Benlog

crypto and public policy

Subtle Battles and Bad Strategy

Filed under: Policy July 8, 2003 @ 10:24 pm

In a 2000 election debate, Gore attacked Bush on his gay-rights record by accusing him of being too lenient on hate-motivated criminals. Bush’s response was along the lines of “I don’t know what you’re talking about, I give those people the death penalty. How can I get any less lenient?” In one statement, Bush managed to twist Gore into a pretzel and make moot the issue of abusive Texas executions.

Sometimes, arguing for what is right is not the way to accomplish the right thing. Strategy is far more important. Picking only those battles which you can win is far more important. I’m surprised that certain Democrats seem yet again to have forgotten this incredibly important lesson.

Let’s assume, for a second, that you are not a big fan of George W. Bush and you want to defeat him in the next election. You suspect that he may have lied about Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq, and you figure: let’s investigate and cause a big scandal, Monicagate style. You may be “right.” Bush may well have lied. But what are your chances of looking successful? All Kenneth Starr had to say was “Bill, did you sleep with this intern?” All Bush has to say is “Well, Dick tells me we’ve found this centrifug… centrifi… this piece of metal buried in this garden that is used to make nucular weapons.” Subtle arguments like “Some people don’t think oral sex is sex” or “Not it’s not *quite* a nuclear weapon” are not the path to the voter’s heart.

Enough bickering. Whether you were pro-war or anti-war, Gulf War II was fought, won, and atrocities no sane person could condone were discovered. Arguing details of WMD after the fact leads nowhere, because the counter-argument is too easy. The only way to compete is to argue from a strong, principled base on issues that matter to constituents (like, say, the economy). Leave the details for a post-win debate.

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