Monday, January 14, 2008

Chutzpah CONTRA Chutzpah

Given the amount of time it took to make a choice for last week's chutzpah award, this may be premature; but, in the interest of timeliness (rather than "Internet speed journalism"), I am going to stick out my neck on an early selection. In the spirit of efficiency that emerged from the decision to announce the Golden Globe Awards at a news conference, let me "cut to the chase" and announce that the Chutzpah of the Week award for this week will be going to NBC Universal (unless they get trumped by a real whopper). For those who did not hear the reason for this selection on the morning news, here is Andrew Malcolm's version as it appeared on his Top of the Ticket blog for the Los Angeles Times:

Kucinich thought he'd made the cut for this coming week's MSNBC Democratic debate in Las Vegas before the Jan. 19 caucus. He got the invitation and everything. But a day or so later he was un-invited to attend, a kind of Don't Bother to RSVP.

According to a campaign news release, Kucinich, the only Democratic candidate who voted against the Iraq war, was informed that the original announced criteria to participate in the desert debate had been suddenly changed and now he didn't qualify anymore.

The original participation criteria required a candidate to be in at least fourth place in a national poll. But NBC changed it to include only the top three candidates, and you'll never guess who they are: Hillary Clinton, John Edwards and Barack Obama. Nevermind Democratic Party solidarity, those three agreed to show up, and Kucinich is out in the cold or however less warm it gets in Las Vegas this time of year.

But wait a minute. Since New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson dropped out of the race this week and former Sen. Mike Gravel hasn't really been doing anything related to campaigning, let's see, that leaves only four Democratic candidates left, which even according to new math, would have Kucinich in fourth place, right?

A secondary reason is that this kind of rule-changing not only undermines a democratic process that is already under siege in Nevada as a result of inter-union conflicts but also reinforces Brian Lowry's observations in Variety about NBC's lame attempts to provide "entertaining" coverage of the Golden Globes. As Lowry put it, watching what was actually broadcast "merely reminded us how rarely the network devotes precious primetime shelf space to serious news, inviting questions about NBC's priorities;" and it is this issue of the priorities of serious news that is at stake in Kucinich's "un-invitation." There may also be a tertiary reason, which is that it takes a certain amount of chutzpah to try to dismiss a would-be candidate for whom chutzpah, itself, may be a major strategic weapon (hence, my Title); after all, in the relatively brief time spent trying to win his party's nomination and the even briefer coverage he has received from the media, Dennis Kucinich has managed to rack up two of his own Chutzpah of the Week awards (both for the positive connotation of the term, as opposed to the negative connotation associated with this week's award).

In conclusion I propose that this week's award be personally accepted by Jeff Zucker (who runs NBC Universal); and, in the tradition of the way those guys deal with awards, he will also receive a "swag bag" containing a name-plate for his desk in which has been engraved the text, "The Chutzpah Stops Here!"

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