Friday, February 26, 2010

The CHUTZPAH of Consistency

We tend to associate consistency with Ralph Waldo Emerson's "hobgoblin of little minds;" but, if we read beyond that oft-quoted sentence, we discover a sentence in which Emerson advocates consistency viewed through the other end of the telescope:

Speak what you think now in hard words, and to-morrow speak what to-morrow thinks in hard words again, though it contradict every thing you said to-day.

In other words there is nothing wrong with being consistent in speaking your mind in the strongest possible language, even if you change your mind about things from one day to the next. That kind of consistency is less a "hobgoblin of little minds" and more a familiar trait of bringing chutzpah to what one thinks and how one acts on what one thinks.

This brings us to Chief U. S. District Judge Vaughan Walker here in San Francisco. Judge Walker spoke his mind on the matter of using television to bring the trial over the validity of the Proposition 8 ban on same-sex marriage to an audience larger than the number of people who could fit in his courtroom. Had it not been for the overwhelming chutzpah of the efforts of the Center for a New American Security in exposing the flaws of our intelligence operations in Afghanistan, Walker would have been a shoo-in for a Chutzpah of the Week award. Even in the wake of his decision being shot down by the Supreme Court, I was philosophical, predicting that some time over the course of the trial, his time would come.

So I have followed the accounts of San Francisco Chronicle Staff Writer Bob Egelko; and it looks as if Walker's time has come. He has been consistent in speaking his mind, and he may have now landed on the right framework in which to speak it. Furthermore, this time he seems to have rallied the support of his colleagues. Here is the critical paragraph from a report that Egelko filed yesterday afternoon:

The U.S. District Court in San Francisco has posted a rule change on its Web site that would allow its judges to take part in a pilot program of airing selected nonjury civil trials. The public comment period began Feb. 4 and ends Thursday.

Under the timing of this rule change, it should be possible for this pilot program to be engaged to cover the closing arguments of the Proposition 8 case. If such is the case, then the consistency of Walker's "hard words" over the national relevance of this case may yet be rewarded; and, for having progressed this far, Walker can enjoy the "intermediate" reward of a Chutzpah of the Week award!

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