Searching for "pottage" in Associated Press style

jacob_and_esauI am online again briefly in Thessaloniki and, whoa, there’s two ghosts in the same Associated Press story.

One of the ghosts is even laugh out loud funny.

Last time I checked, Georgia was a state with lots and lots of churches, the kind of place where even a Jimmy Carter Democrat needs to know what he is talking about on issues of faith, morality and culture. Thus, the early reports that Democratic Sen. Zell Miller is going to speak at the Republican National Convention is probably linked, in some way, to the whole pew gap story.

This was made rather clear in Miller’s recent book, “A National Party No More: The Conscience of a Conservative Democrat,” which is currently a national best-seller. There is more than a little talk about faith and culture in that book.

What has changed for Miller? The AP story does not give us much on which to chew. It states:

The speech by Miller, a former two-term governor, comes 12 years after he delivered the keynote address for Bill Clinton at the 1992 Democratic National Convention, also held in New York. Miller, who is retiring in January, has voted with Republicans more often than his own party and has been a key sponsor of many of Bush’s top legislative priorities, including the Republican’s tax cuts and education plan.

In May, Miller spoke at the Georgia Republican convention and criticized Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry as an “out-of-touch, ultraliberal from Taxachusetts” whose foreign and domestic policies would seriously weaken the country.

“I’m afraid that my old Democratic ‘ties that bind’ have become unraveled,” Miller said.

If I am not mistaken, that “ties that bind” reference might be linked to an old hymn, a doxology even.

Georgia Democrats are not very happy about Miller’s decision, as made clear by the head of the state’s congressional delegation, Democratic Rep. John Lewis. Read the quote, then read the Associated Press explanation of the quote. It’s priceless.

“I think he has sold his soul for a mess of pottage,” said Lewis, in a reference to a speech Miller gave as a congressional candidate 40 years ago in which he argued that President Johnson was “a Southerner who sold his birthright for a mess of dark pottage” because of his support for the Civil Rights Act.

Pottage is defined as a thick soup or stew of vegetables.

Note to the AP copy desk. “Pottage” can also be found — in precisely the same context — in the book of Genesis. Check the 25th chapter. Think this way — Isaac, Esau, Jacob, pottage.

I would rather think that this “sold his soul for a mess of pottage” comment is a biblical reference. Democrats are allowed to make those too, you know. I expect them to try more of this language out in the months ahead.

My question: Why is playing “Isaac” in this political scenario?

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About tmatt

Terry Mattingly directs the Washington Journalism Center at the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities. He writes a weekly column for the Universal Syndicate.

  • Jon

    No one plays Isaac. Usually his role is forced upon a party by the Abraham actor. In this case the Isaac is probably the democratic party which is being offered up for what Miller perceives a greater good.

    To follow the analogy through, as they lie upon the altar, the democrats can only hope that Miller will receive a message from on High to sacrifice instead an elephant waiting in the bushes.

    :P


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