Yiddish Wisdom for Augusta: Chutzpah, Mensch, Putz, Schmuck and Kochleffel

by Jonathan Reisman

My maternal Grandfather was born in 1898 in Brooklyn, New York, and named Abraham Lincoln Plaut by his German –Jewish immigrant parents. His father was a kosher butcher, and he became an entrepreneur, author, English teacher, and baseball coach. He idolized Woodrow Wilson, but nobody is perfect. He taught me pinochle, bridge, baseball, and how to read a financial statement. His best gift was Yiddish, which linked me to my ethnic immigrant past and gave me a rich lexicon of expressions still serving me all these years later.

Chutzpah (pronounced “huts pah”) is a Yiddish word meaning supreme self-confidence, nerve, or, in unflattering use, unmitigated gall. One example is of a man who kills both his parents and asks for the mercy of the court because he is an orphan.

Governor Janet Mills showed a lot of chutzpah when she proposed almost a half billion in new spending to address the high price of energy and Maine’s housing shortage while asking just sworn-in legislators to approve it immediately without public hearings. 

The high price of energy is not, as Democrats would have you believe, a consequence of Putin and evil greedy oil companies, but rather the deliberate policy choices of climate alarmists and the War on fossil fuels. The policy choices that President Biden, Governor Mills, and the Democrats have made canceling pipelines, throttling domestic oil production, demonizing and de-financing fossil fuels, pushing more expensive, unreliable, and intermittent solar and wind, embracing and appeasing climate alarmism and enacting the Green New Deal under the alias of the Inflation Reduction Act have all led to the current high prices for electricity, gasoline, and diesel fuel. Putin’s contribution is not zero, but our efforts to prolong the Ukrainian conflict rather than push for a negotiated settlement have only made things worse.

Having engineered this energy crisis, the Democrats now come forth with a major freedom-killing spending plan that will put a band-aid on (their) political pain, but do nothing to actually fix the problem, which would require abandoning the climate alarmist policies that caused it in the first place. That is chutzpah.

Added into the “emergency” spending bill that must not be questioned in public hearings is a major infusion of cash to provide housing and welfare benefits for illegal immigrants transported to Maine by the Biden administration and progressive non-profit industrial complex with the full support and cooperation of Governor Mills and the Democrats who run Maine. Like the high price of energy, the illegal immigrant crisis is a direct result of the open border policy choices that Brandon and the Democrats instituted as soon as they took power and have stubbornly defended and kept in place ever since. Chutzpah indeed!

A Mensch (mench) is a good person of integrity and honor and would include Senate Republican leaders Trey Stewart (Aroostook) and Lisa Keim (Oxford), who stood up to the Governor and the lapdog press and voted for transparency and public hearings. 

A Putz (puhts) or Schmuck (shmuhk) is a foolish or contemptible person, and that, unfortunately, would be lobsterman and House Republican leader Billy Bob Faulkingham (Winter Harbor), who got snookered by the Governor and cowered by the press into supporting her chutzpah initiative. As a self-declared climate change policy skeptic (so recognized by Maine Public’s Susan Sharon as such), he should know better. Not a promising start.

Kochleffel (kook lefel) means cooking spoon but is idiomatic for a pot stirrer or meddlesome troublemaker. I guess I am a bit of a kochleffel. With a Governor and majority party full of chutzpah and a subservient legacy press that cheerleads and supports the left, Maine is in desperate need of kochleffels and mensches. Unfortunately, what we have got is a plentiful supply of putzes.

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