By Les Linz
On March 4, 1929, Herbert Hoover became America’s 31st president, and along with that presidency came the first White House press secretary, George Akerson.
Although briefings from the nation’s capital originated with President Woodrow Wilson in 1913, the newly created position began a long line of journalists who continue on their mission to this day — a mission to bring balance between the public’s right to know and the need for those in the know to keep certain knowledge held in confidence for the good of the country.
Regardless of the administration, be it Republican, Democrat or independent, certain executive branch decisions are made with information in mind the general public is not necessarily privy to, resulting in a plethora of armchair politicians.
The press secretary is appointed by the president, though not a cabinet position, and helps to keep the armchair personnel in check. The current White House press secretary, Jen Psaki, is alleged to get a weekly check of approximately $3,519 to help keep the savages at bay.
By nature, the job can be adversarial, though not always, depending on how many “softball questions” are lobbed the appointee’s way. The representatives will seek to control the briefing’s pace and in the process be peppered with questions, some germane, some not so.
Press secretaries can find themselves answering detailed questions on specific events or they may cover policy in general, whether the events or policies came about earlier in the day or early on in the administration they work for.
Over the years, there have been a total of 31 White House press secretaries with Psaki being the 31st.
But non-White House spokespersons find their origins more than 2,000 years ago, I “speak” of course, of Aaron.
Aaron was known to be the brother of Moses and took an active part in his ministry unto the children of Israel. Sometimes, he got it right. Sometimes, he didn’t.
Imagine a press conference with Aaron as press secretary, addressing general questions about events that transpired from the time of the exodus from Egypt until the second time the Ten Commandments (not suggestions) were prepared for the people.
It probably would have gone something like this.
The press conference
“Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen of the press, thank you for being here. My name is Aaron. I am Moses’ brother and fellow sibling of sister Miriam. As most are aware, the last few months or so have seen an unfolding of a dramatic series of events. I will review these and entertain questions about them.”
“Sir, Michael Rubenstein from the Magen David Times. You refer to Miriam as your sister. Is she a nun, and if so, is she sibling to Joshua?”
“Well, Michael, that’s a topic for another time, but to answer your question, no, she came out of the same womb that Moses and I did, and I might add, she plays a mean tambourine.”
“A green tambourine?” Michael interrupted.
“No, Mr. Rubenstein, I meant what I said and said what I meant, and that too is a topic for another time.”
“The almighty and Moses teamed up to ask if I would be my brother’s spokesperson, seeing as there’s a clear message they want the rest of us to get, and Moses feels more comfortable with my communicating it, given his speech impediment, so here I am.
“What are your qualifications, Aaron?” asked an unidentified attendee.
“I’ve been speaking since I was young.”
“Now, as I was beginning to say, this all started when a large group of Israelites found themselves enslaved to the Egyptians. My brother wasn’t thrilled about it and consulted with his God, who wasn’t fond of it, either. He told Moses to tell Pharaoh to let his (that is God’s) people go. Long story short, this happened a total of 10 times, one for each of 10 of the gods the Egyptians were known to worship.
“For example, he sent an abundance of frogs to show them their frog god was powerless against the one that created amphibians to begin with. By the time they lost every firstborn male child and animal alike, Pharaoh decided enough was enough, that it was in everybody’s best interest to let them go, so he did.”
“Mark Mummy with the Egyptian Press, sir. Sorry to interrupt, but is there any truth to the rumor that God led his people out with a cloud by day and pillar of fire by night?”
“Yes. It’s true. I remember. I was there. The cloud and fire you speak of led us down to the Red Sea shoreline. Honestly, we didn’t know what to do at that point. The sea was daunting, and the Egyptians were closing in on us. We could see the humongous dust cloud kicked up by their thundering chariots, and as a whole, we were griping, big time.
“Suddenly, the holy one sent out his spirit to part the waters and reveal a swath of land for us to use to get to the other side. Pharaoh’s guys were in hot pursuit, but by the time the last of our group got to dry land, the I am withdrew his spirit. Chariots don’t float, and the army couldn’t swim, so when the walls of water came crashing down on them, they all drowned. A moment of silence for those lost please. Thank you.” (Prov. 24:17-18).
