ILLUSIONS AND PERSUASIONS
Sometimes, in Government and Politics, logic
and the compelling cogency of righteousness, are not enough to win an argument. An implied threat, however subtle, often made the point. An anonymous wag had phrased it succinctly. "If you have them by the balls, their hearts and minds will soon follow." I always thought this to be a figurative analogy.
One time, however, a recalcitrant developer
was reneging on a promise, to the Mayor of our City. The good Mayor called the Gentleman on the phone and said with all candor, "If you don't keep your end of the bargain, I'll cut your balls off". The developer, who had done extensive business throughout the world, was apparently persuaded to comply. Whether he had visions of horse's heads in his bed, or was stricken with pangs on conscience, is not known, but the building went up, as scheduled.
Another time, during a tough primary for County Executive, the opposition had booked a Prominent U.S. Senator, a Presidential contender, to speak at a large convention, on behalf of their candidate. The Senator's campaign manager made, what he thought to be a polite courtesy call, to our side. He advised us that the Senator would be in Town, speaking at the opposition Rally.
Our response was, that we saw no problem in his speaking, but that " if and when he did run for President we would shove it so far up his ass, that his tonsils would bleed." After a stunned silence over the phone, we were advised that the Senator's camp would get back to us. The Senator never came to Town. Sometimes, you just have to know how to talk to people.
At times however, tough talking could backfire, even if your intent wasn't harmful. During one hotly contested race, the local Party Chief was referred to as "an Octopus with many tentacles." The way to defeat him, was to strike for the heart of the beast and remove him from office.” By the time the anecdote made the papers, the opposition had embellished the comment, so that the man's life had been threatened. People were going to cut his heart out, he alleged. It was a pretty sick thing to say, but the papers adopted it, because it was controversial and helped circulation. We all know that any thing that appears in the papers must be true.
When you help get these people elected, you can only guess at what they will become, once in office. Legislators, by and large, are innocuous. They have budgetary authority, but not the real concentration of raw power wielded by a Mayor, County Executive, Governor or President.
Sometimes, the darker side of the individual's personality emerges. Nothing brightens an Irishman's day, like the thought of retribution. And if the people around the chief don't try and hold him back, it can become a reign of terror.
Still others wish to divorce themselves from what they see as, "the grubby practice of Politics,” while they engage in the cerebral aspect of Governance. These guys are the biggest phoney baloneys. Once, we put a person in high office, after a terrific struggle against difficult odds. When it was over, he calmly told us that, If we wished to be considered for a position in " his administration,” we should submit our resume's to his transition committee. Needless to say, this blowhard didn't last too long in Office.
There is always a dichotomy at work after an election. The best and the brightest are needed to run the Government. But, the men and women who risked their careers and fortunes, to establish the new order, must also be taken into consideration. One is always mindful of Napoleon's military foray into Egypt. He arrived at the head of a proud French Army and returned virtually alone in defeat.
A happy, balanced medium can be reached with thoughtful consideration. Spare me from the blowhards who whine about good government and eradicating patronage. It is the modus vivendi of politics. Without it, only the rich and the special interests would run our government.
In Government and Political Campaigns, Image and Truth are often divergent forms of the same reality. Once, The Governor was due in Town for a large Political Rally. We had been given only 24 hours prior notice, and we found ourselves in a bind. The large hall was rented, decorated and the faithful were invited. It happened, however, to be a weekend of many First Communion and Graduation Parties. These are important clan gatherings in an ethnic community like ours, and were rarely missed. That night, we had but a handful present, twenty minutes before the Governor was due. It didn't look good for us.
Ever resourceful, some of the lads fanned out over the community and emptied out every bar in a two-mile radius, with promises of free beer at the hall. Luckily for us, the Governor was, as per usual, running about an hour late. By the time he arrived, we had a cheering throng of enthusiastic, if red-eyed, supporters. The great man, warming up to the enthusiasm, gave one of his better orations to the loudly appreciative audience. He left soon after, aglow with warm thoughts of loyal supporters. We breathed a collective sigh of relief and dodged another bullet, for the time being.
Even the cynical press, could be taken in if you were adept enough, or just plain lucky. At one point, in a tough Mayoral Campaign, we were at low ebb. The papers were pounding us, we were out of money, tired and wondering what else could go wrong. As Murphy's Law would have it, an influential political scribe chose that inopportune time to schedule a lengthy interview, with the candidate, at the campaign Headquarters. We had no money for bumper stickers, envelopes or stamps and the volunteers were tired and discouraged. A wake held during the Super Bowl would radiate more enthusiasm. What should we do?
First off, we collected envelopes from the faithful, some used, some not. A couple of reams of paper simulated material to be stuffed. We removed a score or so of sign from supporter's houses and left them lying around, as if waiting to be picked up. Lastly, a cadre of the faithful were given orders to ring the phone off the wall, in simulated conversations, offering support, and making inquiries.
Like a well written play, the extras acted through their roles, during the lengthy political interview. No movie ever had a more carefully scripted background. The place had the look and feel of the busy campaign headquarters, of a hard charging and successful challenger. The Newspaper article, however subtlety, reflected the feeling and gave our side an immense boost, at a time when we most needed it. We went on to win that one handily. I must confess, that I stole the idea from a W.W.II movie, starring Humphrey Bogart. A small unit of men held off a much larger force of Germans, in the African Desert, by pretending that they had inexhaustible supplies of water. Life imitating Art? We just thought that we were skillfully adapting ourselves to the terrain, and got away with it for once.
Joseph Xavier Martin