Friday, September 18, 2009


This feels like it has been a long week. It has certainly not been a week without chutzpah; but it did not feel like a week in which any specific act of chutzpah immediately jumped out as being award-winning. In retrospect, however, I think that Barack Obama deserves the Chutzpah of the Week award for his decision to reverse the "missile shield" plan of his predecessor. Reviewing the reactions of the German press in the SPIEGEL ONLINE summary article, I agree with the Süddeutsche Zeitung excerpt that described it as "a big political gamble;" but I think that is precisely where the chutzpah resides. I also happen to be reading James McPherson's survey of the latest crop of books about Abraham Lincoln, which got me to thinking that the Emancipation Proclamation was also "a big political gamble." As McPherson pointed out, Lincoln probably did a better job of preparing public opinion for the possibility of such a proclamation before actually committing himself to it; but this just means that Obama made his gamble with odds more heavily against him. However, his decision is a sign of his recognition that those who oppose him will do so for the sake of opposing him, regardless of whether there is any substantive reason, which means that he should assign the spirit of his campaign promises higher priority than the need for unity among partisans who prefer separation. As I have observed, Obama has a track record of chutzpah awards with both negative and positive connotations. This one is decidedly positive and needs to be recognized as such.

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