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Chutzpah

The classic definition of chutzpah is when you murder your parents then plead for mercy because you're an orphan. It's time to update that old chestnut: How about when you fire the old Senate parliamentarian for not going along with your reconciliation plans and then say that the guy you hired to replace him is biased against you?

Senate Republicans have begun a campaign to cast doubt on the Senate Parliamentarian and his capacity to impartially handle the reconciliation process for passing health care fixes. Several lawmakers and GOP officials told Politico that Alan Frumin is too close to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and thus predisposed to rule in his favor when reconciliation is raised.

It's a bold gambit to "work the ref" before the game has begun and it reflects some chutzpah on the part of the GOP, considering the recent history of the position.

Frumin was elevated to the post by Republican leadership in 2001, in part because he had a reputation for adhering to institutional mores rather than personal ideology. At the time, Majority Leader Trent Lott said he was confident Frumin could do the job, having known him for many years.

"It's going to be pretty hard for anybody to be too critical of it," Lott said of the appointment.

More here.

By Ezra Klein  |  March 3, 2010; 11:26 AM ET
 
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Comments

"Chtuzpah"? Really?

Posted by: retr2327 | March 3, 2010 11:39 AM | Report abuse

I think most of what the Republicans are doing right now requires a great deal of chutzpah. Not just this.

That being said, would you rather your elected representatives have chutzpah--like the Republicans--or too lack any testicular fortitude whatsoever, like the Democrats?

Posted by: Kevin_Willis | March 3, 2010 11:50 AM | Report abuse

I wouldn't put it past repiglicans to pillory someone that they appointed less than a decade ago. Will the MSM point out the obvious hypocrisy of repiglicans complaining about:
1. the parliamentarian before he makes a ruling
2. their firing of a parliamentarian when he didn't rule in their favor

This should be a big story given how much repiglicans have elevated the issue of reconciliation, but I am sure Obama's smoking habits will get more play.

Posted by: srw3 | March 3, 2010 11:50 AM | Report abuse

Chutzpah is voting for two wars, two huge tax cuts for the Paris Hiltons of this country and Medicare Part D without any funding source then blocking unemployment benefits because they lack a funding source. I guess putting trillions on the national debt is fine, but ten billion is way too much.

Chutzpah is an anti-pork politician demanding an up or down vote on nominees under one President then blocking ALL nominees under the next President so you can bring home pork.

Chutzpah is "fiscal conservatives" demanding we not put anything else on the national debt yet voting against paygo and the balanced budget commission even though they were co-signers on the balanced budget commission legislation.

The above examples are all from the last month. And there are many, many more.

Posted by: nisleib | March 3, 2010 11:51 AM | Report abuse

Well, Kevin_Willis, I am not sure that a party that is mostly weak and unwilling to push back effectively against lying and mischaracterization is really worse than a party that make statements that are demonstrably false, is hypocritical, and is completely obsessed with gaining power, no matter the damage to the country.

If this were a sporting event or some other meaningless exercise, I wouldn't care, but the future of HCR is kind of a big deal.

Someone besides Maddow should be pointing the mendacity of repiglican arguments daily. Why oh why can't we have a better MSM?

Posted by: srw3 | March 3, 2010 11:57 AM | Report abuse

It costs nothing -- zero -- to replace him with someone both sides trust.

Unless, of course, you're counting on bias.

Posted by: cpurick | March 3, 2010 11:59 AM | Report abuse

cpurick - This guy was picked by the GOP. If the GOP isn't going to trust THEIR handpicked parlimentarian then they aren't going to trust anyone.

Posted by: nisleib | March 3, 2010 12:05 PM | Report abuse

*That being said, would you rather your elected representatives have chutzpah--like the Republicans--or too lack any testicular fortitude whatsoever, like the Democrats?*

Because my voting patterns are a reflection of what I believe to be good policy, not as an outlet to make me feel better about my failures in life by seeking out "strong leaders," even if they're destructive screwups, I'm going to go for the Democrats. As you hit middle age, become weaker, more overweight, and coming to terms with your dead end career, then, yes, I can understand how you'd gravitate mostly towards candidates who act out the "masculine aggressiveness" that you can't, even if they're dishonest and destructive.

