In politics as in poker, the only way to win is to seize the initiative. The Democrats need to make bold wagers or risk being rolled over again.
By David Mamet
ONE NEEDS TO know but three words to play poker: call, raise or fold. Fold means keep the money, I'm out of the hand; call means to match your opponents' bet. That leaves raise, which is the only way to win at poker. The raiser puts his opponent on the defensive, seizing the initiative. Initiative is only important if one wants to win.
If you are branded as passive, the table will roll right over you -- your opponents will steal antes without fear. Why? Because the addicted caller has never exhibited what, in the wider world, is known as courage. In poker, one must have courage: the courage to bet, to back one's convictions, one's intuitions, one's understanding. There can be no victory without courage. The successful player must be willing to wager on likelihoods. Should he wait for absolutely risk-free certainty, he will win nothing, regardless of the cards he is dealt.
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.
One may sit at the poker table all night and never bet and still go home broke, having anted away one's stake. The Democrats are anteing away their time at the table. They may be bold and risk defeat, or be passive and ensure it.
It seems Harry Reid is auditioning for the lead these days too. Certainly on the Abramoff affair, but Reid's been upping the rhetoric on alito as well.
Waiting for a sure-thing "we know we have the votes" filibuster or a worst candidate is pointless. In my mind, it doesn't get worse than Alito. He is worse than a bonafide religious zealot, because at least that zealot might answer to someone other than Bush. Alito is a made man and a sure vote for whatever Bush wants. Alito stands for an all-powerful Executive—and if that comes to pass, we have more to worry about than just Roe.