War on Christmas: Ho, Ho, Ho. War on women? Ho Hum.

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We’re in full throttle toward Christmas, which means ‘tis the season for the predictable uproar by Fox News, President Trump and a few House Republicans about the “War on Christmas.” But this year, the war cry to force “Merry Christmas” in stores and on streets seems particularly hypocritical from men who force themselves on women in the workplace.

The president’s opening salvo was a recent speech in St. Charles, Mo., when he said, “I told you that we’d be saying ‘Merry Christmas’ again, right?” He doubled down a week later in Utah when he said, “Remember when I said we’re bringing Christmas back? Christmas is back, bigger and better than ever.”

{mosads}Okay, maybe not the Gettysburg Address, but we get his point. Wartime propaganda organ Fox News thanked the president for “delivering on a promise to end the war on Christmas” in a column by Todd Starnes. Also in November, Fox reported on the Starbucks holiday cup design, echoing a conspiracy theory that “the androgynous hands must belong to a pair of lesbians.” The “enemy within” may be a pumpkin spice latte.

Congress has joined the battle, invoking its wartime oversight authority under Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution. In 2015, Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-Colo.) leapt from the Christmas war-ravaged trenches with the sharp bayonet of a resolution expressing the sense of the House that it “strongly disapproves of attempts to ban references to Christmas.”

One of his cosponsors at the time was uber-conservative Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.), who last week resigned from Congress following disclosures that he asked two female staffers to carry his baby, which, as an outsider, seems to me to be distinctly un-Jesuslike. But what do I know?

I survived my own Capitol Christmas skirmish. It was December 2005. A now-retired Virginia congresswoman rushed a resolution to the floor to protect and defend Christmas symbols. When I asked her to amend the resolution to urge Americans of all faiths to celebrate the unique symbols they cherished, she gave a less-than Churchillian refusal to surrender: Parliamentary procedure didn’t allow her to amend her bill, she claimed incorrectly, otherwise she would have. The debate flared into the evening.

Meanwhile, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq raged, troops were consistently underfunded and, within a few years, Christmas trees and nativity scenes on America’s front lawns would be joined by countless foreclosure signs. But we at least saved Christmas from those godless grinches of the ACLU.

This year, however, the rallying cry to save Christmas seems particularly discordant. Can those who embrace and fund the Senate campaign of an accused child molester, coddle a conservative Texas congressman who settled a sexual harassment suit with his staff at taxpayer expense, and rail against abuses of women only when the abusers are Democrats, really bemoan the loss of Christian values in a holiday greeting?

Has the national cognitive disconnect grown so wide that our religious bona fides are set not by consistent moral depth but by saying “Merry Christmas” instead of “Holidays Holidays?” Has the price of religious devotion plummeted to the bargain basement of 10 Commandments for the price of one seasonal greeting?

We got our answer in Missouri, when the crowd roared its approval at the president’s Christmas defense. On today’s audience-response meters, an obscene Access Hollywood video referencing the grabbing of women is like a silent night, but “Merry Christmas” shoots through the ceiling. Huzzah!

Next month, the president will walk up the aisle of the House of Representatives for a State of the Union address that may require a parental advisory. Some of those congressional arms groping for body contact with the president have been well-flexed. The Democratic side will have vacant seats from Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.), Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.), and whoever else emerges and retires by then. The Republican side will be standing room only for moderates, conservatives and hypocrites.

I just wish those who are so vigorous in fighting the trumped-up “War on Christmas” would devote the same moral energy to the real and tragic assault on women. They can start by passing legislation before Christmas that reverses the treatment of women on Capitol Hill. Even now, the congressional response has been like taking an aspirin to treat an epidemic. Congress, the president and Republicans may choose to continue rewarding repugnant and possibly illegal behavior in the pursuit of partisan gain. In which case, voters may replace “Merry Christmas” with “You’d better watch out.”

Steve Israel represented New York in Congress for 16 years. His next novel, “Big Guns,” will be published in April 2018.

Tags Al Franken Christmas Congress Culture Democrats Donald Trump Doug Lamborn John Conyers Politics Religion Republicans Trent Franks United States Women

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