. I thought I'd come and answer some of your questions...


Backfence: The traditional yule fear factor: We prefer the term "festive season."... You must understand that this is not about Christmas, but about the holiday season, which encompasses many beliefs.

Hence the trees, the lights, the berries, the Santa costumes, the Nutcracker statues, the Nat King Cole music on the speakers, the poinsettias, and other symbols of Hinduism. Come on! It's Christmas! What's the problem?"

Sir, you needn't use that tone of voice. It's hostile, and --

"It's not hostile. It's festive! See? I'm happy! Big grin. I'm happy for a variety of reasons, and one of them is the yearly reminder that my britches are not as tightly cinched as yours. You could celebrate every single religious holiday and I wouldn't mind. If your staff all wished me a merry whatever, I'd take it as an expression of goodwill. The other day, for example, the Disney Channel had a little ad between shows wishing the viewers a Happy Hanukkah. My kid asked what that meant, and I explained it as best I could, even spinning around like a giant dreidel. We went to the grocery store and got latkes, even. With some nice cream cheese. If anyone had looked at us, your textbook goyim, and said "Happy Hanukkah" I would have taken it as a warm and friendly wish to celebrate the goodwill inherent in the holidays crucial to the great religions. So why can't I say Merry Chris -- no. Wrong question. Why can't you say it?"

Posted by DeLong at December 20, 2004 12:37 PM


This settles it. Someone has been overdosing Lileks with stupid pills, probably disguised in a thick, creamy soup.

Posted by: Dr. BDH at December 20, 2004 01:04 PM

Apparently Lileks' britches were a little more tightly cinched than he thought. Having said that, I agree with his sentiment. "Happy Holidays" is so generic it winds up acknowledging no one's particular beliefs and greeting people tangentially. We need to spend less time being apologetic about celebrating Christmas and more time being direct and forthcoming about celebrating other beliefs. We may just get to know each other better.

Posted by: Dubblblind at December 20, 2004 01:21 PM

Lileks just recently published a classically dishonest, misinformed Social Security piece. He's Mr. Talking Point now.

Posted by: John Emerson at December 20, 2004 01:26 PM

Has it occurred to any of these shrillsters that "Happy Holidays" allows the wisher to include New Year's Day in the good wishes? Is there anyone who hasn't noticed that the week between Christmas and New Year's is generally devoted to not working?

Posted by: Lisa at December 20, 2004 01:26 PM

Um... does anyone actually SAY "Happy Holidays"? Or did this sudden Merry Christmas crisis come out of the same factory as the sudden Social Security crisis?

Posted by: David Moles at December 20, 2004 01:33 PM

Lileks writes cutely enough about trival pursuits, but when he aspires to anything higher the Peter Principle definitely kicks in.

Posted by: David W. at December 20, 2004 01:46 PM

I'll stick with blessings for the Winter Solstice. That should make everyone equally unhappy. Equal opportunity anti-intellectualism.

Posted by: Sarah at December 20, 2004 01:46 PM

Happy Saturnalia for me! and as for mr. lileks, actually, as Jew, it makes me nervous when people who are not Jewish wish me a "happy Hannukah" (as my nervous catholic neighbors did last night when I stopped by with a gift ornament for their tree and to wish them a Merry Christmas). You see, it freaks me out that they know *I'm not christian* because, historically speaking, the potential reaction is not that they will rush out to buy latkes but that eventually, they'll point me and mine out to the police and we'll be pogrommed.

Rhetorical Question alert: is lileks the most disgustingly disingenous writer of all time? Does he ever write anything that isn't a crudely disguised right wing talking point and, almost necessarily, a preening self involved piece of cultural self congratulation?

Kate Gilbert

[Well, my daughter just made latkes in school as part of the "Israel" unit of their "Ancient Civilizations" history course. She was puzzled, since the potato is a new-world tuber...]

Posted by: Kate Gilbert at December 20, 2004 02:00 PM

My heart goes out to Lileks. Not only is he a persecuted member of the conservative mainstream, but now he's slapped in the face with imagined expressions of shock (not to mention imagined conversations) every time he says "Merry Christmas" to store clerks.

