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Politician’s playbook? 政客的手段

中国日报网 2018-10-26 11:22


Reader question:

Please explain this sentence, “politician’s playbook” in particular: Playing to people’s fears – including exaggerating those fears – is the oldest trick in the politician’s playbook.

My comments:

Let’s play on the word “trick” first. Trick, of course, reminds us first of a magician – all the tricks up the magician’s sleeves, etc.

And the magician’s playbook will be exactly that: a book listing all their tricks, or plays.

Playbook, you see, originally refers to a coach’s playbook listing all the plays he or she teaches their teams to run. Very intricate plays sometimes, involving details of how each player runs the floor or the pitch as the case may be (runs to a designated place), who should set a screen for a teammate and when, so on and so forth.

In short, the coach’s playbook is kind of like a magician’s collection of tricks. It’s the same as the military man’s book of strategies or stratagems. It’s the same as a good cook’s cookbook, listing all his or her recipes and how to make each delicious dish step by step.

Oh, a politician’s playbook. Need I say more? It’s the old politician’s collection of tricks to one-up his or her opponent, through fair means or foul.

Or, rather, foul.

I’m sorry for involving magicians, sports coaches and the good cook in this discussion because, you see, none of these people can be as odious and wicked as the seasoned politician. Not anywhere near.

But, anyways, back to our example, one of the oldest tricks in the politician’s playbook is to try to play to people’s fears.

For illustration, let us use a medical example of playing to the fearful patient’s fears. The fearful patient is afraid that he or she is going to die because they’re feeling terrible pains inside. The doctor plays to their fears this way. First, after a checkup, the doctor takes a hard look at the results and says to the patient: “Indeed it is serious. Grave, as a matter of fact. I’m afraid there’s really nothing we can do.”

“Just like I fear,” says the patient to himself/herself.

“But it’s not totally hopeless,” the doctors says, after a few moments. “There’s still one thing to try and that may save you.”

“Oh, thank heavens,” says the patient to the doctor. “Thank you, thank you so much.”

“But, it’s going to cost a lot of money,” the doctor says, hesitatingly.

“I’ll get the money,” says the patient, shaking like a leaf in the autumn wind. “I’ll get the money if I have to rob or steal. I’ll sell my kitchen pot. I’ll do anything.”

“Chinese made medicine is not going to help much at this stage,” the doctor explains. “Only one imported dosage may be of help….But you’ll have to do exactly what I say.”

“My dear doctor,” says the patient pleadingly. “If you can save my life, I’ll do anything you say.”

Well, a money-making doctor may be nowhere near as heinous as a politician, but you get the idea of playing to someone’s fears.

Alright, no more ado. Let’s read a few recent media examples for a better grasp of the concept of “playbook”, both on and off the sports field:

1. “Too soon” — it’s the GOP boilerplate reaction to every gun massacre. “We can’t talk about it about it yet”. “Let’s not politicize this issue”. It’s the upturned palm in the face — rule number one in the craven politician’s playbook. Delay, delay, delay — in hopes it will all blow over. Mitch McConnell wasted little time in playing the card.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said this afternoon:

“It’s particularly inappropriate to politicize an event like this. It just happened within the last day and half. Entirely premature to be discussing about legislative solutions if any.”

Let’s ask MItch when is it not “too soon” to prevent the next massacre. In no other case do we postpone the fight for life. If we delayed the search for a cancer cure, people would think we were nuts.

And why is it premature? Calling for answers doesn’t dishonor the dead. And the living would like to think their lost family and friends counted for something. Time and again the parents of dead children lead the demand that something is done — right away. They know the pain of losing a child — and in empathy don’t wish it on anyone.

Ultimately every death is an individual tragedy. Massacres get the headlines, but gun death in America is inexorable. Forty-two people die from gun violence every day. Over 100, if you add in suicides.

And notice Mitch slipped in “if any”. He couldn’t have been more blatant that a Republican Congress will do nothing. And here, he is merely carrying the NRA’s water.

Gun zealots say that nothing can be done about gun violence in America — unless more people get guns. They present the futility argument: “What are the gun grabbers gonna do with the 300 million guns already in circulation?” And add their clincher: “If you take away guns only the criminals will have guns”.

Let’s dispose of this nonsense. How would 22,000 people firing up at the Mandalay Bay have worked out? One reason we have a problem with guns is that so many are in circulation – it’s an absurd argument for doing nothing. And few people are saying that sane, law-abiding citizens shouldn’t have guns.

