New Yorkers often invoke a Yiddish word that defies quick translation but is widely understood throughout the nation – "chutzpah." Its classic definition, the boy who murders his parents and then throws himself on the mercy of the court because he’s an orphan, could apply to recent statements by all the leading presidential candidates.
Consider Republican front-runner Donald Trump. In an op-ed in Friday’s Wall Street Journal, Mr. Trump doubled down on his earlier denunciation of the “rigged rules” of the GOP’s nominating process by claiming that the rules have been “flagrantly abused.” Those are the same rules that have enabled him to parlay his television celebrity status into hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of free media coverage, which, in turn, has helped make him the GOP’s most popular candidate and likely nominee. Not too shabby for a candidate who not very long ago was a registered Democrat and Hillary Clinton’s financial supporter and BFF ’til he decided to challenge her for the presidency.
Trump complains that the party’s undemocratic nominating system benefits only the interests of the "club" (says the owner of the exclusive Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach).
Is Mr. Trump not a silver-spoon-born “insider” of the group he claims to deplore? Is he not part of the political "club” he seeks to dominate – “the consultants, the pollsters, the politicians, the pundits, and the special interests" whom the “system” has enabled to grow "rich and powerful while the American people grow poorer and more isolated?"
Does the “elite” establishment not include a flamboyant builder who exploits the nation's bankruptcy laws to prosper while leaving his investors and condo owners holding the financial bag?
Is the newly minted "conservative" really opposed to the Republican party’s tradition of giving states a say in how best to choose their candidates, or only when Colorado gives all its delegates to his rival? And why does the man who claims to favor "maximum transparency" refuse to release his tax returns, as even Hillary Clinton has done?
As New Yorkers say, Puh-leez.
Then there is anti-immigrant Ted (Rafael) Cruz, who was born in Canada to an American mother and a Cuban-born father. In an effort to walk away from having denigrated “New York values” – New York baby boomers and older city residents may recall this phrase as code for anti-Semitism – Mr. Cruz on Thursday night denounced the political insider cabal in Washington.
Are U.S. senators almost by definition not members of that club, however wildly unpopular? New Yorkers were not the problem, Mr. Cruz told diners at the GOP’s black-tie gala in the hotel that Mr. Trump built. The villain was Washington, where he has fought for the Constitution all his life.
Really? A politician who endorses patrolling Muslim neighborhoods in America in the name of preventing terrorism, upending America’s financial system by adopting the gold standard and abolishing the Internal Revenue Service would seem to be a man seeking to upend America’s Constitution-based system, not faithfully adhere to it. The only part of the Constitution that Mr. Cruz apparently finds unassailable is the Second Amendment banning restrictions on guns.
Republicans have no monopoly on oversized hypocrisy. Socialist Bernie Sanders wants the government to do everything from providing free health care and college tuition to breaking up big banks (leaving to more pragmatic dreamers the pesky issue of how such budget-busting programs would be implemented and financed). But he also claims that the government is overreaching if it tries to ban assault rifles, limit the amount of ammunition an individual can buy or enable individual citizens to sue gun manufacturers that have reason to know that weapons they have sold have financed a mass shooting, such as the Sandy Hook school massacre.
Asked by a reporter to defend his pro-gun views after Thursday night’s debate, Mr. Sanders said there was a difference between having a view that is popular and being able to get something done about it. Wait. Isn't that Hillary's Clinton’s campaign theme – pragmatic compromise makes government effective?
Mrs. Clinton, too, is no stranger to chutzpah. Is she not the front-runner who endorses open and transparent government but refuses to release transcripts of her Wall Street speeches? Is she not almost surely trying to hide relatively benign comments about Goldman Sachs and Wall Street that would nonetheless undermine her claim that “no big bank is too big to fail," and "no executive too big to jail."
The candidate of transparency has never explained the speeches, the fees she received or what she said to Goldman Sachs. Inevitable nominees apparently don't need to do so.
Judith Miller, a Fox News contributor, is an award-winning author, and an adjunct fellow at the Manhattan Institute. Her latest book, "The Story: A Reporter's Journey" (Simon & Schuster, April 7, 2015).