Image 01 Image 03

Chutzpah, the double-bind and the Kavanaugh circus

Chutzpah, the double-bind and the Kavanaugh circus

The Democrats and Kavanaugh

Yiddish is a language that has a lot of words that express personality qualities and types, particularly loser types or mean types or conniving types. These words often combine humor with rueful sarcasm and cynical realism about the vagaries of the human condition.

One of those words is “chutzpah.” You’re probably familiar with it, because it passed into the American vernacular some time ago. It is usually translated as something like “audacity,” and it most often contains an element of outrageous gall [my emphasis]:

Leo Rosten in The Joys of Yiddish defines chutzpah as “gall, brazen nerve, effrontery, incredible ‘guts’, presumption plus arrogance such as no other word and no other language can do justice to”. In this sense, chutzpah expresses both strong disapproval and condemnation. In the same work, Rosten also defines the term as “that quality enshrined in a man who, having killed his mother and father, throws himself on the mercy of the court because he is an orphan”. Chutzpah amounts to a total denial of personal responsibility, which renders others speechless and incredulous…

The left’s attack on Kavanaugh starts with the following: take a man with a sterling public record during his entire life, mount an attack on his integrity that involves an unsubstantiated, uncorroborated, impossible-to-defend-against charge of sexual attack (up to and including gang rape), and do it at the pinnacle of his career, unleashing a social media war against him of the most vicious kind, including death threats towards him and his family. Do that publicly while cloaking yourself in self-aggrandizing sanctity, and make him sit there and listen.

But that’s not the “chutzpah” part I’m talking about. The real chutzpah part is this: if he acts at all angry in his response to being defamed in that way, say that his anger shows that he doesn’t have the temperament to be a justice, despite the fact that it is well-documented that he has shown an exemplary judicial temperament for his entire previous career as a judge.

And one more thing: if he hadn’t shown anger in response to these extreme charges against him and their public airing in the United States Senate, accuse him of lacking the appropriate outrage that would have been the sure mark of an innocent man. Does any fair-minded person doubt that would have been the outcome, had Kavanaugh not been angry?

“Chutzpah” is too light a word to describe that kind of ploy.

But still another word for what the left has done to Kavanaugh—a more technical and academic one—is that they placed him in a “double bind,” which is:

…a situation in which a successful response to one message results in a failed response to the other (and vice versa), so that the person will automatically be wrong regardless of response. The double bind occurs when the person cannot confront the inherent dilemma, and therefore can neither resolve it nor opt out of the situation…

Thus, the essence of a double bind is two conflicting demands, each on a different logical level, neither of which can be ignored or escaped. This leaves the subject torn both ways, so that whichever demand they try to meet, the other demand cannot be met.

So Kavanaugh’s anger elicited intense criticism, and lack of anger on his part would have done the same. I doubt that Judge Kavanaugh anticipated the nature of the bind he was in, unless he’s unusually psychologically astute. But even if he had foreseen it and tried to prepare for it, it’s nearly impossible to find a way out of a double bind and its contradictory demands.

I have previously discussed the importance of understanding the difference between process arguments and content arguments (please see this post for more detail). If you are caught in a double bind—such as the dilemma Kavanaugh faced—it is best to “go process” and address the underlying double bind itself rather than just the content of the argument at hand. To “go process” takes an unusual amount of psychological and communicative savvy, and an understanding of the content-process distinction.

Most people don’t have that knowledge. But I think it might have helped had Kavanaugh said something like this:

You may think I may sound outraged and angry, and no doubt some people will criticize me for that. But I believe that any person who knows that he or she is innocent and yet is accused of the kind of offenses I’ve been accused of here today would feel and express the same very controlled anger. What’s more, if I showed no such emotion when faced with these charges, charges that violate everything I hold dear, you would criticize me just as strongly for not showing the appropriate emotion, and you would blame me for that. It’s a classic double bind, where no reaction is okay and all reactions are fodder for the criticism mill.

