Political Sapper

November 5, 2012 at 1:39 pm (Politics, Rhetoric, Strategy) (, , )

A measure of the state of Obama’s campaign, and his own inadequacy, is his use of Bill Clinton as a proxy. Clinton has consistently but subtly undermined Obama. From saying that Romney’s business record was exemplary–directly opposing the campaign’s meme of Romney as rapacious capitalist–to his recent statement that Democrats are weary and that Clinton himself may be the only person still exited about Obama, Clinton has given speeches ostensibly favoring Obama while at the same time undermining the message. A standard rhetorical trick: damning the Democrat campaign and candidate with faint praise.

This technique goes back as far as Clinton’s speech nominating Dukakis in 1988. Infamously, Clinton spoke so long and ramblingly that Dukakis’s acceptance speech was forced out of prime time. The reason is always the same–the Clintons do not want another Democrat to win the White House. In 1988, Bill was aiming to run in 1992 and clearly did not want to be running against an incumbent Democrat. In 2000, Gore resisted turning to Clinton until very late, another probable sign of desperation. Even so, Clinton was able to criticize Gore as a man singularly unsuited to politics, a particularly aggressive slam unrelated to the usual policy disputes.

Kerry’s foundering 2004 campaign also turned to Clinton operatives late in the battle–Bill himself was sidelined recovering from heart surgery for much of the time–and the resulting infighting and mixed messages clearly hurt the Democrats. 2008 was another Clintons versus the other Democrat, this time open warfare, including the nuclear race card played by Obama. In 2016, Hillary or her surrogate does not want to run after a second Obama term. Progressivism will most certainly be an even more damaged brand by that time. Much easier to run against a Romney who probably will have made some painful, unpopular choices during the first term and be suffering in the polls.

Clinton’s sapper strategy is usually accompanied by media explanations that Clinton is known to “speak his mind on matters of strategy,” can be “unpredictably entertaining,” and is loved by the Democrat party rank and file. His statements are frequently presented as joking opinions, the more to insulate him from any blowback from the candidate. He shouldn’t be taken to task for just speaking his mind should he? And after all, the candidate himself invited Bill to the campaign, didn’t he?


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The Tactics of Apologies

September 14, 2012 at 11:40 pm (Politics, Strategy) ()

Under Obama & Clinton, the State Department offered an apology to islamic fanatics storming our embassy in Egypt. This follows a long line of Obama apologies to the muslim world for the alleged sins of the United States. These apologies have had no discernible effect on changing foreign attitudes because the apologies do not give foreigners much credit for having their own interests and point of view. There has been little or no actual change in U.S. policy to encourage a change in foreign attitude.

On the home front, leftists never accept apologies from their targets. The target is never given credit for apologizing nor is allowance given for honest human error. In fact, just as the islamists, they see contrition as weakness and usually redouble their efforts to force concessions. The left has used this so often that it’s a cliche: first demand an apology, then require a resignation or a prosecution for satisfaction.

Knowing the uselessness of the apology leads to the suspicion that Obama’s apologies to foreigners are nothing but playing to the American audience, a restating of the left’s view that American is corrupt and needs “fundamental transformation,” i.e. destruction and replacement. Perhaps this explains why Obama persists in apologizing even though it makes him look weak to the average American. As so often in his praxis, the ideological trumps the political and practical.

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Appealing to political independents

August 11, 2012 at 11:13 pm (Politics, Strategy) (, )

Independents are known for withholding judgment–and their opinions from pollsters–until the last moment before an election. We’re told by the experts that this or that election was decided at a late hour by the independents “breaking” for the eventual winner. But doesn’t that confuse cause with effect? The so-called independents purport to decide based on the candidate, not the party, not the ideology. They are moved by mysterious forces that no one really understands. The democrat media typically claim to understand them when they warn every Republican that a turn toward conservatism will alienate independent voters.

If it is true the independents go for the individual, then why do they take so long to decide? If I “like” A rather that B, I should be able to select A far in advance, not only at the last minute! Who cares what the candidates say or do. If I like A, that’s it! Quit bothering me!

So the theory has a problem. Let’s try a new one: “Independents” simply go with the apparent winner after sensing the political wind. They are willing to accept the result of a trend started by others, the “preference cascade,” which becomes apparent only near the end of a campaign. An example is the 1980 election. No rational person would have wanted another Carter term. But Reagan elicited so much bile  from the media that voters were reluctant to choose him, although there was no alternative. So they waited, then did what they were going to do anyway. The independents were happy to go along with the inevitable.

