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I know it was you, Fredo

Fredo Corleone: I’m your older brother, Mike, and I was stepped over!
Michael Corleone: That’s the way Pop wanted it.
Fredo Corleone: It ain’t the way I wanted it! I can handle things! I’m smart! Not like everybody says… like dumb… I’m smart and I want respect!

—The Godfather: Part II

I’m sure John Brunner never saw himself as Fredo Corleone.

A Burning Question

Did you ever ask yourself why John Brunner would release a surreptitious recording of a phone call with an opponent? Especially one that lacks a smoking gun that would seriously wound the opponent?

Think about it: by releasing that tape to the media, John Brunner told the world, “I cannot be trusted.” He showed himself as the sort of cowardly, weak politician who tries to bait his opponents into secret traps. And he comes off as foolish enough, inept enough, to think people will forget that he uses Nixonian tactics.

“Is this being recorded?” will cross the minds of every person who talks to John Brunner for the rest of his life.

It Doesn’t Add Up

I ask again, why would Brunner willingly destroy his own reputation? It doesn’t make sense.

Mr. Brunner successfully operated his company’s business for years. He should know that executives—or executive candidates—don’t secretly record private conversations to gain a tactical advantage. Legal or not, releasing a secretly recorded phone conversation without the other party’s consent is sleazy, and no one seriously disputes that.

According to mafia legend, if you kill a don, you can’t become a don. Brunner’s complicity in the secret recording and leak means his political career peaked the day he announced his candidacy for governor. The man who tried to lecture a decorated Navy SEAL on manhood did so while violating the first rule of manliness.

As Jane Dueker said on the Reardon Round Table November 27:

That was weaselly. Your taping conversations—and I don’t believe the story that he felt threatened . . . no, no, no, no, I don’t like that. And just man-up. You did a weaselly thing, you need to own up to it.

With all that downside and no upside, why would Brunner release the recording?

Who Released the Tape?

We learned from his 2012 race for US Senate that Brunner is easily manipulated by Republican consultants. Those of us who wanted to support Brunner in 2012 for his ideological consistency had to walk away because of his weakness in debates and his failure to be his own man. Brunner ran as a caricature painted by John Hancock.

So someone must have convinced Brunner to record his calls with Eric Greitens. Or someone released the recording behind Bruner’s back.

I know, I know, “But, Bill, if John Brunner knew it was wrong, he shouldn’t have done it.” I get it, and I agree. But Brunner, as I say, is easily manipulated. And ambitious. He wants to win an election, and he trusts the people he’s hired to make that happen.

And trusting Republican players is the dumbest thing a person can do. It’s like when Fredo trusted Hyman Roth in The Godfather: Part II.

So I realize that Brunner knowingly and with malice recorded a private conversation with Eric Greitens. I am less sure that Brunner was involved in the recording’s release.

Brunner had everything to lose by that recording going public. He lost his reputation, his credibility, and trustworthiness. Why would Brunner out himself as a rat?

I’m not going to  speculate here about who did it, but I will explore why.

Eric Greitens Is a Threat to the Establishment

Republican insiders agree that Eric Greitens is the biggest threat to Chris Koster in the GOP field.

The same Republican insiders agree that Eric Greitens is the biggest threat to the Republican establishment. And we know from our Center for Self-Governance training that the purpose of political parties is to maintain their power. Everything else is ancillary.

Party insiders will go to extraordinary lengths when their power comes under attack. As Richard Nixon demonstrated, no law or ethic will stand in the way of a political animal who feels threatened or cornered.

And Eric Greitens presents both parties with a huge threat to their power.

Some will say, “but Bill, John Brunner is an outsider, too.” True. He is. But Brunner has shown himself to turn to putty in the hands of establishment seducers. Plus, the insiders believe Koster would wipe the floor with Brunner in the general election.

Because he’s easily manipulated and because he’s a poor candidate, Republican insiders do not see Brunner as a serious threat. By the same token, because he’s not easily manipulated and because he could beat Chris Koster, Eric Greitens is a huge threat the GOP establishment.

The GOP’s Hyman Roth

When Hyman Roth wanted to consolidate his power by taking down the Corleone family, he manipulated Michael Corleone’s brother Fredo. Fredo set up Michael.

When the Missouri GOP establishment wanted to eliminate a potential threat to its power, one of its agents manipulated John Brunner to set up Eric Greitens. At least that’s what I’m thinking.

It’s a plot so diabolical and underhanded that the schemers deserve a certain amount of respect. Until you see the plot play out.

What’s most brilliant about the plot is that Brunner is spending his own money to try to whack Greitens politically, not realizing that the GOP’s Hyman Roth is using Brunner’s money to pay the contract on Brunner. As the establishment sees it, with Greitens and Brunner out of the way, either Kinder or Hanaway is a shoe-in for the nomination. And if one of those two loses to Koster? Well, as one Republican insider told me a couple years ago, “we can work with Koster.”