“OK, I’m a little confused,” said an anonymous reporter after the solemn minute. “These were bad dudes. Why are you grieved about that?”
“Good question,” responded Aaron, “because my God grieves any loss of life, even that of my enemy.”
“I see. A follow-up question, sir. What did y’all do when you got to the other side?”
“Oh, we roasted Kosher hot dogs and sang and danced. We played music. Well, Miriam did. You should have seen Moses. He can really get down.”
“I’ll bet,” Rubenstein remarked.
“Mr. Aaron, Sarai Sarenburg, Mark Mummy’s colleague. Did you do anything special to memorialize the occasion?”
“Yes,” Aaron replied, “Moishe did. He wrote a song about it. He’s multitalented” (Exodus 15).
“Who’s Moishe?” Sarai continued.
“Moses. That’s my pet name for him.”
“To continue,” Aaron began, “we ventured to the land of Elim, where there was plenty of water and lots of nice trees for shade. Unfortunately, we had to school our own. They were complaining, saying we didn’t provide for them. God heard that and in his graciousness sent manna from heaven.”
“What’s that, Aaron?”
“What’s that? That’s what we named this stuff that came down six days a week from heaven. We got a double portion the day before the Sabbath so we wouldn’t have to work to prepare it on that day. Of course, quail fell at night, so we were always able to make a sandwich or two.”
“Where exactly did the quail land?”
“Right by the bush.”
“So let me get this straight, Aaron. Quail and bush were together?”
“Yes, but again, another story, another time.”
“Aaron, RuthTravels from Gleaner’s Weekly. It’s alleged that Moses went on strike. Can you confirm that?”
“Thank you for your question, Ruth, and no, Moishe did not go on strike, but he did go on to strike a rock in Horeb, which allowed for fresh, clear water to come out and satisfy the masses. He was just following God’s instruction, and it really blessed the people.”
“Moving on,” Aaron continued, “we got into a skirmish in Rephidim, but our God came to the rescue again. The night before we were going to fight, he spoke to General Joshua. He told him to get some fighters together for the next day. The plan was for Moses to stand at the top of the hill with God’s rod in hand. The strategy worked great for a while until he got tired. Whenever he kept his hand up, we were winning. When it went down, just the opposite. Then Hur had an idea. Together, we rolled a heavy stone out by where Moses was standing and asked him to take a seat. Then I got on one side, Hur on the other, each took an arm and we made a wish. It was granted.”
“So,” Esther continued, “that’s how you became known as your brother’s right-hand man?”
“Exactly,” Aaron responded.
“Now, we have just a little time left, so I’m going to go straight to that Ten Commandments thing because I know you’re all interested. As it turns out, God spoke to Moses and encouraged him to come up to the top of Mount Sinai to the very top, just by himself.
“We learned later that God had a set of tablets waiting for him there, and at the appointed time, God wrote the Ten Commandments, front and back with his finger.
“To summarize, the first three focus on man’s relationship with God, while the rest relate to how we should deal with each other. Moses was gone over 40 days, and the natives were growing restless.
“They begged me to get some idols made and I acquiesced. I melted down all their jewelry and fashioned it into a calf — not a good idea — I drink de-calf now. When Moses came down from Sinai, he was so ticked, he smashed the tablets, so while brethren were literally breaking the law, Moses was breaking the embodiment of it. God told Moses he needed to take a return trip to the mountaintop. He was still willing to do the finger thing, but this time, Moishe had to chisel out the tablets himself. I keep telling him he needs to go to anger management. He doesn’t say anything, just gives me a cross look.”
A final question and answer
“Les Linz, Aaron, humor columnist for The Tribune. What are you not telling us?”
“Great question, Les,” Moses’ brother responded.
“Just two things: 1) God loves you, even when you don’t love him, as you should. 2) Eventually, we’ll all grow to understand that we can’t keep the law in its entirety. We’ll need a savior to rescue us from ourselves.
Thank you all for reading today.