In the current election campaign, many independents will avoid turning against Obama because that would be, according to the democrat media, “racist” and siding with the “1%.” So rather than incur the displeasure of a pollster, they will sail along happily “undecided” until they have to mail in that ballot. But they’re going for Romney. The polls may say its close, but there is no reason for it to be. Expect a wide margin.

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A Tale of Two Cities–well, Two Police Departments

July 18, 2012 at 12:09 pm (Media, Politics, Strategy) ()

Way back in 2009, in Cambridge, Massachusetts a black man who happened to be friends with the President was arrested for disorderly conduct. Obama publicly sided with his friend against the police department. The Democrat media supplied the usual charges of racism and called for the head of the arresting officer. They even diligently “investigated” (= smeared) the citizen who called the cops after noticing two black men appearing to break into a residence. It turned out to be the owner, Mr. Gates, and his driver trying to open a stuck door. Gates was abusive to the police when they arrived and earned a disorderly conduct arrest.

Fast forward to Sanford, Florida 2012 and the shooting of a black man by George Zimmerman. The police and state’s attorney determined that Zimmerman had acted in self defense after being attacked. Again the national media with the addition of race hustling firm Sharpton & Jackson gathered to demand the head of the suddenly white shooter, a man who would be considered Latino under normal reckoning. The racial motives of all concerned, except the dead man and the race hustlers, were examined objectively from the assumption that they must have been bigots.

In the first case, the Cambridge PD held a press conference to support their officers. They vehemently denied racism in their department and laid out all the facts; the police union agreed. The multiracial department personnel stood behind the commissioner as he made his statement making a strong visual image of solidarity. Meanwhile, perhaps taking the initiative, there were also hints dropped that Gates’ male companion was more than a mere driver. In the face of this unapologetic united front even the President had to back down. Given his careless racial comments earlier, and threats to uncloset his friend, he decided retreat was in order and invited the combatants to the White House, the famous beer summit. Other than a photo opportunity this meeting had no purpose.

In contrast, the Sanford PD played to perfection their role as dummy target. They gave no explanation at all of why Zimmerman had been let go after questioning or of the evidence supporting his self defense claim. The police repeatedly said merely that they had no choice in releasing Zimmerman because of the state’s new Stand Your Ground Law, quickly dubbed “Shoot First” by the race baiters. As the storm gathered in the ensuing months, the police chief was placed on leave (later fired) and the state’s attorney replaced with one more amenable to the inevitable verdict: Racist Murder! The media helpfully trumpeted a doctored 9-11 tape “proving” Zimmerman’s racism and showed only pictures of the dead guy as a young innocent looking boy while endlessly repeating that he had been unarmed and only out buying candy.  Missing however was the graduation picture and tearful cries, “He was an honor student who was going to be a doctor. Beloved in the Community!”

Much later, after all the damage had been done, the real story emerged of the dead man’s thuggish character, his apparent casing of the neighborhood, his severe beating of Zimmerman, the injuries noted by police and medics along with witness statements that the dead man had pinned Zimmerman to the ground and was pummelling him prior to being shot. It turned out that the police had done a complete job of investigation including contact with the state’s attorney who agreed that the shooting was justified. All this information came out too late to save the chief’s job and keep Zimmerman from a malicious prosecution that yet continues. Even lefty lawyer Alan Dershowitz stated that the indictment was so weak as to be illegal.

It seems that in media strategy at least they really are smarter at Harvard.

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Two approaches to conflict resolution

July 2, 2012 at 3:12 pm (Politics, Rhetoric, Strategy) ()

Conflict Resolution is a theory and collection of techniques that posit that the opposing sides in a dispute have much in common. And that, generally speaking, they can focus on areas of agreement to aid in bridging the gap between areas of disagreement. It sounds reasonable. But it only works when both sides operate under similar constraint (such as a legal system), must deal with one another in the future and expect that they will each have exploitable weakness in that future. Both must worry what will happen tomorrow if they do anything underhanded today.

Quite often these prerequisites are lacking. The two sides have a fundamental difference of viewpoint that is unspoken: One side wants to destroy the other. An example from politics: Democrats approach political disputes as a street fight. One should attack the opponent from all angles and use any tactic that works; conciliation is to be used only when losing and then only as a temporary expedient to slow the enemy advance.

Republicans often enter a political dispute expecting reason to prevail. They think about the reasonableness of their position, don’t use underhanded tactics and wouldn’t think of character assassination; they are ready to concede various points–even important ones–in order to reach agreement or even simply to mollify their seemingly irrational opponent. And all this before the negotiations have begun! The opponent hasn’t conceded or offered to concede anything.