Posted by: constans | March 3, 2010 12:15 PM | Report abuse

"In fact, Mr. Dove and Frumin have switched jobs three times. Frumin first became parliamentarian in 1987, replacing Dove after Democrats took over the Senate. When Republicans won back the majority, Dove was reappointed parliamentarian, and Frumin returned to the No. 2 job, with the title parliamentarian emeritus. He was reappointed parliamentarian in 2001, after Dove made some procedural calls that displeased then-majority leader Trent Lott (R).

"In 1995, Dove made one of many tough calls, not unlike those Frumin is likely to face on healthcare. Republicans wanted to ban federal funding of abortions and use reconciliation to do it. Dove ruled against them. “In my view, that was not there to save money but to implement a huge social policy. It was knocked out of the bill,” Dove says, citing the so-called Byrd rule."

(The above is quoted from Chad­dock, Gail Rus­sell. “Who's Alan Fru­min and why might he shape US health re­form?”. Chris­tian Sci­ence Mon­i­tor, Oc­to­ber 14, 2009.)

Posted by: rmgregory | March 3, 2010 12:27 PM | Report abuse

Dog bites man.

Posted by: slag | March 3, 2010 12:58 PM | Report abuse

Another definition of chutzpah might be penning an op-ed in the Washington Post decrying a tactic which you voted for 12 times.

Posted by: jeffwacker | March 3, 2010 1:24 PM | Report abuse

"Chutzpah" is a very mild term for the sort of vile intellectual dishonesty that is at work to defeat the possibility of universal access to affordable health care.

The undisguised hypocrisy of this cynical tactic to stall the reconciliation fix of the Senate bill after it is passed by the House is every bit as reprehensible as the Bunning-led Republican assault on extending unemployment insurance benefits.

Hopefully this nonsense about ousting the Senate parliamentarian will only serve to stir up anger and thereby stiffen the backs of any House Democrats that are on the fence about supporting HCR.

Posted by: Patrick_M | March 3, 2010 1:41 PM | Report abuse

*"Chutzpah" is a very mild term for the sort of vile intellectual dishonesty that is at work to defeat the possibility of universal access to affordable health care.*

Precisely. Say what you want about the guy who murdered his parents, he was at least *telling the truth* about the fact that he was an orphan.

Posted by: constans | March 3, 2010 1:43 PM | Report abuse

this is wrong but SO in charachter for Republicans.

Then again its not as if Dems didn't fire the parlementarian during their time in power too.

how's that saying about throwing stones go again???

http://www.time.com/time/politics/article/0,8599,1969267,00.html


While I don't profess to know the specifics of Byrd firing Dove when the Dems came to power Dems whining now about this leverage tactic done by Republicans is about as hypocritical as Republicans that cried about reconciliation being done when they've BOTH done it before.

Posted by: visionbrkr | March 3, 2010 2:08 PM | Report abuse

visionbrkr,

The article in your link is a nice historical summary. I would simply note that your example of Democrats replacing the parliamentarian dates back 22 years and the replacement was a majority party's decision.

More importantly, the article contains no detail about the circumstances at play during the 1980's replacement, but it is interesting to me that the Republicans have expressed no concern about this sitting Parliamentarian (who was installed BY the Republicans and ruled on all of THEIR reconciliation questions through the Bush years) until the eve of possible 2010 reconciliation decisions on a Democratic bill.

Given the fact that there is a long track record of Republican SATISFACTION with this guy, it is impossible to argue that this effort to replace him is taking place for any purpose other than obstructing the bill.

I don't know whether that was the purpose in the 1980's... but I really doubt it.
We have some extra special "chutzpah" taking place here, even by Washington standards.

