advice from a fake consultant

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On Tidying Up, Or, The Assembly Of Disconnected Thoughts September 13, 2007

Filed under: H.L. Mencken,Iraq War,Project on Government Secrecy,Steven Aftergood — fakeconsultant @ 11:13 am

Just as you have unfinished work piling up on your desk; stories pile up on mine that deserve discussion. Each of today’s stories would not in and of itself make a complete day’s work, so instead I’ll lay out on the table a late summer buffet, if you will, of conversational morsels that together will hopefully present a more complete “meal”.

First, to my friends in the Democratic leadership: I have again and again watched Democrats snatch defeat from the jaws of victory in Presidential elections by being too cautious. In the discussion this week of the “Petraeus” Report I see the start of the same process.

So let’s head it off right now.

“Now there’s another thing I want you to remember. I don’t want to get any messages saying that we are holding our position. We’re not holding anything. Let the Hun do that. We are advancing constantly and we’re not interested in holding onto anything — except the enemy. We’re going to hold onto him by the nose, and we’re gonna kick him in the ass. We’re gonna kick the hell out of him all the time, and we’re gonna go through him like crap through a goose!”
–George C. Scott as General George S. Patton.

More than 55% of Americans, by the Wall Street Journal’s count, even after this giant “product placement” we saw this week, believe this war cannot be won. Last week, that number was 62%. If history repeats itself that number will go back up as our perceived probability of “winning” goes back down.

You will not chase off any likely D voter by beating this point to death every chance you get. Most of the “purple” voters are leaning this way as well, if the numbers are correct.

There is nothing to be gained by being cautious.
There is nothing to be gained by worrying that voters might be turned off by our aggression.
There is everything to be gained by proving to the voters we are the real patriots.

Of course, our R friends have made a huge effort to muddy the rhetorical waters of Anbar Province; and that confuses the average voter enough to provide a bit of cover.

So that means you have to present a simple message that tells simple truths to parents and other voters who are scared of what the Rs might yet do and having trouble seeing through the mud.
Here’s one:

“This Commander-in Chief lied and sent your kids to a war that can’t be won. When he did that, he broke the Army, the Marines, and Iraq. Now we have to end the war.”

Nice and simple.
Already understood by more or less 60% of the voters.
True-and becoming more so every day.

Moving on:

We are constantly guilty of being quick to criticize and slow to compliment. To break that trend, let’s begin today be presenting my First Irregularly Timed Unnoticed Hero award to Steven Aftergood, and by extension the fine folks at the Federation of American Scientists’ Project on Government Secrecy website.

For bloggers the gold vein is found in the “Congressional Research Service Documents” link. You pay for the data, Aftergood and his team engages in a daily struggle to wrest it from a reluctant Government.

Enemy Combatant Detainees: Habeas Corpus Challenges in Federal Court”, “Nonstrategic Nuclear Weapons”, and “Congress’s Contempt Power: Law, History, Practice, and Procedure” are but a few examples of the tremendous breadth of material that can be found there.

These are reports that are written for “Congressional customers”, which means you are seeing the same reports your Member of Congress sees.

Last topic for today:

H.L. Mencken was associated with the Baltimore Sun from 1906 until 1948. If he were alive today he would undoubtedly be blogging; and in fact we are constantly quoting his famous Sun article of July 1920 “Bayard vs Lionheart”:

“As democracy is perfected, the office represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. We move toward a lofty ideal. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart’s desire at last, and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron.”

There is however, a better quote. In the final selection from today’s buffet, allow me to offer these paragraphs from that most excellent column of so long ago-that rings as true as if it had been written for this election cycle.

To set the stage, Mencken was discussing his frustration with candidates for President that to him appeared to be on the on the one hand stupid, and on the other hand, smart, cunning, and untrustworthy:

“But it is one thing to yield to virtuous indignation against such individuals and quite another thing to devise any practicable scheme for booting them out of the synagogue. The weakness of those of us who take a gaudy satisfaction in our ideas, and battle for them violently, and face punishment for them willingly and even proudly, is that we forget the primary business of the man in politics, which is the snatching and safeguarding of his job. That business, it must be plain, concerns itself only occasionally with the defense and propagation of ideas, and even then it must confine itself to those that, to a reflective man, must usually appear to be insane. The first and last aim of the politician is to get votes, and the safest of all ways to get votes is to appear to the plain man to be a plain man like himself, which is to say, to appear to him to be happily free from any heretical treason to the body of accepted platitudes-to be filled to the brim with the flabby, banal, childish notions that challenge no prejudice and lay no burden of examination upon the mind.

It is not often, in these later days of the democratic enlightenment, that positive merit lands a man in elective office in the United States; much more often it is a negative merit that gets him there. That negative merit is simply disvulnerability. Of the two candidates, that one wins who least arouses the suspicions and distrusts of the great masses of simple men. Well, what are more likely to arouse those suspicions and distrusts than ideas, convictions, principles? The plain people are not hostile to shysterism, save it be gross and unsuccessful. They admire a Roosevelt for his bold stratagems and duplicities, his sacrifice of faith and principle to the main chance, his magnificent disdain of fairness and honor. But they shy instantly and inevitably from the man who comes before them with notions that they cannot immediately translate into terms of their everyday delusions; they fear the novel idea, and particularly the revolutionary idea, as they fear the devil. When Roosevelt, losing hold upon his cunning at last, embraced the vast hodgepodge of innovations, some idiotic but some sound enough, that went by the name of Progressivism, they jumped from under him in trembling, and he came down with a thump that left him on his back until death delivered him from all hope and caring.”

The desk being clear enough for today; and there being no way I can top Mencken, let’s call it a job done. We have a couple stories under research, and over the next few days one of those should be up in this space as well.