When the dispute heats up–i.e. after the Democrat has accused the Republican of hate, racism, greed, hypocrisy, homophobia, islamophobia, or being gay–the Democrat pours it on, increasing the pressure. Just a bit (or a lot) more and the other side will cave. Treat any concession or attempt to calm the situation as an unmistakable sign of weakness.  Because it is! When the Republican apologizes, he’s about to give away the whole game. Demand that he resign! By this time, there will be numerous other Republicans and “conservative” commentators who will second the demand. After all, it’s the seriousness of the charge, not the evidence, that really counts. We’ve all seen this too many times to remember. Funny and sad that it works so well.

In the international sphere, the Palestinians use negotiations to gain concessions that they have no intention of matching. In accord with Islamic doctrine, any agreements that they sign are not binding because they are made with infidels. The Israelis unaccountably assume the role of the dupe–they know Islamic doctrine of course but they ignore it and repeatedly try “in good faith” to reach agreement with people who openly insist on their destruction as the endgame of negotiations! As a survivor of the Holocaust stated when asked what the lesson of the experience was: “When someone tells you that he intends to kill you–believe him.” In this sphere, the Israelis forget that they are supposed to be shrewd bargainers and nobody’s fool. Again and again we witness the same mystifying lack of consciousness about the roles being played.

The lesson in applying conflict resolution: cold bloodedly determine beforehand the limits of your negotiating “partner.” If he decides to ignore ethical constraints, the law, or international treaties, what exactly are you going to do about it? In other words, think like a divorce lawyer (or Stalin).

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Supreme Court precedent

June 29, 2012 at 3:09 pm (Politics)

The upholding of Obamacare lays bare the fiction that the Court protects the citizenry. As the Chief Justice admits, the Court is not responsible for the ill consequences of the people’s political choices. He unwittingly reveals that we have placed far too much faith in that institution to act in our interests.

We must revisit the Founders to understand why we find ourselves in this position. Before judicial review was invented, the recourse of the people to governmental tyranny was commonly understood to be no more that two years away, at the next Congressional election. By removing the offenders from their House perches, the people would prevent wrongheaded or evil designs from having lasting effect by at the least cutting off federal funding. The overturning of the 1798 Alien and Sedition Acts is given as an early example of this model.

But over the years, we have grown accustomed–and vainly hoped–that the Court would protect our rights for us. Sometimes, as with the famous Heller decision–the Court held that there is indeed a Second Amendment!–hopes have been justified, although after much unnecessary fear. But generally the Court has approved the long march of Big Government through our liberty. And no wonder really, considering that the Supreme Court would have much less influence if it merely decided that most of the nanny state is unconstitutional, or that undeclared wars are not permitted. It is in the interest of a Washington institution to increase the power of Washington.

As Bush the Younger’s epigram has it, “When someone is hurting, government has got to move”. This could serve as the Court’s motto as well. Under this view, the Constitution is shrunk to a bit of the Preamble, “WE THE PEOPLE of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

On the other hand, individual liberty, as in “Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness,” simply resides somewhere within whatever program has sufficient votes. Freedom, as FDR claimed and countless statists have repeated, is found in alleviating want.  The Court agrees, having stretched the Commerce Clause–“Congress shall regulate Commerce … among the several States….”–to cover virtually any law. To be fair, the Court did draw the line at rape, when the Congress tried to make it a federal crime. Apparently the Court was not willing to foresee the possibility that an attack could straddle state lines.

The upshot is that the people must reassert through their votes that the Congress is the supreme branch of the federal government: it may dismiss the President via impeachment, rearrange the courts at will, raise armies, and convene constitutional conventions to rewrite the rules. Reliance on Washington insiders and institutions has proved misplaced. As the Tea Party saying goes, “I can see November from my house.” The only sound strategy is to regularly replace Congressman and Senators, preventing them from acquiring the Washington disease. A twelve year limit–six terms for the House and two for the Senate might be a good rule to begin enforcing.

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Advantage Romney

June 28, 2012 at 4:42 pm (Politics, Strategy) ()

Today’s Supreme Court decision upholding Obamacare allows Romney to continue attacking the law while forcing Obama to defend it. Thus Obama cannot return to the center–even if he wanted to. So Mitt’s blocking strategy of staying left of center holds nicely. Expect Romney to step up his calls for a healthcare solution that will attract the center-left voters. These voters are nervous about what the evil free market might do if not constrained and will be happy to hear that Mitt is committed to common sense. The right wing voter has nowhere to go but Romney. He need only say enough to keep the money coming, which is becoming easier with the Democrat fundraising woes.

