In politics, there are lots of working definitions of chutzpah. Here's one: Waltz into your opponent's back yard, preferably in broad daylight, and steal the family jewels.
That's what Vice President Bush has pulled off this week -- or more accurately, what his political operatives would like it understood they've pulled off, except they can't come right out and say so.
Bush's political action committee, the Fund for America's Future, has unveiled a New York Congressional Steering Committee that includes 14 of the 15 members of the state GOP delegation.
The name deliciously missing from the roster is also the intended victim of the exercise: Rep. Jack Kemp, Bush's principal early challenger for the 1988 Republican presidential nomination.
Officially, Bush's PAC is in business only to raise and distribute funds to help elect GOP candidates this year, and is prohibited under federal election law from being a vehicle for Bush's 1988 candidacy. So much for the disclaimer. Unofficially, Bush partisans have been using their PAC steering committees widely as a show of strength -- or in this instance, an alleged demonstration of a rival's home-state weakness -- for the 1988 contest.
Rep. Guy V. Molinari, who lined up the New York delegation for Bush, said the steering committee is for 1986 only, but added: "From the conversations I had with members of the delegation, it's clear to me that most will be supporting Bush in 1988."
This double-game does not amuse the Kemp camp.
"Either the PAC is a vehicle for 1988, in which case the Bush people have a real problem with the Federal Election Commission, or it's a vehicle for electing Republicans in 1986, in which case it has zero news value," said John Buckley, Kemp's press secretary.
"Who can be against electing Republicans in 1986?" he added. "They could have had 15 out of 15 if they had just asked."