Given that Dennis Kucinich has now been exercising his chutzpah on two fronts, I figure it is about time for him to collect his fifth Chutzpah of the Week award (the fourth for which he is sole recipient). For mere mortals it would be chutzpah enough for him to continue to go against the flow on health care reform, hanging tough to his conviction that the only beneficiaries of the legislation currently being forced through the system will be the insurance industry. (Think of all the bonuses at AIG riding on the outcome of this legislation.) However, while his right foot is planted firmly on the ground of bringing real reform to health care, he has used his left foot basically to force every member of the House of Representatives to declare a position on the Afghanistan war. He did this by calling for a vote on a war powers resolution. That vote took place yesterday, and the only attention it seems to have attracted has been an invitation for Kucinich to appear on Democracy Now this morning and an analysis for The Nation by Tom Hayden. By the numbers Kucinich was joined by 5 Republicans and 59 Democrats in voting against formal Congressional authorization of the ongoing war; and those numbers are marginally better than the House support he has received for his health care intransigence. Indeed, House Democratic leaders seem to be getting increasingly overt in their efforts to get Kucinich to stop insisting an a result he can never get. My guess is that those who voted him into office knows what he stands for; and, for all I know, a fair chunk of those who voted against him might still admit that he is standing on their side in trying to protect them from a medical system that could well be more corrupted by capitalism than the one currently in place. If it takes full-bore chutzpah to side with your constituents over your colleagues, then so be it.
The more significant corruption, however, resides in a Congress that is so divided by partisanship that it cannot get anything done. (This, for me at least, was the key point in Elizabeth Drew's analysis of the health care "debate" in the March 11 issue of The New York Review.) The problem is that, when the Congress finally votes on something, it can leave us wishing that they had not made it their business in the first place. This was the point behind Kucinich forcing a vote on Afghanistan; and, unlike just about all of his colleagues, he could appreciate that having the vote was more important than winning it.
In the spirit of the Yiddish roots of chutzpah, Kucinich reminds us of a Borscht Belt joke (told by Woody Allen in Annie Hall) that is a reflection on how bad things can get: Two old ladies are in the dining room of a resort in the Catskills. The first one looks at her plate and says, "The food here is terrible!" The second one says, "Yes, and the portions are so small!" Kucinich has the chutzpah to keep demonstrating that conditions are not much better in the House of Representatives.