Mitt’s left of center blocking strategy applies as well to the immigration debate. Obama’s foolish treatment of Arizona and the taint of Fast & Furious gun running (“botched gun walking scheme” in the Democrat media) allows Mitt to seem like the border defender while avoiding effective charges of nativism. All he need do is mention reform from time to time to appear reasonable. Meanwhile, voters of every stripe tensely await Obama and Holder’s next outrage.

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The Big Switcheroo

June 15, 2012 at 1:04 pm (Politics, Strategy)

Way back in ’08, Obama was able to stand by while McCain impaled himself on the financial crisis. You remember that McCain “suspended” his campaign, returned to DC to resolve the crisis, then–did nothing. Obama, with arms folded, looked more competent by contrast. When the opponent is ruining his position, don’t interfere. Or, as the Clintonite James Carville says more colorfully, when the opponent is busy drowning himself, throw the SOB an anvil.

This time around, Romney has assumed the standing by pose while Obama moves from blunder to blunder. Mitt need only be breathing on election day to win this one.

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The Tide Turns

June 3, 2012 at 10:12 pm (Politics, Rhetoric, Strategy) ()

In his recent comments defending Mitt Romney’s record at Bain Capital, Bill Clinton has given Democrats the green light to abandon Obama. Clinton fuzzed up his remarks by saying that he expects Obama to win reelection, but that is no more than the usual Clinton rhetorical device of saying two things while knowing that only one is taken seriously by the target audience–all in order to maintain plausible deniability if the President asks him, “What are you doing to me?” Further evidence of the Clinton shift was previously revealed in Ed Klein’s claim that back in 2011 Clinton had urged Hillary to run in the 2012 primaries against Obama. This report included Hillary’s supposed reply, “What about loyalty?” to again provide her cover. Given that reports that the Clinton donor network has been nurtured all this time leads one to believe that Hillary or a committed Clintonite will be running in 2016.

The upshot for Democrats is that they no longer must maintain the fiction that Obama will somehow begin fulfilling the promise of 2008 or that his reelection machine will begin functioning. Democrat pollsters will now discover that the race is suddenly not so close after all. Commentators will be talking about 2016 and how the strategy for 2012 must be to limit the carnage. We’ll likely hear things like the Democrats must learn something from the Tea Party, renew their commitment (to a just, sustainable society, etc.), and revitalize their organizations–especially after union defeats. With the fading of the Chicago machine, it will be an opportunity for the Clintons to find work for their operatives and refill the coffers.

For an outline of the Clinton policy to come, we already have the Simpson-Bowles “bipartisan solution” to the fiscal crisis. Note that Bowles is one of those confirmed Clintonites (former Chief of Staff to President Bill) who has, according to rumor, refused an Obama offer to replace Geithner as Treasury Secretary. The “solution” has passed muster in the capital and commentariat and merely requires a presidential champion to hoist it as his (or her) banner. Obama has conveniently ignored it.

On the purely political side, for 2012 and 2014, we can envisage the Clintons endorsing and fund raising for a series of grateful state and federal candidates. The contrast with Obama’s toxic endorsements will be refreshing to rank and file Democrats and the political favors bank will be flush with IOUs. Another benefit will be the contrast with Obama’s corruption: by comparison, the Clintons will look like reliable, trustworthy people after the Solyndras of the world pass the scene. “Ahh,” the Clintons must be thinking, “if we were but twenty years younger, what a fine summer it would be…”

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The non-Mitt hangs tough

December 22, 2011 at 11:07 pm (Politics) ()

When polled, conservatives have resisted the centrist Romney by backing a series of more or less appealing alternatives. While Romney is the man to beat, opposition to him coalesced early and shows no signs of abating. Given the Republicans’ usual preference for former governors as presidential candidates, it seems inevitable that Perry will earn another look. He will certainly aim to reach the Texas primary which is presently scheduled for April 3rd. Texas represents 155 delegates, about 13% of the total needed to nominate. Whether it is winner take all or proportional–the issue is surprisingly still in doubt–that primary may well give Perry enough delegates to remain a player, especially considering that the current non-Mitts, Newt and Paul, will likely have flamed out by then. The issue hinges on whether Perry’s finances hold out.

If the campaign is distilled to Mitt vs. Perry on April 3rd, it’s advantage Perry, who has a better and more consistent record from the conservative point of view. And conservatives know that this is their chance to be heard. The general election will focus on the quicksilver independents. Psychologically, the anyone-but-Mitt voters are more likely to give Perry a second chance than to change their minds and settle at long last for what they didn’t want in the first place.

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