Returning home from a concert last night, I flipped on the C-SPAN Radio channel on my XM receiver in the hope of hearing some of the House debate that preceded the failure to override the President's veto of the S-CHIP legislation. What I heard was a side show over an attack against California Representative Pete Stark, demanding that he retract remarks he made in the course of the debate. Unfortunately, I fell asleep before I was able to determine what this argument was all about; but Erica Werner's report in this morning's Chicago Sun-Times has resolved the matter for me. In so doing she has provided me with the necessary data to present Pete Stark with the Chutzpah of the Week award, recognizing, once again, that chutzpah can be invoked in a positive way. I take considerable comfort in doing this, because this was certainly one of the more depressing week's for news readers; so Stark's straight talk directed at a dead moose on the table that both houses of Congress keep doing their best to ignore was more than a little refreshing.
For those unfamiliar with what happened yesterday, these are the words that triggered a demand for retraction:
You don't have money to fund the war or children. But you're going to spend it to blow up innocent people if we can get enough kids to grow old enough for you to send to Iraq to get their heads blown off for the president's amusement.
The demand for retraction was made by House Minority Leader John Boehner in the following words, which, true to the wisdom of Ambrose Bierce, demonstrated a patriotism that is the first refuge of a scoundrel:
Congressman Stark's statement dishonors not only the commander in chief, but the thousands of courageous men and women of America's armed forces who believe in their mission and are putting their lives on the line for our freedom and security.
According to Ms. Werner, "A White House representative was not immediately available to respond to Stark's comment." She also reported that Stark responded to Boehner by sticking to his guns:
Instead of retraction or apology the statement Stark issued in response to Boehner just offered more criticism of the ''chicken hawks in Congress who vote to deny children health care.'' Stark also expressed respect for the troops.
Stark thus deserves his award not only for the chutzpah of the initial act but also for the chutzpah of defending that act. My only regret is that the award is a virtual one, because I would really like to send him something physical that he can display with pride in his office in the District!