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Tuesday, May 09, 2017

A new definition of chutzpah?

In The Joys of Yiddish, Leo Rosten offers the classic definition of chutzpah: The man who, having killed his parents, begs the court for mercy on the ground that he is an orphan.

But might we have a new definition: Donald Trump--who spent months insisting that Hillary Clinton's handling of emails constitutes a jailable offense (if not treason), spent part of the election criticizing FBI Director James Comey for coddling Clinton, and was elected president at least somewhat (studies are unclear how much) with the help of Comey's three public announcements about the FBI investigation (two in the final weeks of the campaign)--has fired Comey [ed: purportedly] for his disclosures about the email investigation.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on May 9, 2017 at 06:33 PM in Howard Wasserman, Law and Politics | Permalink


We neverHillary voters wanted Comey out in July, and Trump delivered. MAGA!

Posted by: NovemberSurprise | May 9, 2017 6:58:30 PM

To make a serious point, orphanage seems a decent reason for mercy in cases of matri/patricide, Rosten's implicit point about a kind of forfeiture of sympathy by wrongdoing notwithstanding. People who kill their parents do so out of passion, I imagine, or maybe for money; either way, after they do it it must, or often must, be very difficult to live with themselves afterwards. I think it was Adam Kolber who used to blog here about his arguments that retributivist punishment has to be gauged to the subjective experience of the punishment on the part of the person being punished; people who suffer more in prison should get less time than people who mind it less. This seems right, although practically near-impossible to implement. But it's not so hard to adjust punishment to take the guilt the defendant must live with into account, at least if a sentencing judge can accurately gauge how guilt-ridden the defendant is.

As to Trump, I think you're right; one reads, however, such nice things about the Deputy AG who wrote that memo that one would like to think he was being sincere and didn't disingenuously put it together to justify a firing for other reasons.

Posted by: Asher Steinberg | May 10, 2017 12:41:04 PM

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