Posted by: Patrick_M | March 3, 2010 2:25 PM | Report abuse

Patrick,

I didn't know (and stated that) the specifics behind it too. but if a blog writer wanted to get down to the bottom of it he'd fine a non-partisan writing about it. Maybe its not a story. Maybe it is. Maybe if all you want to do is throw mud at Republicans then it doesn't matter. Maybe if you want the truth it does. Maybe someone spends too much time on Maddow and Olbermann.

Posted by: visionbrkr | March 3, 2010 2:36 PM | Report abuse

actually meant to type "he'd FIND a non partisan writing about it"

Posted by: visionbrkr | March 3, 2010 2:47 PM | Report abuse

@constans: "As you hit middle age, become weaker, more overweight, and coming to terms with your dead end career, then, yes, I can understand how you'd gravitate mostly towards candidates who act out the 'masculine aggressiveness' that you can't, even if they're dishonest and destructive."

What uncanny insight! You can read me like a book.

Although, all I have to do to vote for a politicians that's dishonest and destructive is to, um, vote for a politician. Admittedly, they lie about (and destroy) different things, but still. Mostly, it's six-of-one, half-dozen of the other.

I tend to think that people, for the most part, either vote for the folks they think represent the best policy (if they are optimists) or the least-terrible policy, if they are a little more cynical (this would be me, though I refer to it as "being realistic").

Posted by: Kevin_Willis | March 3, 2010 2:57 PM | Report abuse

visisonbrkr,

When you say:

"Maybe if all you want to do is throw mud at Republicans then it doesn't matter. Maybe if you want the truth it does. Maybe someone spends too much time on Maddow and Olbermann."

...allow me to make something clear. I am not trying to "throw mud." I am saying that the minority effort to overturn the parliamentarian (who they themselves put into place and who they themselves used with evident satisfaction when they were in the majority), simply to delay or derail final passage of a reconciled version of the Senate bill, is intellectually dishonest.

"Throwing mud" is something entirely different.

If the circumstances under which the Democratic majority decided to replace a parliamentarian in 1988 were the same, then the Democrats of 22 years ago were indeed equally guilty of intellectual dishonesty. But your Time article does not tell us that is the case, and we know from the facts that the 1988 replacement was done by the majority party in the first year after they took power (which is not the case with the Republican campaign right now). So, unless someone has a more detailed history that proves a close similarity, I can't see that there is any "moral equivalency" between 1988 and 2010.

If Ezra wants to dig up the facts around the 1988 story, that would be great, but I don't think they will make the current Republican position look any more routine.

Posted by: Patrick_M | March 3, 2010 3:02 PM | Report abuse

@srw3: "Well, Kevin_Willis, I am not sure that a party that is mostly weak and unwilling to push back effectively against lying and mischaracterization is really worse than a party that make statements that are demonstrably false, is hypocritical, and is completely obsessed with gaining power, no matter the damage to the country."

Yeah, those Democrats are pretty power-hungry . . . oh, wait, you're talking about the Republicans. Heh.

Sounds to me like you described most politicians, not a particular political party, but I don't expect you'll agree with that.

But my point was: wouldn't you rather have your party going onions-to-the-wall to advance their agenda (and obstruct Republicans with their Patriot Acts and tax cuts for fat cats) rather than being befuddled and trying to go along to get along and such?

Going along with the self-congratulatory myth that the Republicans are the bad guys and the Democrats are the good guys, what good does it do, particularly, to have good guys if they never ride in to save the day?

Posted by: Kevin_Willis | March 3, 2010 3:02 PM | Report abuse

"But my point was: wouldn't you rather have your party going onions-to-the-wall to advance their agenda (and obstruct Republicans with their Patriot Acts and tax cuts for fat cats) rather than being befuddled and trying to go along to get along and such?"

Kevin_Willis,

Yes, but only up to a point. A line is crossed (for me anyway) when the arguments supporting the tactics used in the fight have absolutely no credibility. If it is perfectly ok to say or do ANYTHING, what is the point of even having discussion about politics on this blog, since no level of deceit is ever out-of-bounds -- anything goes, all is fair, the merits of arguments and the facts mean nothing.