Politics Is More Corrupt Than It Knows

No one involved in this scheme would consider himself corrupt. The political elites want us to believe that bribery is the only form of political corruption. Anything short of bribery, to the political animal, is just hardball politics.

To you and me, corruption is broader. What’s more corrupt than manipulating a man like John Brunner?

Corrupting the morals of a man like Brunner—or turning Fredo Corleone against his brother—is corruption. And it’s a more serious corruption than mere bribery. The establishment has corrupted John Brunner’s soul and wrecked his good name. And ended his political career.

And the establishment is proud of its wicked work. Or it would be if the scheme had worked.

No Smoking Gun

For the GOP scheme to succeed, it needed a knock-out blow. But Eric Greitens gave them nothing. As I said on KMOX, Brunner’s secret recording was not Greitens’s fines moment, but for a man whose life is a long string of fine moments, this was nothing.

The bold scheme to take out Brunner and Greitens took out only Brunner, the dupe. Greitens was wounded but only slightly. When you take a shot at a Navy SEAL, you better kill him. The GOP’s bullet missed its mark.

Now, the GOP finds itself in an uncomfortable place. Its stooge has lost all credibility. Eric Greitens learned a hard lesson that will make him only tougher and more determined to pitch corrupt lobbyists and politicians down the steps of the capitol.

Greitens Is the Only Innocent

The GOP’s Hyman Roth wanted to help one of two established politicians in the race. Unless one of those candidates admits complicity, it will be hard to trust them. Though I don’t believe Brunner would voluntarily act as a foil to Greitens, by agreeing to secretly record a call, Brunner’s credibility is shot.

For voters who want an outsider with integrity, one who played no role in this episode of ugly election manipulation, Greitens is the only trustworthy Republican still standing.

So, nice try, establishment.

The Burning Question

Now that we have a plausible explanation for why John Brunner was manipulated to secretly record a private call with his opponent, one open question is: who dunnit?

Who told Brunner to make the recording? And who released it to the press?

When we know the answer to that question, we’ll know which remaining Republican gubernatorial candidate absolutely cannot be trusted. For the record, I think the story that Brunner felt threatened by Greitens is pure BS. And if Brunner is that easily intimidated, he shouldn’t be running for office.

The one man who can answer is the candidate whose reputation just got flushed down the toilet. Ironic, isn’t? Whoever turned Brunner into a rat put themselves in Brunner’s crosshairs. And John Brunner has nothing to lose by outing his corrupter.

Fredo tried to regain Michael’s favor by outing Hyman Roth. It didn’t work for Fredo, of course, but Fredo had to try.

At some point, Brunner will realize his best hope for redemption begins with exposing the person or persons who corrupted him.

So the burning question is: will John Brunner sing?

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I was an immigrant

Maybe I’m remembering this wrong. Maybe not.

I met my best high school friends at the lunch table. Scott Oppelt, John Clancy, Christian Saller, Tom Newport, and . . . and dude with curly blond hair who was in Scott Oppelt’s band. John. John Martin.

I met them early in my junior year. We had just one thing in common: we were all transferees. We were not native DuBourgers. We transferred. We were traitors to our former schools. We shouldn’t be trusted. And we shouldn’t mingle with the natives.

Again, I could be wrong, but I’m pretty sure we were “encouraged” to sit together with other transferees. We’d be more comfortable with our own kind.

Being Irish, I figured this was all for the best. The Irish seemed to do much better when we all lived in the Irish ghettos. Once we moved to the burbs and joined golf clubs, we sort of lost our Irishness and all the benefits and forgiveness that went with it.

I think I was a pretty good DuBourger, for a transplant. I spent some time on the board of education in 2004 and 2005. And I’ve done a couple of summer alumni plays to help the school. So I wasn’t like a complete traitor.

Even though I was “encouraged” to sit with my fellow transferees (traitors), DuBourg was good to me. I had to sit out a year of sports, but that gave me time to get into theatre, which earned a college scholarship. And a really awesome group of friends, including the best girlfriend any high school guy could hope for.

To this day, I am a DuBourger, and I always will be. I love the place.

But there’s still that “go sit with your kind” thing that sticks with me. I wasn’t totally welcomed at DuBourg. I was accepted. They got used to me. But I was never a native.

The conservative world is a lot like DuBourg High School. Some of us are thrilled to death that Eric Grietens and Ben Carson have crossed the Rubicon to join our side. They remind me of past converts like John Dos Passos, Whittikar Chambers, and James Burnham. And Ronald Wilson Reagan. (Reagan, by the way, never repudiated or apologized for his four votes for FDR.)