When I say that sort of statement might have helped Kavanaugh, I don’t mean it would have prevented criticism. He would have been criticized for saying what I’ve suggested, too. But still, I have noticed that “going process” and revealing the underlying game being played by the opposition is generally a good tactic, because there may be some listeners who will then understand what’s happening. The tactic of going process offers the only chance of breaking the Gordian knot of the double-bind.

It’s also a tactic that often surprises the opposition; they rarely expect it. But to be successful, the person making the statement has to have either anticipated the double bind and the form it will take, or at least must be able to recognize the double bind while it’s in progress, which is also very difficult to do. One of the many goals of placing someone in a double bind is to confuse the person in real time so that, unless he/she is quite sophisticated about human communication patterns, that person will fail to recognize what’s going on.

Another aspect of the criticism of Kavanaugh’s anger is that it delegitimizes what is felt to be a typically masculine response. Even controlled and highly appropriate verbal anger, when exhibited by a man (a white man in particular), will now be labeled inappropriate and frightening and disqualifying as an example of toxic masculinity—if the man is on the non-leftist side of the political fence, that is.

In line with this, Kavanaugh was also criticized for crying—another indication that there was no response of his that wouldn’t have been criticized. The basic point is that all responses are forbidden and there are no choices left except to point out the game.

[Neo is a writer with degrees in law and family therapy, who blogs at the new neo.]


Donations tax deductible
to the full extent allowed by law.


This was very informative and educational. Thank you.

The Dems were always opposed to Kavanaugh, even back before he had cause to dislike them. Now, they’ve taken a good, fair-minded conservative and slung his name and reputation through the mud in every way imaginable, and pissed him off.

So now they have a good conservative who is justifiably angry at them, and he knows what kind of muckraking they are likely to try. And he’s going to be a SCOTUS member for the next 30 years. No wonder they will try any argument, no matter how stupid, to oppose his confirmation. Too bad.

If the Dems had not been so abusive and deceitful toward Kavanaugh, they could have opposed him courteously. They could have emphasized how important it is for him to be a swing vote, and grudgingly accepted him to replace Kennedy on the court. Too bad they used character assassination instead of reasoning. You reap what you sow.

Kvetch, kvetch, kvetch…

As our country adopts ever more socialism, we can expect the Democrats to adapt quickly to the techniques developed by Stalin and his gang.

The out-an-out attempt to destroy Judge Kavanaugh demonstrates their willingness to sacrifice the individual to advance the collective.

Oy vey!

The Ds are meshuginna.

He’s a mensch. End of story.

    Milhouse in reply to amwick. | October 3, 2018 at 6:06 pm

    Point of grammar: They can be meshuge, or meshugo’im, or meshugene mentchen, but they can’t be meshugenne. That adjectival form needs to be followed by an object.

      txvet2 in reply to Milhouse. | October 3, 2018 at 7:06 pm

      Since we’re nitpicking, it’s (singlar) Mensch (plural Menschen) from the German.

        Milhouse in reply to txvet2. | October 4, 2018 at 11:40 pm

        There are more than one of them, so they’re mentchen, though they don’t behave that way. And the German spelling is irrelevant; in Yiddish the word is spelt מענטש (plural מענטשען), and while transliteration is a matter of personal preference, the relevant consonant is “ch” rather than “sh”. “Mentch” and “mentchen” or “mention”.

      RodFC in reply to Milhouse. | October 3, 2018 at 7:35 pm

      Oh quit kvetching.

Eric Raymond calls it Kafkatrapping.

Today’s shift from Sen. Booker and others is, “Even if he’s innocent, why don’t we just move to someone else? So many credibility issues have been raised. Wouldn’t that be for the good of the nation?”

Saying, who cares if he’s innocent, toss him anyway, really annoys me on general principle. If he’s guilty, sure. But this?…

    oldgoat36 in reply to JBourque. | October 3, 2018 at 7:14 pm

    Which moves right back to the true goal of all this, delay. Delay, deny him, destroy him, the next candidate would get the exact same treatment even if the mudslinging were from a different direction. (They wouldn’t use sex as it would be too easy to see it, they’d use financial fraud, tax fraud, racism, homophobia, and so on).

    Of course we knew that no matter how he reacted it would be criticized, it is how the left operate on everything. The media does this all the time. Yet, I’m not sure any defense against them is possible. It is the moving goalpost.