However, rational people should debate how we guarantee gun owners are sane and law abiding. And should demand that the guns people can own aren’t weapons of mass murder — or convertible to military grade. Even the majority of gun owners think reasonable measures are just that — reasonable.

But the NRA’s handmaidens trot out the tired lie that it is “too soon” — which is dog-whistle code for “never”.

- “Too Soon”: McConnell Sticks to the NRA’s Playbook, DeilyKos.com, October 4, 2017.

2. The campaign ad, at first, seems unremarkable. California Rep. Devin Nunes (R), standing outdoors in a crisp blue shirt, details his service to his district and the nation.

But about 20 seconds in, the ad pivots. The House Intelligence chairman accuses his local newspaper, the Fresno Bee, of colluding with “radical left-wing groups” to vilify him. He criticizes its coverage of a scandal involving a Napa Valley winery in which Congressman Nunes is an investor, and calls the Bee’s reporting “a textbook example of fake news.”

“It’s fine for the Bee’s band of creeping correspondents to go after me,” he adds, “but it’s wrong for them to drag a family company through the mud.”

For a politician to complain about his hometown paper’s coverage is nothing new. Nunes, however, not only aggressively pushes back against what he characterizes as unfair reports, he also appears to have spent significant campaign money attacking the paper itself. The ad has aired on television and radio as well as online, and came just months after the congressman launched his own “news” website, The California Republican, paid for by his campaign committee. The congressman declined a request for an interview.

It’s an example of how much President Trump’s strategy of discrediting the media is seeping into the playbooks of other elected officials and candidates, as a way to deflect negative news coverage and energize base voters. Just this week, Mr. Trump retweeted a video of his supporters at a rally in Florida chanting “CNN sucks!” while the outlet’s Jim Acosta reported live from the event.

This came on the heels of a meeting between the president and New York Times publisher A.G. Sulzberger, in which Mr. Sulzberger raised concerns about the dangers Trump’s “anti-press rhetoric” poses for journalists and for democracy. Trump later tweeted: “Spent much time talking about the vast amounts of fake news being put out by the media and how that fake news has morphed into [the] phrase, ‘Enemy of the people.’ Sad!”

Other Republicans have taken up the “fake news” banner:

Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin used the hashtag in tweets attacking the Courier-Journal, after it reported on an ethics complaint over the purchase of the governor’s home.

Idaho state Rep. Priscilla Giddings earlier this year called for a state version of the president’s “Fake News Awards.”

Former Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore leveled the claim against The Washington Post last year after the paper reported that he was accused of sexual misconduct with teenage girls when he was in his 30s.

- Taking a page from Trump’s playbook, politicians take aim at the press, CSMonitor.com, August 2, 2018.

3. In an attempt to keep up with the ever growing competition in the Western Conference, San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich is dipping into the archives by utilizing plays from eight years ago, as revealed by The Athletics’ Ethan Strauss when speaking with several Western Conference scouts.

“That’s not so much the case with Popovich, whose play-calling archives are on a Library of Alexandria level. ‘Pop might call a play and I’ll go through my notes and see that the last time he called it was eight years ago,’ says a West scout. ‘But it will be the same term, same hand signal, same play.’”

It’s safe to say Popovich has seen it on a basketball court, as the 69-year-old has been the main man in charge of the Spurs for a staggering 22 years. Popovich has coached in a transitional period for the league in terms of playing style and has successfully adapted each time the game has evolved in certain aspects.

In order to be successful and win titles, Popovich has developed an elaborate library of play calling, something the scout claimed would contain thousands of plays and strategies.

“The notoriously clandestine Popovich would likely never reveal its contents, but his playbook must contain thousands of well-archived designs, accumulated through over two decades of Spurs stewardship.”

- Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich will randomly use plays from ‘8 years ago’, ClutchPoints.com, September 18, 2018.


About the author:

Zhang Xin is Trainer at chinadaily.com.cn. He has been with China Daily since 1988, when he graduated from Beijing Foreign Studies University. Write him at: zhangxin@chinadaily.com.cn, or raise a question for potential use in a future column.

(作者:张欣 编辑:丹妮)


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Black eye? 丑事


Off the bat? 立刻


Hot take? 脱口而出的意见


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Falling into place 水到渠成

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