But a lot of Missouri conservatives seems irritated that we’re attracting converts. Matt Hay, Bev Ehlen, and Ike Skelton are people I admire and respect, but they seem angry that these men have declared themselves conservatives. And when the recent converts get something wrong, they make the fundamental attribution error, ascribing the converts’ missteps to unfixable character flaws and not to situations that change. Situations, but for God’s grace, we might all face. Worse, they want to punish Eric Greitens for statements he made eight years ago when he was a Democrat. Did they punish Reagan for his votes for FDR and Truman? Did they demand he repudiate his former positions?

As an immigrant, I can tell you immigrants make a lot of mistakes. We don’t know all the history and the nuances of the new culture. But we chose to be here. We chose this group. That should give the prior members pride, not frustration.

If the conservative movement has too many members, if we want no more conversion, someone please say so. And show me the 49-state wins as evidence.

Until then, let’s welcome the converts warmly and guide them in their conversion and formation. They need our guidance and wisdom, not our doubt and scorn.

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I Might Abandon the GOP in 2016

Why have conservatives and right-leaning libertarians made so little progress since 2009?

Consider that the GOP was written off for dead following the 2008 election. Republicans disappeared from the press. When a Republican popped up on a Sunday talk show, he was talking about compromise and getting along.

Then the Tea Party happened, and all of a sudden the GOP’s testes descended. But after two off-year wave elections that gave the GOP their largest majorities since Hoover, the GOP seems poised to double down on the crony capitalist, elitist policies and candidates that got them tossed out of Washington in 2006 and 2008.

If conservatives and right-leaning libertarians gave the GOP its spine, why isn’t the GOP using it?

Simple. Republican party leaders work to increase their own personal power. They want to take power from you and me and use it for their personal benefit.

I can’t say I blame. I mean, that’s precisely what we want to do, isn’t it? We want to wrestle power away from Washington and use it ourselves. We echo William F. Buckley who wrote in Up From Liberalism:

I will not cede more power to the state. I will not willingly cede more power to anyone, not to the state, not to General Motors, not to the CIO. I will hoard my power like a miser, resisting every effort to drain it away from me. I will then use my power as I see fit.

Our problem with the modern Republican Party is that its candidates pretend they’re on our side in the battle of personal power. But they’re not. They’re on their own side. This isn’t a two-way war between us and Washington; it’s a guerre a trois between us, Washington, and the GOP.

The reason we’re losing ground is our weak tactics. When the shooting starts every two years, we take bullets for the Republicans. When they win, they leave on the battlefield to bleed out.

The alternative is to make the game more interesting. Here’s how.

Even if all the principled conservatives and right-leaning libertarians banded together, we could not elect third party candidate. But we could deny Republicans the win.

The only way for that to work is to make a strong early commitment and stick to it. Which is what I am doing in this post. I am declaring that I will not cast a Republican vote in any race in 2016 if the GOP nominates Jeb Bush as it’s candidate for President.

Some will urge me to vote Republican for office like governor. Nope. None.

If the GOP nominates Bush, I’m pulling a Libertarian ballot in the primary and voting straight Libertarian or Constitution Party ballot in November.

The down-ticket candidates provide a lot of support and cover to the party’s up-ticket candidates. Jeb Bush would look a lot less tolerable to Tom Schweich and John Hancock if his nomination meant another Democrat governor and losses in the Missouri General Assembly.

If enough voters committed to voting third party (or staying home) were Bush nominated, state parties throughout the country would distance themselves from Bush.

Bush has all the money locked up.The only way to stop his nomination is to make that nomination a sure defeat for the GOP nationally and in the states. It’s a recognition that we’re in a three-way war for power. it’s telling the establishment that we’re crazy enough to point our weapons at the side most likely to surrender to us.

So there’s my plan. If the candidate’s Bush, I walk. And I’ll work against ever Republican on my ballot.

 

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How Missouri’s Legislature Can Increase Highway Funds

Now that Amendment 7 has gone down in flames, let’s look at highway funding in Missouri.House-res-45680001

Amendment 7 would have authorized a 3/4 cent sales tax increase in Missouri. The money was intended for transportation in the broadest sense of the word. Parks with dirt paths qualify, since people can walk on the paths. Even if the bill tightened down the definition of transportation, municipalities and counties would have merely shifted funds to other projects and replaced that money with Amendment 7 taxes. Politicians are masters at moving money around.

I’ve pointed out before that Missouri has great roads. Some of the best in the country. But let’s say Amendment 7’s supporters were right. Say we need more money for roads and bridges and butterfly museums. Now what?

My buddy Ben Evans of Heritage Action has a great idea. Let the Missouri Legislature pass resolutions advising our Congressional delegation of what to do and how to vote. 

