The classic definition of chutzpah is the child who kills his parents and throws himself on the mercy of the court as an orphan. The classic definition when it comes to politics is for the Obama campaign to demand that Mitt Romney disassociate himself from the loathsome Donald Trump when it took Barack Obama oh-so-long to kiss off the Rev. Jeremiah Wright. Do two wrongs make a Wright?
Having punned egregiously, I know I must hasten to add that Trump’s insistence that Obama’s place of birth remains an open question is both revolting and dopey. He has kept at this so long that it is no longer possible to question his sincerity, just his intelligence. He ought to know that the so-called birthers exude the fetid aroma of racism: To them, the oddly named Obama just doesn’t look like a president should.
Romney is exhibiting his characteristic cowardice in not slapping down Trump and walking away from his money. His face shows that he doesn’t much like the Donald or his approach, but the presumptive GOP nominee understands that there are two principles involved: The first would require him to do the decent thing; the second is to appreciate that one you start rejecting campaign donations on the basis of principle, it could be impossible to stop — slippery slope and all of that.
But the Obama people ought to feel a twinge of sympathy. They insisted for the longest time that Wright’s explosive and revolting rhetoric had nothing to do with Obama. But the rhetoric was ugly, and the man making it was not a mere preacher but the presidential candidate’s designated spiritual adviser. The two were close — and they remained close even after Wright had called the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, an example of “the chickens coming home to roost.” (“We bombed Hiroshima, we bombed Nagasaki, and we nuked far more than the thousands in New York and the Pentagon, and we never batted an eye ... and now we are indignant, because the stuff we have done overseas is now brought back into our own front yards. America's chickens are coming home to roost.”)
Similarly, Obama remained mum as Wright bestowed his church’s highest award on the racist and anti-Semitic Rev. Louis Farrakhan. Not once, until the pressure got too great and Wright went just plain berserk, did Obama cut the cord.
I understand — truly, I do. Wright spoke from a historical and personal context — America’s long and frequently sanguinary history of racism. (His feting of Farrakhan was a different matter entirely since it is not necessary to endorse one hate to fight another.) Wright was entitled to some anger. He was not entitled to belittle the suffering of Sept. 11.
As for Romney, he is a sheer opportunist who does not have the courage or the principles — the former begats the latter — to tell Donald Trump to shut up. Once again, I understand. It could cost him some votes and some money — a small price to pay for appearing presidential.