Sunday, August 27, 2006

Smart Smart Stupid

When I hear someone called a political guru or a political genius, it usually makes me laugh. Talk about an oxymoron — politics and genius!? When I hear that Hillary is lending Lamont her communication guru, I just shake my head. People who are considered gurus today were are mostly in the right place at the right time. And if they happen to be the right color or gender, (Democrats are the worst) then they will have a meteoric rise to campaign stardom regardless of talent. If Wolfson is such a guru then how come Hillary can’t get beyond all the media mediocrity. Surely somewhere in the guru’s mind there must be a better approach to the public than middle of the road caution. Pleeese!

In the last fifty years there have probably been five people worthy of any title that comes close to crediting them in the category of wizard or mastermind. James Carville comes to mind along with Paul Tully, Pat Caddell, Kenny O’Donnell and maybe Lee Atwater. I didn’t like Lee Atwater. I thought his tactics were slimey but I don’t think he was immoral. Before he died he did finally have a “come to Jesus” about the way he operated, but despite his questionable approach to the public, I did think he was smart. People might put Karl Rove on that list but I can’t because by my definition, I think a genius might be ruthless, but is usually not willing to compromise morals and ethics and the truth in order to succeed. Because as we look around we see that that is what's happening today. That being said, election politics, especially Presidential, are usually played for big stakes with gigantic egos so you don’t expect senior staff to be nice, but it is a treat when they are.

Kenny O’Donnell knew a win for a young Catholic President was a stretch, so he caught the voter off guard by crafting a strategy that went something like “Young people understand that we need to be open to a new youthful kind of President. And if you don’t vote for JFK that must mean you are some kind of religious bigot.” No one wanted to think of themselves as old or a bigot.

Pat Caddell was a boy genius in the field of polling. He was able to combine the numbers with what people wanted from a government and a President. He understood how to translate Jimmy Carter from who he was into what people wanted. He became advisor to the President and helped to develop some effective strategies that led to some effective policies. Especially in the area of human rights. Then he made a mistake. Gurus don’t make mistakes and recover in Washington. so Pat left politics and became equally smart in other areas.

Paul Tully was the ultimate organizer. He organized political campaigns, people, unions, schedules and life. He was a giant man with a giant heart and an incredible understanding of the greater scheme of things — he didn’t do as well at one to one communication, but that wasn’t his job. Despite all his years in Presidential politics he never had a win because he died in Arkansas during the Clinton campaign. But he was doing what he loved, wearing a rumpled white shirt, organizing some constituency, smoking a cigarette and drinking coffee. He never loved Bill Clinton but he knew that if Clinton listened to him, Clinton could win. And Tully was right.

James Carville masterminded the Clinton campaign while wearing a pair of filthy gloves he refused to remove. Some genius' are quirky and have questionable taste in wives. Carville, who supports an entire town of extended family, really understands what people think. He took an obscure Governor of a small unsuccessful state - not unlike Caddell — and translated all his personal positive attributes to make people feel that Clinton was the right choice, and if the voter elected Clinton, things would be better. He knew that using youth and Southern charm was a good way to appeal to the baby boomers, the moderates, the independents, women, and the Democrats. And he was correct.

I guess I’m a political dinosaur. I admire real talent and I loved having to convince a voter or the press or some local leader that they needed to support my candidate. And I did it in person. I liked it when the campaign had limited technology and the candidate was not protected by pretend gurus. I believe it is important to travel around without a crackberry or a computer, and get know the country and find out what the people are thinking. That’s the only way a President or a candidate can truly be victorious or a leader. Forget being surrounded by genius after genius. People who are called genius are the same people whose job it is to say no, which gives them some perverted sense or kind of power. And then they start to believe their own press and think they are very smart. There simply aren’t that many of them who know much of anything. My mother would call them smart, smart, stupid. But she’s much more generous than I.
We’re just sayin… Iris

1 comment:

Freedem said...

If Lee Atwater did not sink to the sleaze of Rove it is only that he had less gag free material to work with.

It is said that Newton could have easily arrived at Einstein's conclusions, but thought that there had to be some foundation base that everything was relevant to.

Atwater might not have, but Nixon and Co. thought they were pushing the envelope, and if he just implemented the Internal Security Act, there would be open civil war.

Certainly his students GW and Karl don't believe there is an envelope, and I don't think Mr. Atwater thought so either. He deserves an eternity in Hell re-enacting the death of Edward II for the damage he unleashed upon the world.