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Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Poker party

For example, take a player who has never acted with initiative — he has never raised, merely called. Now, at the end of the evening, he is dealt a royal flush. The hand, per se, is unbeatable, but the passive player has never acted aggressively; his current bet (on the sure thing) will signal to the other players that his hand is unbeatable, and they will fold.

His patient, passive quest for certainty has won nothing.

The Democrats, similarly, in their quest for a strategy that would alienate no voters, have given away the store, and they have given away the country.

Committed Democrats watched while Al Gore frittered away the sure-thing election of 2000. They watched, passively, while the Bush administration concocted a phony war; they, in the main, voted for the war knowing it was purposeless, out of fear of being thought weak. They then ran a candidate who refused to stand up to accusations of lack of patriotism.

The Republicans, like the perpetual raiser at the poker table, became increasingly bold as the Democrats signaled their absolute reluctance to seize the initiative.

John Kerry lost the 2004 election combating an indictment of his Vietnam War record. A decorated war hero muddled himself in merely "calling" the attacks of a man with, curiously, a vanishing record of military attendance. Even if the Democrats and Kerry had prevailed (that is, succeeded in nullifying the Republicans arguably absurd accusations), they would have been back only where they started before the accusations began.

Control of the initiative is control of the battle. In the alley, at the poker table or in politics. One must raise. The American public chose Bush over Kerry in 2004. How, the undecided electorate rightly wondered, could one believe that Kerry would stand up for America when he could not stand up to Bush? A possible response to the Swift boat veterans would have been: "I served. He didn't. I didn't bring up the subject, but, if all George Bush has to show for his time in the Guard is a scrap of paper with some doodling on it, I say the man was a deserter."

This would have been a raise. Here the initiative has been seized, and the opponent must now fume and bluster and scream unfair. In combat, in politics, in poker, there is no certainty; there is only likelihood, and the likelihood is that aggression will prevail.

The press, quiescent during five years of aggressive behavior by the White House, has, perhaps, begun to recover its pride. In speaking of Karl Rove, Scott McClellan and the White House's Valerie Plame disgrace, they have begun to use words such as "other than true," "fabricated." The word that they circle, still, is "lie." The word the Democratic constituency, heartsick over the behavior of its party leaders, has been forced to consider applying to them is "coward."