The first resolution I’d propose involves highway funding. The legislature should tell our members of Congress to co-sponsor and pass the Transportation Empowerment Act. You can read all about the TEA here.

The Congressional delegation could just ignore the legislature’s recommendation, of course. The resolution could not bind them. But the act of formalizing instructions to members of Congress would make it far more difficult for Representatives and Senators to weasel their way out situations.

Could Roy Blunt really claim he understands Missourians’ best interest better than a state rep who lives and works with his constituents? Hardly.

If you like this idea, please let John Diehl know right away. Ask him to fast-track a resolution on TEA in the first weeks of the next general assembly in January. And thank @benevansstl for the great strategy idea.

Note: I’ve fixed the link to John Diehl. If it doesn’t work, here’s his address: John.Diehl@house.mo.gov

Grand Safari image http://www.grandsafariusa.com/save-the-rhinoceros-hunt-them/

We Are the RINOs

You, dear reader, you and I are the RINOs.Elephant Dung

We can now stop calling the crony capitalists and their legislative puppets RINO. They are the TRUE Republicans. It’s their party; a lobbyist bought it for them, not for us. They own it. We are the impostors, the fakes, the interlopers into an intimate mating dance between the masters of manipulation and the TBTF banks and corporate overlords.

Step back. Take a breath.

We Had It Backwards

I understand why you think the Roy Blunts and Thad Cochrans of the world are the impostors. I used to think so, too. I read the Republican platform. I listened to the Republican speeches. I read the Republican position papers. And mostly I agreed.

Then I watched the Big Republican Names–the Establishment–go out day after day and do the opposite. Or, more often, the Big Republicans would slither between the carefully crafted text of its documents to a position that felt comfy and consistent. To them, at least.

Do you know what “is” is?

When I saw their inconsistencies–what others less charitable than I might call “hypocrisies”–I said, “Wait a minute. That’s not the Republican way! We don’t grant favors to donors. We don’t take one person’s property and give it to someone with more clout. We play referee and let the players decide the outcome of the game.”

But when I railed against Republican inconsistencies, I was forgetting an important lesson–a lesson I learned from my mom and dad and the Dominican Sisters at Epiphany of Our Lord Catholic Grade School, God rest its soul. I forgot that words don’t matter. I forgot this most valuable lesson:

We are what we do consistently.

Yes, I believe in lex orandi, lex credendi: the law of praying [is] the law of believing. But it only works if we pray a lot and let the prayers work their magic. It doesn’t work if we pray with bad intent. We can stop the magic of prayer. And if we pray for two minutes a day and sin for 20 hours, we become the sin, not the prayer.

Identifying Marks of a Republican

So what do the Big Republicans do consistently? They grant favors for friends with power and money. Doing favors for powerful and rich friends is what it means to be Republican. It’s what they’ve become through consist behavior. A party exists to preserve and grow its own party, not to save the country.

That’s the whole issue in the Export-Import Bank case. Eric Cantor and his myrmidons in the House kept the Ex-Im alive to help their rich and powerful friends at Boeing and Caterpillar.

And it’s the issue with guys like Senator Cochran. Thad Cochran, every day, finds ways to take money from people in other states and give it to voters in Mississippi.

And then there’s the Missouri Republican legislators grant $800,000,000 in benefits to donors on the last day of the session.

True Republicans take from everybody and give to the rich and powerful. It’s not what they say; it’s what they do. (Tom Delay, anyone?)

We who work for the Tea Party and Campaign for Liberty and all the other groups who fight for level playing fields and the rule of law and Constitutional limits to power–we’re the weirdos. We’re deviants who violate the spirit of Republicanism.

Again, it’s an easy mistake to make. Many of us remember Reagan. Many of us studied Goldwater. We all read William F. Buckley. And we assume that Republicanism is what Reagan, Goldwater, and Buckley stood for. But it wasn’t.

Like us, Reagan, Goldwater, and Buckley were political deviants. They violated the spirit of Republican Party law. They may have influenced the party’s platform, but the platform is only words. The Party is the sum of its deeds, not the sum of its glittering generalities.

How to Change the Party: Leverage

Can we change the party? Sure. But it takes a long time. And we need leverage. And the party has to want to change.

We’ve tried using primaries as a lever, but that’s like David playing Goliath’s game. Primaries are what Republicans and Democrats do best. They invented the system, for God’s sake; do you really think you’ll beat them at their game? Hell, no.

Tea Party Inc. (FreedomWorks, Tea Party Express, Tea Party Patriots) are good people and all, but they operate just like the Chamber of Commerce. They try to beat the Establishment at the Establishment’s game, and they get their asses kicked almost every time.

Maybe Reagan and Buckley could commandeer the party now and then, but Reagan and Buckley were kinds of geniuses. We’re not. At least, I’m sure as hell no genius.