    Schumer laid it out 23 minutes after his name was put forth as the nominee. It was laid out once Justice Kennedy announced he was retiring.

    Given the horrible grandstanding of the regular portion of his hearings, you could almost feel that the shoe was going to drop as he edged closer to a vote.

    Yet imagine the outrage the left would be howling if this were how an Obama nominee was treated. The left always works to destroy the right, and the right, as Graham stated, thinks those on the opposite side of the aisle are his friends.

    They aren’t. They never have been. McCain never learned that lesson. His narcissism sought praise from the media, and he quickly learned going maverick was how to get it. Graham might have taken a long time to “get it”, I’m not sure if he will remember it either, but he certainly sees it right now.

    Why aren’t more Republicans doing the same? Why aren’t they working on shaming Collins and Murkowski for being blind to the lies and despicable treatment Kavanaugh has been given by Feinstein and the rest of her party?

    How could these two have witnessed that horrendous escapade of the hearings, then saw the late hit with the lies given by Feinstein, and not immediately taken umbrage at having been played like a kazoo?

    Tom Servo in reply to JBourque. | October 3, 2018 at 7:21 pm

    Yes, and the worst part of the game is that they would do EXACTLY the same thing to anyone Trump nominated. It would only serve to legitimize this tactic for all time.

    cucho in reply to JBourque. | October 3, 2018 at 10:46 pm

    Gropus Spartacus sure has the nerve to attack Kavanaugh after his article about groping a girl in 1992 and being proud of it became public.

    Milhouse in reply to JBourque. | October 4, 2018 at 11:43 pm

    If this were about Kavanaugh a good case might be made for him to withdraw so someone without allegations could take his place. But this reverses cause and effect. No amount of vetting could have revealed these allegations, because they didn’t exist until he was nominated, and if he were to withdraw the same would inevitably happen to the next nominee, and the one after that, no matter who they were.

You know, I think I’d rather have a judge who’s indignant at injustice than one who is not.

Damned if you do, damned if you dont

I predicted it last week in the comments, actually.

They were going to claim it was impossible for him to be impartial because their slime had reached the level it was impossible to ignore.

A template for Rules for Radicals.

If the left has different standards for women than for men, that sounds like sexism to me. If men need to provide evidence for their assertions, that sounds like respect for a man’s intellectual capability. If a woman does not have to provide evidence to support an assertion, that sounds like a lowered standard for a woman and is inherently disrespectful.

My wife is intelligent as are my daughters and granddaughters. They are capable of thinking logically and constructing rational arguments backed by evidence. I consider the assertion that a woman needs to be believed simply because she is a woman to be degrading and disrespectful. It implies a woman is incapable of meeting the higher standard set for men.

“sons of belial” also comes to mind.

Good post, and, I understand the author’s point. But, hindsight is 20/20 and all that.

Judge K. has been put in an insane and sadistic situation. Engaging in retrospective analysis about how he might have, or, should have, ideally articulated his defense and framed his indignation, is pointless. Yes, with the benefit of additional coaching and hindsight, I’m sure we could all offer suggestions.

But, the author is correct — none of these cosmetic adjustments in tone or content would have mattered. The Dumb-o-crats have made objectively clear that they were never going to support the nominee for this seat on the bench, whether it was Judge K., or, Amy Barrett, or, Miguel Estrada, or, whoever. All that this ridiculous slander allegation accomplished is allow the Dumb-o-crats to posture and strut and proffer an allegedly sound rationale for their opposition to supporting Judge K., as opposed to conceding that their opposition is transparently rooted in partisan motivations.

    Occasional Thinker in reply to guyjones. | October 4, 2018 at 10:07 am

    I don’t view this as hindsight but as an opportunity for the nominee to RGB’s seat to learn from this debacle. Most people refuse to learn from their own mistakes, the truly wise learn from the mistakes of others. To clarify, it is not my intent to demean Judge Kavanaugh, I think he did an exemplary job considering the forces against him, but forewarned is forearmed.

