Monday, May 25, 2009


It is always risky to dole out a Chutzpah award at the beginning of the week. However, considering what day it is, it seems somewhat appropriate that one of the most accomplished generals in the history of the United States be honored with a Chutzpah of the Week award with full battle-dress positive connotations. His act has been nothing less than trying to restore sanity to the Republican Party; and, equipping himself with knowledge of his enemy, he chose to do so on their favorite battleground, that of what is still called laughingly "television news."

As Adam Nagourney reported for The New York Times, General Colin Powell decided that the time had come to get "frank and open" with Dick Cheney and his talent for playing fast and loose with scurrilous language:

Colin L. Powell challenged Dick Cheney on the legacy of the Bush administration and the future of the Republican Party on Sunday, declaring that Republicans should not bow to “diktats that come from the right wing.”

The remarks by Mr. Powell, a former secretary of state, amounted to a public rebuttal of Mr. Cheney, the former vice president, and Rush Limbaugh, the conservative radio commentator, who have questioned Mr. Powell’s Republican credentials and suggested that he should leave the party.

“Rush will not get his wish,” Mr. Powell said Sunday on “Face the Nation” on CBS. “And Mr. Cheney was misinformed. I am still a Republican.”

Mr. Powell’s appearance underlined an extraordinary public struggle among Republicans over the future of the party and the legacy of the Bush administration, particularly on national security. Mr. Powell broke with Mr. Cheney on the prison camp at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, saying that he agreed with President Obama that it should be closed and that Mr. Cheney disagreed as much with his former boss as with Mr. Obama.

Presumably, Powell knows that he has a tough fight in front of him. As Nagourney reported, the usual suspects are already bringing the wagons into a circle:

But Karl Rove, who was Mr. Bush’s senior political adviser, saluted Mr. Cheney for leading the fight in challenging Mr. Obama, saying he was doing what other Republicans were not. “The vice president feels very strongly that the administration has mischaracterized and distorted the Bush administration’s record,” he said in an interview.

“I applaud Cheney,” he said. “No one else was stepping forward.”

Liz Cheney, a Republican strategist and Mr. Cheney’s daughter, said, “This isn’t complicated.”

“Conservatism is conservatism,” Ms. Cheney said. “Republicans have led the nation to greatness when they’ve been true to fundamental principles, such as a strong national defense, limited government and low taxes. None of those are things President Obama believes in.”

The remarks of Ms. Cheney (Cheney the Younger?) are particularly striking. Who knew that rhetoric was in the genes? Needless to say, Powell was there with a rebuttal:

He made clear that he thought a major threat to the party were suggestions by Republicans like Mr. Cheney and Mr. Limbaugh that there was no room for Republicans like Mr. Powell. “What the concern about me is, ‘Well, is he too moderate?’ ” Mr. Powell said. “I have always felt that the Republican Party should be more inclusive than it generally has been over the years.”

This seems to be a key point in his campaign to restore sanity. Another point is that he believes in the concept of the "loyal opposition," in sharp contrast to former President George W. Bush's fanatical conviction that "those not for us are against us." If sanity needs to be achieved through the same sort of twelve-step program applied to addiction, then, in this particular case, the second step (the first one being to admit that you have a problem, which is no easy matter where sanity is concerned) is to accept that, regardless of the political party that receives our votes, we are all Americans. Barack Obama has subscribed to uniting while honoring our differences for almost as long as Bush has tried to divide us through fear of those differences. Powell's chutzpah comes from his efforts to move Republicans back to being loyal opponents, rather than vengeance-obsessed losers. He deserves this Chutzpah of the Week award, and it is fitting that he receive it on the day when we remember those who fell in battle defending those values he holds so dearly.

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