We are Davids, and Davids fight a different game if they want to win. Davids don’t rush Goliath with a boastful yell. They find a new weapon, new tactics, new fields of battle. Or they repurpose old ones.

But There’s a New Dichotomy in Town

When I write about the new American political dichotomy, I’m writing about our slingshot. That slingshot is our lever.

Political party survival depends on having a large block of voters it can take for granted. People who vote for the party no matter what. People who lie say terrible things about the party and its leaders, then go out and vote for that party anyway.

For Democrats, it’s African-Americans. The Democrats can do or say anything and still get 90% of the black vote. Anything at all.

For Republicans, conservatives and conservitarians serve the role of sycophant. No matter how badly the GOP violates our principles, we’ll vote Republican because the Democrats are even worse.

A sycophant sucks up to someone in power to gain an advantage or favor. Conservatives, libertarians, and blacks have been sucking up to Republican and Democrat power for decades. Do we get favor? No. We get scraps, pats on the head, and kicks in the teeth.

But what if the sycophants de-sycophantify? What if the abused people of both parties say, “screw this?” What if the taken-for-granted plebeians wake up and realize that we have more in common with other plebeians than we have in common with either of the two Big Parties?

Then David fractures Goliath’s freakishly big skull with a rock, and Goliath collapses in a heap.

And then David better be prepared to run things well, because David will soon be king.

You can be a RINO or you can be David, but you can’t be a Republican. Not now, anyway. It’s a closed club.

Call me David.

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4 Steps To Negotiating With a Politician

Have you ever said, “vote them all out?”

Do you sometimes think anybody would do a better job than the incumbent? Do you feel you have no influence in Jefferson City, Springfield, or Washington? Do you feel that way because you don’t have thousands of dollars to donate and rich friends with oodles of cash you can bundle?

I feel that way all the time. Ask my friends Ben Evans and Michelle Moore. Twenty times a year, I’m ready to throw up my hands and walk away from politics altogether. Politicians’ actions often bum me out. Ann Wagner supporting the Farm Bill bums me out. The Missouri House Republicans bailing out red light camera companies bums me out. A lot about politics bums me out.

But I have more influence than I think. So do you.

You don’t have to “throw them all out,” which isn’t going to happen, anyway. You don’t have to walk away from self-governance in frustration, either.

The question is, “how do I maximize my power and influence?”

Here are four steps that will increase your influence when talking to a politician–or a car salesman.

1. Know Your Positions and Your Interests and Let Go of Your Positions

Politicians excel at separating you from your interests by focusing on your positions. Most people have no idea what the difference is. If you want to win a negotiation with politician–or anyone else–you need to know this key distinction. And you need to lose your emotional attachment to positions.

A position is very specific and immediate. “I want an ice cream cone.” Or, “I want to defeat Ann Wagner.”

Your interest, though, is the result you want for yourself. It’s why you think you need your position.

Let’s use a career example, which is more familiar to many than political negotiation.

Your position: You want a management job and a six-figure salary. You work like a dog, build your case, brush up your resume, and land that management job for $120,000 a year.

Then you find yourself working 80 hours a week, you’re on the road half the time, and you’re warring with your family and your co-workers all the time. Your boss tells you to cut your staff by 20 percent, which means you have fire five good people so the shareholders can pocket extra cash before some tax increase takes effect.

You got your coveted position, but you’re not happy. Your position wasn’t aligned to your interests.

Your Interests: You wanted that title and that salary was because you wanted status and money. That’s your “why.” You wanted money and status so you could you do more for your family. Or maybe treat your friends to a drink now and then, or take your kids on a Disney vacation, or just feel successful. You wanted to be happy, healthy, and respected, not tired, miserable, and despised.

By blindly pursuing your position, you took yourself further away from your real interests.

Back to politics. Why did you become interested in the Farm Bill? Was it because farm subsidies mean a lot to you? Or was it because the Farm Bill balloons the debt? Or because the Farm Bill grows government dependency?

Focusing on how one representative votes on one bill one time might win your position. It might also work against your interests.

Politicians excel at using positions to advance their interests. For example, they hold many votes on a single bill so they can vote both ways. Senator Roy Blunt could have stood with Ted Cruz and blocked cloture on the budget bill last year. Instead, he voted for cloture, ensuring the budget bill would pass. Then he voted against the bill on the floor, so he could say, “I voted against it.”

What you and I might call duplicity, the politician calls looking out for his own interests..

The first step in negotiation, then, is to write down your position and your interest. In fact, write down lots of positions and detach yourself from those positions. Detach your emotions. Paint a vivid mental picture of your interests. Never surrender or compromise your interests. Use positions to advance your interests.

