[Previously published as a letter to the editor, Leavenworth Times, November 2010]
The Politician’s Handbook
It takes special skills to be a successful politician. Not just anyone can do it properly.
Remember, whatever your party affiliation, success is turning your election into a lifetime career of luxury, at the expense of the taxpayers. To achieve it, follow these rules:
First and foremost, you must believe in yourself. You are infallible — nothing you do or your party does can possibly be wrong or immoral. Likewise, nothing your opponent can do can possibly be right.
You must never answer a question. When asked, answer some other question, not stated, with a statement you’ve prepared to further your cause. A question is just an opportunity to speak. Remember, the person who asks is out to get you. Don’t play his or her game. When finished, pretend your answer directly addressed what the questioner asked.
You must frame your speech carefully, and avoid the precise truth of any matter. Describe things in general terms, the more general, the better. Use terms like progress, hope, change, and The American People.
Blame the other guy. Don’t accept blame, ever. Whatever goes bad, it’s someone else’s fault. Of course, if possible, the blame should go to someone in the other party, but if that doesn’t work, it’s someone else in your party. Just make certain it isn’t you. If you’re in a bad situation, it’s your predecessor’s fault. You’re working your tail off to fix what he/she did.
Conversely, claim credit for anything good that happens. No matter how farfetched, your contribution made the good result possible.
Cast your supporters or potential supporters as victims. Preferably, the other party caused their problems, or refuses to address them. Remember, victims are voters. Get them on your side.
Be selective about facts. In any situation, there is some good. Take credit for that part, and blame others for the bad.
Demonize your opponents, or those who make trouble for you. Describe them as evil, but be smooth about it. Pretend to be objective. Even if you are a lying, cheating scoundrel, you must give the impression of being sincere, truthful, honest, and a good guy. Take acting lessons if necessary.
Look as if you’ve given any subject deep thought. Use John Kerry as an example: whatever you’re asked about, you have a plan to address it. You just never reveal your plan.
Always say the other side needs to be more cooperative. They are resisting progress. Pretend to listen to their ideas, then quietly reject them later. Bipartisanship is good, providing it’s given by the other party.
Use words flexibly. They mean what you want them to mean, not what they really mean. You can always change the meaning later.
Say what the public wants to hear. That’s what gets you elected. Then, whatever you actually did, say you did whatever the public wants you to have done.
Be holier than everyone else. Remember, you are perfect; the other side is evil.
Know your audience. The people in your party believe you, think you’re a good guy. They never catch on. People of the other party know what you’re doing, but they don’t count. It’s the moderates – the confused – whom you must address. They half believe you, but they also half believe your opponent. Never laugh at them, they are the ones you must convince, no matter what it takes.
Finally, remember the people you serve: yourself and those who donate big money to your reelection campaign. Everyone else is irrelevant.
If you follow those simple rules, you can’t go wrong. They work over and over again, fooling more than half the people more than half of the time.