      Under normal circumstances; yes, lessons gleaned from past conduct can be valuable guideposts, going forward.

      These are not normal circumstances, and, we are not dealing with normal, rational people, but, rather embittered, spite-filled and sadistic totalitarians. Logic, rationality and appeals to reason fall on deaf ears, with people such as the Dumb-o-crats.

      A future nominee placed in Kavanaugh’s situation could proffer a more nuanced, diplomatic and caveat-filled defense of self, and, the Dumb-o-crats would still pile on and attempt to eviscerate him or her.

“And one more thing: if he hadn’t shown anger in response to these extreme charges against him and their public airing in the United States Senate, accuse him of lacking the appropriate outrage that would have been the sure mark of an innocent man. Does any fair-minded person doubt that would have been the outcome, had Kavanaugh not been angry?”

My sediments exactly. (Yes, “sediments.” I’m settling in for the evening.)

DouglasJBender | October 3, 2018 at 10:04 pm

“Then the Pharisees went and plotted how they might entangle Him in His talk. And they sent to Him their disciples with the Herodians, saying, ‘Teacher, we know that You are true, and teach the way of God in truth; nor do You care about anyone, for You do not regard the person of men. Tell us, therefore, what do You think? Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?’ ”

“But Jesus perceived their wickedness, and said, ‘Why do you test Me, you hypocrites? Show Me the tax money.’ ”

“So they brought Him a denarius.”

“And He said to them, ‘Whose image and inscription is this?’ ”

“They said to Him, ‘Caesar’s.’ ”

“And He said to them, ‘Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.’ When they had heard these words, they marveled, and left Him and went their way.”

{Matthew 22:15-22 [NKJV]}

I have a better word. My own: scvmba66ery.

Democrats are the very essence of scvmba66ery.

I have discussed the Ford/Kavanaugh story with numerous collegues, clients etc – My imformal survey results are as follows

The non-partisan individuals who are not up to speed on the subject tend to believe kav did it, and tend to believe that it happened to the other women

the partisan left clients tend to acknowledge that if it did happen, that it was at most a groping session and not even close to an attempted rape.

The informed right partisan and the informed non partisans tend to think her underlying mental issues have cased her to believe something that didnt actually happen.

People are missing the point of this whole kerfuffle. The Dems [liberal-progressives all] were always going to do everything that they could to stymie any Trump SCOTUS appointment following Neil Gorsuch. Gorsuch took Scalia’s seat. He is a conservative and he replaced a conservative, thereby maintaining the status quo on the Court. However, Kavanaugh is replacing Kennedy, who was always a more liberal swing vote. Kavanaugh’s appointment will swing the court to a 5-4 conservative majority. For the lib/prog/Dems, this is bad enough, in itself, as it would make it harder for the lib/progs to advance their agenda judicially. But, there are three justices who are very likely to leave the court, whether by the Kennedy method [retirement] or the Scalia method[dying]. They are Ginsberg [85], Breyer [80] and Thomas [70]. Ginsberg and Breyer are liberals and Thomas is a conservative. So, it is fairly likely that Trump will get to appoint one or two more justices before he is out of office. If the Dems do not control the Senate, after the midterms, then we might very well see a 7-2 conservative majority if Trump is reelected in 2020, if not before. In view of these facts, the Kavanaugh confirmation becomes THE MOST IMPORTANT POLITICAL action of Donald Trump. The liberal/progressive/Democrats HAVE to stop it. That is the reason that we are seeing this scorched earth attack on Kavanaugh’s character. That is why they are willing to burn down their own house to get rid of him. And, that is why the voters who elected DJT have to go to the polls in November and vote againt the Dems. That is what is important about this whole affair.

I have learned more about this from this site than from the media in the last month.

Stop the vote. This just in–multiple people have confirmed seeing Kavanaugh drink red wine with fish.

PersonofInterests | October 4, 2018 at 10:32 am

There is a response, indeed, there is only ONE response that those who saw this despicable “Search & Destroy” Circus deployed by Democrats to ruin a fine man’s long history of accomplishment, fairness, and good service to our Country for political reasons:


Do we want a judge who does not get righteously indignant or angry over injustice?