2. Forget “Win-Win”

Forget all that talk about “win-win.” It’s all B.S. As negotiating guru Jim Camp says:

A win-win negotiation is not controlled in a clear, step-by-step way. That’s just one reason win-win gets slaughtered in the real business world, again and again and again. I know chief executives who are proud of their deal making, but they have no discipline, no real basis for making their decisions. They’re shooting from the hip under the assumption that everyone else is shooting from the hip.

From Start With NO! The Negotiating Tools The Pros Don’t Want You To Know

Your member of Congress is not shooting from the hip. She’s not interested in “win-win.” She’s interested in re-election and increased power and status in her caucus. She wants to keep people happy–the people who have money to donate, influence to peddle, or voters to mobilize. And it doesn’t matter who “she” is. All politicians know their interests and they know how to negotiate with voters anchored to positions.

3. Let Them Say “No”

You know that famous business book, “Getting to YES?” It’s crap, too. Forget it. Do the opposite. Try to get to no because you must hear “no” before the real negotiation begins.

Again, from Start With NO! The Negotiating Tools The Pros Don’t Want You To Know

How can this be? Because “no” is a real decision that induces the party across the table into actually thinking about why they’ve just said “no.” The responsibility of making a clear decision helps the adversary focus on the real issues of the negotiation. The adversary has to take responsibility for “no,” so now everyone has something real to talk about. In fact, as we will soon see, the mere invitation for the other side to say “no” changes the dynamic of a negotiation in a very beneficial way.

Here’s how to start your negotiation with a politician.

“This might not be the right position for you, I don’t know. It’s okay to tell me to get lost. You won’t hurt my feelings. I’m just interested in how you feel about the Farm Bill, and I’d like to see if we agree on the long term strategy for shrinking government.”

Look what just happened.

First, you told her that you’re interested in (a) what’s best for her (“This might not be right for you”), and (b) her feelings. Not just her intellect, but her human, emotional feelings. Like it or not, politician or not, nobody in a negotiation really cares about you–until you show her that you care about her. That politician is a human being, too, with a brain wired just like yours. She has a family, kids, friends, and worries. Letting her know that you will respect and safeguard her feelings and her best interest will lead her to do the same for you.

Next, you’ve reminded her that you are a human being, too. You are more than just a voter registration number with no money to donate and no time to knock on doors for her. You’ve humanized and humbled yourself. And you’ve humbled yourself for the right reason. Not because you’re a lowly voter in the presence of an exalted Member of Congress. You are a human being, a meager sinner, just like her.

Finally, you’ve avoided talk of your position and promoted your shared interest instead. At the same time, you’ve asked her to stake out her position. In other words, you’ve gained all the power in this conversation. You put yourself in charge of her interests but asked her to defend her position.

4. Accept “No” Again

The more you’re willing to hear her say “no,” the more likely you are to win a final agreement. Nobody likes high-pressure sales, right? Do you enjoy a car salesman asking you every two minutes, “so I can get you into this car today?”

No. You hate it, and so does everybody else. Politicians hate being “sold” a position. They hate it so much that they usually say, “You’re right. I’ll vote against the Farm Bill.”

And they do. They vote against it in committee or on some procedural vote or some amendment. Or they get Congressman X from Oregon to vote for the Farm Bill so they can vote against it. It’s the political equal of telling that pushy car salesman, “I’ll think about it,” or “I need to talk it over with my wife.”

As former FBI chief hostage negotiator told Eric Barker, you don’t want to hear “you’re right.” Why?

Because we love it when somebody tells us we’re right. It’s usually when we’re making an argument and we’ve worn the other side down, and they’re just sick of us… Even if I believe in my heart that you are right, I’m not vested when you’re right. But when I say “that’s right,” I’ve put myself in a position of adjudicating what you’ve said, and I’ve pronounced what you’ve said right. There’s a much greater chance that I’m going to accept it if I’ve said “that’s right” as opposed to “you’re right.”

Instead, make the politician say “no.” Force her to make a true decision, to take a stand. Then ask open ended questions.

Open ended questions do two things:

They build rapport by letting her speak freely and openly.
They force her give good reasons for supporting a bill that contradicts her stated ideology.
Here are some examples.

“Why are you so committed to this particular bill?”

“What about this bill makes you want to vote for it?”

“People will ask me, so what are 10 good reasons why my friends and I should support this bill?”

These questions won’t induce her to say, “I was wrong. I’m going to fight this bill tooth and nail.” In fact, you probably won’t change her vote on this bill. But this isn’t the last bill you care about, and it’s probably not the most important.

What you will do with this method is far more valuable that winning your position on one bill. You’ve become a trusted sounding board for a member of Congress. She will seek you out in a crowd. She will take your phone calls. Because you made her feel safe and respected.

