Alan Dershowitz, the controversial Harvard professor, wrote a best-selling book in 1991 entitled “Chutzpah.” In Yiddish, chutzpah is defined as “insolence, gall and effrontery.” But Dershowitz considers it a necessary attribute in urban America. Too often I see it as just bad manners.
Brilliant, Dershowitz also seems like a “noodge” (pain in the butt). Plus he was a lawyer for O.J. who also had his share of chutzpah. I half-expected O.J. to plead guilty to murdering Nicole but ask Judge Ito for leniency because he was now a single parent.
Actually, Yiddish was discouraged in our house. My mother wanted me to be a lawyer and I wanted to be a comedy writer. She won the battle, we didn’t speak Yiddish, but lost the war, I didn’t become a lawyer. (Readers’ opinions vary as to whether what I write is comedy or not.)
Meanwhile, chutzpah has become a national epidemic. Take Dick Cheney (please, and far away). Cheney attacked President Obama for “dithering” about Afghanistan. He would know. He and Bush “dithered” about it for seven years!
They not only didn’t capture Bin Laden, they all but abandoned the Afghan war. Instead, they invaded oil-rich Iraq, which had nothing to do with the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Rival factions have been fighting in Iraq for a mere 1,400 years. This week, two suicide bombings resulted in 147 dead. Just watch after we leave (if we ever do).
Frankly, if Bush and Cheney had “dithered” more (and invaded less) hundreds of thousands of innocent people would be alive today. And we’d even have the money for health care. (But then how would that have enriched Haliburton, Exxon or British Petroleum?)
Next on the chutzpah hit parade is George Bush Sr., who recently called Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow “sick puppies” (confusing reference since puppies are so cute).
Actually, it takes real chutzpah for Bush Sr. to point fingers when, in 1988, it was his campaign that unleashed the disgraceful Willie Horton attack ads against Michael Dukakis. Experiencing a deathbed conversion, Lee Atwater, Bush’s campaign manager, begged Dukakis for his forgiveness.
Next “chutzpanik” is Bush Jr., who just began his career as a motivational speaker in Texas (for $100,000)! Before the big speech, the crowd of 15,000 danced to Beach Boys music and tossed beach balls. Frankly, it sounds more like a Matt Foley motivational speech than it does a former president. (Matt was one of the late Chris Farley’s characters on SNL.) As one attendee admitted, “I’m glad I saw Bush but he’s not the world’s greatest speaker.” (Ya think?)
While soldiers were dying in two wars, Dubya shamelessly joked that, after leaving office, he was looking forward to “replenishing the ol’ coffers.” (Those “coffers” are estimated at $20,000,000.) Bush left the country in economic ruin but charges $100,000 a speech? Now that’s chutzpah.
It isn’t just Republicans. Let’s consider Bill Clinton, John Edwards and Elliot Spitzer. It was unadulterated chutzpah when Clinton wagged his finger at the press, “I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky.”
For Edwards to run for president, having cheated on a wife with cancer, is a 10 on the chutzpah scale. Former New York Gov. Spitzer, who prosecuted prostitution rings while secretly using prostitutes, gets a nine (one point concession for his having the good graces to resign).
Governor Mark “Appalachian Trail” Sanford (R-S.C.) apparently doesn’t have such grace. I’m not sure if it was chutzpah or stupidity (probably both) when he declared his commitment to saving his marriage but described his mistress as his “soul mate.” Sanford’s wife has since moved out of the governor’s mansion, as will he once the state legislature impeaches him.
Former U.S. Senator Larry “Wide Stance” Craig (R-Idaho) with a sad wife by his side, denied soliciting gay sex from undercover police in a Minneapolis airport bathroom, “I’m not gay and never have been gay.” Strange denial.
Former Congressman Mark Foley (R-Fla.) was chairman of the Committee on Missing and Exploited Children while exploiting children (underage male pages)! Chutzpah!
Paul Wolfowitz assured Congress that the Iraq war would cost no more than $50 billion (may cost $5 trillion). Donald Rumsfeld predicted the war could “last six days, or six weeks, but certainly not more than six months.” (We’re at 6 1/2 years and counting.)
Sarah Palin quit her governor’s job halfway through (bored?) and yet is considering running for president. Bernie Kerick (Giuliani’s former chauffeur) is the first N.Y.C. Police Commissioner to be arrested. Wall Street executives got bonuses from the government bailout. It’s total chutzpah for any of these people to show their faces in public (which Kerick can’t do because they revoked his bail).
Some may say it took chutzpah for me to write this column. I won’t argue the point. After all, I don’t want to be a noodge.
Jack can be reached at Jackneworth@yahoo.com.