Friday, November 9, 2007

The Chutzpah of Inaction

In the tradition of Arthur Conan Doyle's dog that did not bark in the night, chutzpah can sometimes be a matter of a failure to act, rather than a specific action. This is particularly important when we consider the Senate vote on the approval of the appointment of Judge Michael Mukasey as Attorney General. As Laurie Kellman reported for Associated Press, the final vote was 53-40 in favor of the President's nominee. More interesting, however, was this observation, buried as the next-to-last paragraph in Kellman's report:

Not voting were Democratic presidential candidates Joe Biden of Delaware, Hillary Clinton of New York, Chris Dodd of Connecticut and Barack Obama of Illinois. All four had said they opposed Mukasey's nomination.

I do not read this as a consensus among those four candidates that their vote would not have made a difference. After all, that kind of thinking probably explains the lion's share of the poor voter turnout figures for which our country has become notorious in the eyes of other democratic countries. No, given my discontent with the entire folly of how both Democrats and Republicans are trying to select their candidates for the next election as early as possible, I read this as four of those would-be candidates saying that they had better things to do than cast their vote on the Senate floor; and in my book that constitutes an act of collective chutzpah directed against an already lethargic electorate. Last week I gave the Chutzpah of the Week award to Dennis Kucinich for an act that gave a positive connotation to the concept of chutzpah. This made me think seriously about supporting Kucinich to get his numbers up to a point where the mass media might finally take notice of him. This week we are back to the negative connotation. The award will be shared by Biden, Clinton, Dodd, and Obama; and my thoughts about supporting Kucinich are all the stronger.

As an unrelated afterthought, I just ran a spell-check on the above text. The proposed correction to Mukasey was "Ukase." Those familiar with this noun may see something symbolic in that recommendation!


Wes said...

Do you think Tim Russert will ask Obama about this during his full hour on Meet the Press Sunday? I can just see it in Russert's style, showing a video clip of Obama saying that he opposed Mukasey and then asking him why he did not vote his convictions.

Stephen Smoliar said...

My guess is that this issue is too substantive for Russert. He will probably stick to the kinds of topics he handles best: picking on Hillary, experiences with UFOs, that sort of thing. Meet the Press has become such a circus that I no longer even listen to the C-SPAN radio rebroadcast.