Someday, she will cast a difficult vote because you gained influence in her mind. She will know that she cannot shew you away with “I’ll vote against something for you.” She’ll respect the intellectual challenges you pose while respecting even more the emotional cover you provide.

That’s how you win your interests and change her position. And gain a reputation as a level-headed advocate for you cause at the same time. It’s a lot easier, less expensive, and more satisfying that wasting your time “voting them all out.”

But don’t you dare call it a “win-win.”

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Know When To Fight Your Own

I can be pretty hard on Republicans. Not hard enough for some. Too hard for others.

But I, at least, try to time my battles for ideological consistency. As a general rule, odd-numbered years are for cleaning up the GOP. Even-numbered years are for cleaning out Democrats.

This is an odd-numbered year. Right up to the votes on the continuing resolution, my primary targets were Republicans, especially Roy Blunt.

Once the House exercised its Constitutional power of the purse strings, sending a popular continuing resolution to the Senate, the battle lines shifted. Obama declared war on reason and Republicans.

Once that happened, we had a choice. We could help Obama by attacking the House Republicans’ right flank.

Or we can fight Obama by riding to the aid of our closest ideological allies in Congress.

Maybe I’m wrong, but I’m riding with the Boehner, Ann Wagner, Jason Smith, Billy Long, and the other resilient House Republicans. After we put down the tyrannical King Barack, there’ll be plenty of time to squabble with Boehner.

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4 Reasons Why House Republicans Should Pass a Clean Debt Ceiling Bill Now *UPDATE*

Yeah, I know. Obama’s childish, petulant, and tyrannical tantrums over the continuing resolution makes me want to fight like an angry cat, too.

But I don’t actually want to fight. Fighting isn’t in our interest. As Sun Tzu said:

Hence to fight and conquer in all your battles is not supreme excellence; supreme excellence consists in breaking the enemy’s resistance without fighting.

I want to succeed in repealing Obamacare and forcing government into its constitutionally limited box.

Republicans face limited options. They control one-third of the legislative process. Squishes like Pete King of New York threaten their unity. A national press that’s 98.4% opposes anything they do, even restoring funding to help kids dying of cancer. And they’re dealing with a public that, by and large, can’t point out DC on an annotated map of the District of Columbia.

So what can they do?

House Republicans can pass a clean debt ceiling bill and send it to the Senate.

Here are four reasons why that’s their best choice right now.

1. Never Let Your Position Overcome Your Interests.

Positional bargaining focuses on specific goals, like “repeal Obamacare.” It focuses on “what” you want. Interest bargaining focuses on “why” you want it. King Solomon gave us the perfect example. Two women each claimed a child was her son. Each held the same position: “I want the child.” But their interests were different. Solomon resolved the dispute by ordering the child cut in half, with woman getting an equal portion.

At that point, the child’s true mother dropped her position and focused on her interest: the best possible outcome for her child. The mother told the king, “let her have him.” Solomon, of course, restored the child to its true mother.

Our interest is broader than “repeal Obamacare.” For example, what if Obamacare were replaced with a single-payer system and all healthcare workers became draftees into a government-run national healthcare horror show? Yes, we’d have achieved our position but at the sacrifice of our personal and national interest.

Passing a clean debt ceiling bill now lets us focus on our interest of restoring self-governance and constitutionally limited government.

2. Take Away Obama’s Best Strategy: Confusing Low Information Voters

There are two government financial issues at play now: the federal budget and the debt ceiling. The House took its stand against Obamacare over the a resolution to extend the last federal budget. That’s the continuing resolution. The other issue is the debt ceiling.

The consequences of a government shutdown are mild, short, and familiar. We know this because there’ve been 17 shutdowns since 1974, mostly because Democrat Speaker Tip O’Neill figured out how to extort money for his friends through shutdowns in the 1970s and 1980s.

The consequences of the world’s largest economy defaulting, however, is a different story. It’s never happened before, and no one knows what the consequences would be. Anyone who tells you they do know what would happen as a result of a US default is either lying or foolish. No one knows with any degree of precision or accuracy. Smart economists say so.

Some possible consequences include:

  • Hyper-inflation
  • Deflation
  • Total collapse of the US dollar
  • Total freezing of world financial flows
  • Global depression

Other possibilities include:

  • Nothing really happens at all

I don’t know. But neither do you, Jack Lew, Barack Obama, Ben Bernanke, or Warren Buffet. When it comes to a US debt default, you’re just as smart as the Chairman of the Federal Reserve.

Obama and the press use expert uncertainty combined with public ignorance to treat the continuing resolution and the debt ceiling as one. That’s wrong, and they know it. But they do it because polling shows the vast majority of Americans don’t understand either.