When Democrats practice deceitful rhetoric and tactics, I am disappointed in them. When Republicans do it, I am equally disappointed in them.

Right now, it is the Republicans that are doing it, and they are raising the bar to new heights.

Posted by: Patrick_M | March 3, 2010 3:18 PM | Report abuse

More chutzpah:

http://www.acslaw.org/node/15455

Justice Barbara Keenan, confirmed by a vote of 99-0 "...124 days after the Senate Judiciary Committee unanimously reported her nomination to the floor, Justice Barbara Keenan saw the Senate unanimously end the anonymous hold on her nomination."

99 to 0. What good purpose did the 4 month hold in the full Senate serve?

Posted by: Patrick_M | March 3, 2010 3:25 PM | Report abuse

@Patrick_M: "Right now, it is the Republicans that are doing it, and they are raising the bar to new heights."

Agreed. I'm just thinking, if your choices are only A. Weak and Pathetic or B. Lying with Chutzpah, you don't have a good choice, and maybe B. is better if (in your case) it gets us healthcare reform or if (in my case) it gets us tax cuts.

But maybe not. As an observation, it seems to me that, generally, the political class has two modes: weak and ineffective, or out-of-control, ends-justifies-the-means, do-whatever-it-takes. Of course, neither is ideal.

Posted by: Kevin_Willis | March 3, 2010 3:33 PM | Report abuse

Patrick,

I wasn't talking about you unless you wrote the post and appear regularly on Maddow and Olbermann.

Just once I'd like to see a nice blog post on Charlie Rangel and Ms. Nancy having the "most ethical congress ever".

See that's what i love about Jon Stewart. While he's liberal at least he'll tell us when Dems are dishonest. If all anyone read was this blog you'd think the Dems were choir boys and girls.

Posted by: visionbrkr | March 3, 2010 3:39 PM | Report abuse

"As an observation, it seems to me that, generally, the political class has two modes: weak and ineffective, or out-of-control, ends-justifies-the-means, do-whatever-it-takes. Of course, neither is ideal."

You and I are in total agreement, Kevin_Willis.

Posted by: Patrick_M | March 3, 2010 3:41 PM | Report abuse

"See that's what i love about Jon Stewart. While he's liberal at least he'll tell us when Dems are dishonest. If all anyone read was this blog you'd think the Dems were choir boys and girls."

visionbrkr,

In defense of Ezra, I don't think he was throwing mud either. And I can recall a number of occasions that he has pointed out hypocrisy on the Democratic side.

The fact is that these days the Republicans are supplying the most material. It took but a couple of days for Mr. Rangel to lose his Chairmanship, so that story came to a rather swift conclusion. But for chutzpah-watchers, the Republicans' various positions against the HCR effort has become the gift that keeps on giving.

Posted by: Patrick_M | March 3, 2010 3:47 PM | Report abuse

Patrick,

maybe I've missed some times but not many. I've become a "regular" around here and speak mostly in the healthcare posts becuase that's what I do and i like that Ezra posts on costs and the need for a mandate.

When i see Ezra bash Dems its because he's bashing them for not doing enough (see Minority party of 59).

I still have yet to see a post on Rangel and the hypocrisy there. I'm sure if he was around he was bashing trent lott for what he did (again not comparing the two).

The point is Rangel's situation's been going on for a year. Rightfully so he' jumped (right along with every other liberal media person) on Bunning for what he did. I'd just like a touch more fair play that's all.

Posted by: visionbrkr | March 3, 2010 4:12 PM | Report abuse

visionbrkr,

Again, in fairness, I would point out that NBC has a partnership agreement with WaPo and Newsweek magazine, so when the topic is health care policy and/or process, it is not surprising that Ezra is the guest MSNBC calls upon to answer questions, because among the pool of journalists they can call in, Ezra knows the HCR details inside-out. That does not mean that EK's blog has anything approaching the same level of partisanship as the Maddow and Olbermann broadcasts.

