"Why does it happen? Because it happens - Role the Bones." -RUSH
Though it appears to be run entirely by chance, throwing out all the 'textbook' methods of order, there are a multitude of 'games' played by those 'inside the beltway' to rig the dice in their favor. Though the opposition game gains the most press coverage, the other 'games' (agenda, image, coalition, and foreign policy) are constantly being carried out behind (and sometimes in front) of the scenes to get things done.
"It's not what you wear, but how you wear it" - erasure
The agenda and image games are direct offshoots of the continuous reelection campaign. Getting on the right side of the press is a must if a politician wants to accomplish anything. Jimmy Carter tried a 'down-home' approach, but was massacred by the press. He lost the reelection to a pompous Ronald Reagan, who knew how to 'work' the press in his favor. Reagan controlled the press rather than letting the press control him. He only had news conferences when he wanted them, and then he used his Hollywood training to present a cool detached appearance during any crisis. He was careful who released news to the press - good news was his domain; bad news belonged to his staff. Even anti-Reagan press coverage could often be turned around to his favor.
Similarly, Reagan also mastered the agenda game. After his first election victory, he jumped to a fast start, and implemented his own agenda. He placed his tax and budget reforms as a priority, and rushed them trough congress. In the event that an unexpected gaffe or catastrophe creeped to the front of the agenda, damage control would rush in and try to lesson its impact on the game plan. Working hand and hand with the image game, the agenda game created was responsible for Reagan's enormous public opinion rating. Likewise, Bush has utilized those two games to all but insure his reelection.
"All that we do is just survive. All that we can do to help ourselves is stay alive" -RUSH
Bush has completed a superb execution of the agenda game. One of his key masteries of the agenda game occurred recently as economic indicators were announced. At approximately the same time the gloomy picture of the economy was announced, Bush declared a cut-back in nuclear weapons. Thus, the headlines featured the nuclear arms cutbacks instead of the recessionary economy. Nevertheless, this was one of Bush's few examples of well planned agenda game playing.
Unlike Reagan who carefully planned a clear set of priorities to implement, Bush usually got lucky. Throughout his career, Bush has been week in domestic affairs; his expertise has resided in foreign policy. Domestically, he billed himself as the education' president', even though education was faltering. He promised 'no new taxes', and then proceeded to create new taxes. Luckily, these events were overshadowed by a multitude of foreign events. The fall of Eastern European communists, the Iraqi takeover of Kuwait, and the failed Russian coup all occupied the front page, thus pushing Bush's domestic trauma's out of the limelight. The country was focused on the area of Bush's expertise, thus allowing him to shine.
"Look in to the eye of the storm"
The coalition and opostition games are the two must functionally important games played in congress. Without the coalitiion game, very little legislation could be passed. Without the oposition game, very little would fail. The Republicans have had to rely on teh coalition game to pass their legilsation. They often depended depend on support of southern "boll wevil" Democrats to implement any of their plans. They have employed a variety of methods to gain their support. During Reagan's initial term they focused on Reagan himself, and made it sound almost unpatriotic to vote against him. Other times they have exchanged favors to gain votes on issues. Reagan's aides were also closely alligned with Tip O'Neil, who was willing to comply, and insure his role in a smooth running government. Unfortunately, even a well organized can fall apart, and the opo
The opposition game was also played by congress in confronting Bush's education reform program. One of the oinacles of Bush's reforms would give disadvantaged students a voucher paying for their tuition at private schools. In stead of fighting this measure head on, the Democrats united with the Republicans to propose new legislation that would let the states decide whether or not to allow the vouchers. Because most states would much rather have the money for themselves than pump it into private schools, this effectively defeated Bush's initative, while not causing any 'anti-education' finger-pointing at the congressmen. (Only one state, Wisconsin allows tax money to be spent on private schools.)
