Friday, July 6, 2007


As I suspected might be the case, Al Gore III's claim to the Chutzpah of the Week award has been superseded by a much more deserving candidate, Tony Snow. For those who would accuse the panel (i.e. myself) of a bias against the right wing, I have to point out that Snow has taken chutzpah to a new level, yet to be achieved by any other member of the White House circle. He has managed to achieve chutzpah with regard to the use of the word "chutzpah;" in other words, through his linguistic dexterity, he has achieved meta-chutzpah!

This all revolves around a story that Terence Hunt recently reported for Associated Press. Here are the lead paragraphs:

The White House on Thursday made fun of former President Clinton and his wife, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, for criticizing President Bush's decision to erase the prison sentence of former aide I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby.

"I don't know what Arkansan is for chutzpah, but this is a gigantic case of it," presidential spokesman Tony Snow said.

So, how do we count the ways? First we have Snow himself invoking the word, most likely in the absence of any Yiddish culture to inform him of its true semantics and perhaps even in ignorance of the nationality of the word. This was then followed up by the presumption that the word could be translated into "Arkansan," which is sort of a double whammy of presumptions. On the one hand it presumes that there are no Jews in Arkansas (which probably runs the gamut from the dubious to the offensive); and, at the same time, it presumes that they do not speak English in Arkansas, a minor fact that did not escape the Truthdig editors, who were quick to point out that, where the Clinton's are concerned, the use of English (as in "unmitigated gall" or "brazenness") would be more appropriate than the invocation of Yiddish. As to the act of Clinton-bashing itself, that is so much a matter of common practice among the Republicans that the use of the word "chutzpah" can only be taken as an assumption that anyone with an understanding of Yiddish could only be a Democrat (or Michael Bloomberg).

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