I can't speak as to why Ezra has not written blog entries about Rangel, but I can recall EK regularly pointing out that while Republicans are now making opposite arguments on topics like reconciliation or the filibuster (compared to their position in the Bush years) that Democrats have flip-flopped too, and I think most would agree that EK has done a good job of giving Paul Ryan a fair hearing here on the substance of Ryan's thinking. Virtually any other blogger or columnist would not try to delve into the details needed to understand the Ryan bugetary strategy, and EK deserves credit for the wonkishness to go where others dare not tread.

And, in fairness, while Ezra may have a point of view, I don't think his writing ever boils down to "throwing mud." I'd agree that he generally has a point of view that is in line with Democrats on health care and most other policy and process controversies, but I also think that he is hardly the Obama "sycophant" or "stooge" that some commenters (who are much less thoughtful than yourself) continually claim.

I know you are a regular, and I have often agreed with your qualified support for the Senate bill, and with your complaint that too much focus is now placed upon insurance reform in comparison to cost containment on the providers, Pharma, and the other players in the system. I have learned a lot from your special insight into the insurance side,. I hope you will continue to post here indefinitely, because your substantive, courteous, and patient arguments bring a welcome relief to the hateful canned remarks of the ultra right wing trolls.

Posted by: Patrick_M | March 3, 2010 5:21 PM | Report abuse

Patrick,

Thanks.


hadn't considered much the MSNBC/WAPO angle that may have some validity but it would be nice to see him with people not so partisan as Keith and Rachel.

The reason I hang around is that he does give some time to the other views of Ryan et al but I feel he still mistakenly believes that this will lower the deficit and to me its not just a question of the CBO score because that only scores the government's costs and not private costs which are many times affected (both positively and negatively) by how the government handles its costs. And to that end when was the last time we saw a CBO score? Every change recently (excise tax lower, individual mandate weakening, increase in subsides and I'm sure others i'm not thinking about) will go to make the score worse.

Maybe "throwing mud" was the wrong choice of words but I've never seen him hold the Dems to task for anything but being "less liberal" than the base thinks he should be.


If Trent Lott had come on the scene however many years ago a year after the ethics committee admonished him with a handful of other violations still hanging over his head and Ezra was around and Lott said he was "temporarily resigning" he'd have had his head handed to him on a silver platter by Ezra as he should have. I don't go to the conservative sites (I've gotta work sometime!) and I'm sure they've been giving it to Charlie Rangel because its well deserved but just once I'd like Ezra to be "fair and balanced" otherwise he may end up being painted as a partisan writer instead of the bright wonk that he is.

Posted by: visionbrkr | March 3, 2010 10:44 PM | Report abuse

Visionbrkr: Ezra can't do everything. Cut him some slack. He goes after the Democrats where he sees them messing up. Frankly, when I want hard-hitting stuff on the Democrats, I go to Ace of Spades or Red State. Or National Review. They'll have it covered.

Ezra has his own gig. I think many of us come here for his opinions and insights on the issues where he happens to have opinions and insight, not an impartial run down of the days issues. I imagine if he felt he had something clever to say about Rangel, he would have.

Plus, everyone knows that anytime a politician promises to have the most ethical anything, it's like listening to the fox promise to guard the henhouse. Anyone with any sense knows it's a lie--or, at least, wildly inaccurate to the point of being delusional.

Posted by: Kevin_Willis | March 4, 2010 10:11 AM | Report abuse

"Ezra has his own gig. I think many of us come here for his opinions and insights on the issues where he happens to have opinions and insight, not an impartial run down of the days issues. I imagine if he felt he had something clever to say about Rangel, he would have."

Kevin, that was very well stated. Part of the unique appeal of reading a blogger is that you are following one person's own interests and personal train of thought.

Ezra's writing actually includes a heavier ratio of reporting to opinion and analysis than most others in the blogosphere. But (like any blogger) he can't be expected to care about or write about the entire spectrum of current events that the reporting staff at WaPo might be covering.

In addition to the sites you mention, I would recommend FrumForum as a pretty good place for reasonably well-argued Dem-bashing.

Posted by: Patrick_M | March 4, 2010 10:42 PM | Report abuse

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