It really is tough being a conservative in America.

Posted by: Joe D. at December 20, 2004 02:25 PM

I agree with all of you posters here. I think the major challenge facing America today is her unwillingness to take her Christian heritage seriously. There is far too little reference to the Christian faith in our public discourse. The Hindus, Muslims, Kwanzists and rational folk are taking the place over. Time to get Christ back into the public square, I say. Tolerance for other points of view is fine, but we have gone too far on this one, too far.

Posted by: Gerard MacDonell at December 20, 2004 03:08 PM

Happy Woodland Critter Christmas! And Hail Satan!

Posted by: Felix Deutsch at December 20, 2004 03:23 PM

Dr. Delong:

Which do you figure is more likely? Will the cross-over voters read your rational and empirically-based criticisms of the Bush Administration's economic policies, come to their wits, speculate upon further damage in the future, and vote Democrat? Or will we require several years of pain and middle class want before those guys in the purple districts decide that gay marriage is in fact not the most pressing issue facing the Republic?

Your dedication to a good cause suggests you are going with the first answer. But I fear that you are almost certainly wrong. Sometimes, I think that the only way home is actual hunger. I am not a communist, a socialist or even reliably liberal, but increasingly I like the line about thinking with your stomach. The purple voter's brain seems to have switched off a while ago.

I understand the rich, selfish b&stards. And I get the religious nutbar types. But what to make of that cross-over voter?! The "moderate". Yikes, the only solace seems to be to short the dollar. That'll show 'em. Right? Right?

Posted by: Gerard MacDonell at December 20, 2004 03:24 PM

Latkes as ancient social history? NOOOOOO!

[But they did taste good...]

Posted by: sm at December 20, 2004 03:34 PM

Ah, I see the troll filter is down again...

knew it was too good to last...

Posted by: DEV_GIRL at December 20, 2004 04:14 PM

I said "Happy Holidays" today, in response to one of my regular merchants wishing me a "Merry Christmas". As the merchant was a Pakistani immigrant, I thought it was the appropriate response.

Posted by: bob mcmanus at December 20, 2004 04:27 PM

Hmmm... Seems like the networks get this right. Say Happy Hanuka during Hanuka, Merry Christmas on Christmas, Happy New Years on Jan 1, and Happy Hollidays on every other day.

Posted by: Bear at December 20, 2004 04:55 PM

"Hence the trees, the lights, the berries, the Santa costumes, the Nutcracker statues, the Nat King Cole music on the speakers, the poinsettias, and other symbols of Hinduism. Come on! It's Christmas! What's the problem?"

How'd he get from a description of Nordic Yule celebrations to Hinduism? Weird.

Posted by: Lee Scoresby at December 20, 2004 05:43 PM

Lileks has written some good stuff too. Check out his Gallery of Regrettable Food. http://www.lileks.com/institute/gallery/index.html

Relatively few Talking Points in that; it's pretty clear what he should stick to.

Posted by: Chris Hanson at December 20, 2004 10:56 PM

I'm offended by Lilek's offendedness at "Happy Holidays," used because of offensiveness of "Merry Christmas" to easily offended people.

I've heard more people offended by "Happy Holidays" than by "Merry Christmas," even though the alleged reason "Happy Holidays" is offensive is because it betrays excessive sensitivity to the easily offended.

Err... did that make any sense at all?

Posted by: Julian Elson at December 21, 2004 10:53 AM

" I think the major challenge facing America today is her unwillingness to take her Christian heritage seriously."

Yes. I too long for the days of Puritan vs. Anglican riots over the celebration of Christmas. I'd like to see that pitched battle fought once more in the town square. Perhaps they could take lessons from Civil War re-enactment types?

"As the merchant was a Pakistani immigrant, I thought it was the appropriate response."

Nah. Most non-Americans (especially expats in the US) seem to find this sensitivity funny, because they know full-well that Christmas is the most mish-mashed festival of all, and that it has as much to do with Christianity as, say, the Church of England. Merri Curisumasu!

And as a political commentator, Lileks is a good humorist of 50s kitsch.

Posted by: nick at December 21, 2004 12:15 PM