Clarence Thomas's was just the man Bush needed to play the image game. By picking a black man, Bush cast himself positively in the eyes of the affirmative action crowd. However, the black for black replacement would seem a direct violation of Bush's stance against racial quotas. Thus, Bush claimed that Thomas was the 'most qualified' candidate. The press disagreed, but it didn't matter. Bush had struck another cord with the blacks by appointing a justice based on his ability, not color. Furthermore, he had a nominee that was almost undefeatable: an extremely conservative black who despises affirmative action. Thomas was living proof that the democrats' civil rights bill was unnecessary. Thomas also caught the liberal opposition between a rock and a hard place: if they voted against him, the principles of affirmative action would be violated; but, if they voted for him, he would fight against affirmative action.
Because the senate majority is held by the democrats, the republicans had to form a coalition in order to confirm justice Thomas. The fact that Thomas was a southern black helped the process. Many of the southern Democrats were reluctant to fight against him because of his widespread support among southern voters. Bush's administration moved quickly to capitalize on this form a coalition to ensure Thomas confirmation. However, the democrats weren't going to give up with out a fight. They were quick at work at the opposition game.
Even though, they were in the majority, the Democrats were still the underdog. Bush had appointed a justice that had widespread public support. In order to turn down Thomas, they had to have enough evidence to prevent any appearance of racial bias. To do this, they started by announcing the minimal qualifications of Thomas. (He had been on the lower courts a shorter time than any previous supreme court appointee.) They also attempted to convince the public that he held the 'wrong' side in controversial views. After all, Thomas had spoken out against affirmative action at his previous executive branch post. His conservatism might also have indicated a negative stance toward abortion, a subject always on the mind of the judiciary committee. However, Thomas managed to bring this issue to an abrupt end by failing to respond affirmative or negative. (And, the committee, being unable to find any substantial evidence either way, had to drop the issue.)
Thomas than played some image and agenda games of his own. Because a previous justice was reject due to allegations of marijuana smoking, Thomas immediately came out in the open with his drug use. By admitting a trivial amount of marijuana smoking, Thomas took the offensive, and prevented the judiciary committee from making major drug charges against him. He also emphasized his rise from poverty to notoriety, thus striking a sympathetic chord with those who thought he was traitor to the black cause. Unfortunately, even a well-set plan can fall apart.
Thomas's chances of nomination nose-dived after sexual harassment charges were leaked to the press. The press jumped all over the leak, and the judiciary committee was forced to reconsider a charge they previously disregarded. Suddenly Anita Hill was brought into prominence, and liberals had a great excuse to vote down Thomas. Nevertheless, the damage control crew quickly pounced on the charges, and turned a catastrophe into 'campaigning' for Thomas. The hearings gave Thomas a chance to 'prove' himself in front of millions of Americans on prime-time television. This strengthened his public opinion ratings; and, conversely, greatly harmed the image of the democratic senate.
"Tough times demand tough talk." -RUSH
The foreign policy games is like football - enourmously popular, yet played almost entirely different ways in different areas. The two most common foreign policy games are the "tribal warfare" and "end runs and back channels" games. The tribal warfare game, the most common foreign policy game pits two seperate tribes of the executive branch against each other in the formation of policy. The state department, defense department, and the national security staff are the key players in this game. Like American football, their fights are the what the general public expects in foreign policy. The other game is like soccer, the "football" of other places, and totally different from the standard football. This game is best exhibited by the Poindexter/Ollie North ran Iran/Contra affair. The regular public channels were bypassed in favor of a secretive avenue. Though rare in the magnitude of the major scandle, small aspects are regularly employed by the National Security Staff to help the president's policies run smoothly.
The tribal warfare game is still being played in teh aftermath of the Persian Gulf War. Defense Secretary Dick Cheney, and Chairman of the Joint Cheifs of Staffs Collin Powell take have taken their usual ground in oposition to further attacks. They feel that the neccesary military force has already been expended, and any more may be just a waste. The state department, however, takes a different view. They are much more willing to reingage in tactical bombing and even warfare against Iraq to force compliance with the security council resolutions. Thus the stalemate will probably prevent any significant strike until Saddam Husein commits more serious offenses.