By passing a clean debt ceiling bill that lets government borrow through April 2015, Obama can no longer conflate the two issues for PR leverage. That lets us focus on Obamacare and the continuing resolution, which advances our interests at the expense of a position. And smart people always put their interests ahead of their positions.

3.  Strategic Thinking Says Don’t Take Unknown Risks If You Don’t Have To

When I was 17, I wanted desperately to go out with the cutest girl at Bishop DuBourg High School. I won’t embarrass her by telling you her name. It took forever, but I finally asked her out. She said yes.

That was a known risk. I could reasonably calculate the consequences. She could say yes, no, or maybe. If she said “yes,” I win. If she said “no,” I’d meet somebody else, though I’d be in pain for a long time. If she said, “maybe,” I’d take that as a yes and continue pursuing a stronger yes.

Every possible outcome was knowable, and I could live with any of them. I could plan a strategy for dealing with any of them.

An unknown risk, on the other hand, has at least one possible path that is completely unknowable. Or it has so many possibilities and combinations that no one can reasonably determine where the chain of events will lead. That’s an unknown risk, and it’s very dangerous.

As I stated above, the House has taken a known risk by passing a continuing resolution that Obama doesn’t like. We know what’s likely to happen, and we’re willing to chance it.

The debt ceiling is an unknown risk. Taking that risk when there’s an alternative would be silly and dangerous. By passing a clean debt ceiling increase now, only Obama and the Democrats could force a US debt default. They would get the blame in that case.

Plus, by fear-mongering about the debt ceiling, Obama has put himself in a position where he’d have to sign the bill. That would screw up his PR strategy, as we’ll see next.

4.  Obama’s Losing the Continuing Resolution PR Battle But Winning the Debt Ceiling Debate

On Friday, Obama held a press conference. His sole purpose was to trigger a stock market crash and a financial panic. He spoke under the guise of the continuing resolution debate, but spoke only of the consequences of a debt default. He urged investors to panic-sell all their stock to trigger a market crash. Very calculated, very cold, and very irresponsible. Completely unworthy of a US President.

As the Detroit News put it:

Stocks finished the government shutdown week mostly down, but not nearly as much as they could have fallen, given President Barack Obama’s efforts to panic investors. When Wall Street gave a ho-hum response to the shutdown, Obama went on TV to question why the markets weren’t more concerned by the standoff in Washington, and warned the U.S. could default on its debt.

They were highly reckless remarks by a president whose job it is to cultivate calm and confidence, not fear.

Why would a president want to trigger bank runs, market crashes, and financial disasters?

Because the president is losing the battle on Obamacare and the continuing resolution.

The White House’s shutdown strategy was to inflict maximum pain on the largest number of people. So Obama ordered the WWII Memorial closed. And the Vietnam Wall. He tried to shut down private businesses around the country. He threatened to arrest Catholic priests who crossed his picket line to say mass for Catholic troops in the armed forces. He even tried to close the Atlantic Ocean.

All of his attempts at punishing people failed, because we know he’s little more than the Wizard of Oz’s evil twin. And Obama’s approval rating has plummeted to 41 percent–just 2 points above the “point of no return.”

Clearly, the world hasn’t ended because of a partial government shutdown, and everyone knows it. So Obama’s conflating the shutdown with the debt ceiling.

By passing a clean debt ceiling bill, Obama will be forced to deal solely with his failed government shutdown. That will force him to negotiate. Something he’s sworn repeatedly is beneath him.

Pass a Clean Debt Ceiling Bill Now

Ask @RepAnnWagner and @RoyBlunt to push their leadership to pass a clean debt ceiling bill this week. Base it on the deficit of the last three months. Raise the debt limit to allow the government to borrow through April of the next Congress, so the next Congress can re-evaluate and adjust. Even Erick Erickson agrees:

 

If we take away Obama’s ability to confuse low-information voters while we demonstrate reasonableness in facing unknown risks, Obama will have to negotiate to re-open the government.

Because Obama’s position is “no negotiations, period,” forcing negotiations will destroy his position. He will be exposed as a liar and a fraud whose power is based on mythical fear not respect or Constitutional authority.

Taking a debt default off the table will damage Obama’s domestic credibility as thoroughly as Syria wrecked his international esteem.

UPDATE: Erick Erickson of Redstate.com expanded on his tweet.

So what should we do? I think somebody like Steve Scalise, who chairs the Republican Study Committee, needs to propose a short-term debt limit for a few weeks and attach to it the Full Faith and Credit Act that ensures the Treasury Department prioritizes interest payments in the event the debt limit is ever not increased. This would buy us some time to finish the fight to defund Obamacare and set us up well to fight the next long-term debt limit increase to the death by removing some of the President’s scare tactics. How do Republican Leaders not adopt and push such a proposal? How does Obama not accept it without looking completely unreasonable?

Bingo, Erick.

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