Power Plays: Win or Lose--How History's Great Political Leaders Play the Game

Overview

Dick Morris is one of the frankest and most incisive political observers in America today. A fiercely intelligent presidential advisor and a popular columnist and political analyst for the Fox News Channel, Morris now brings his brilliant strategic mind to this fascinating survey of the most dramatic political moves in history.

Morris identifies five types of power play and focuses on politicians whose careers have skyrocketed after implementing one of them successfully — or ...

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Overview

Dick Morris is one of the frankest and most incisive political observers in America today. A fiercely intelligent presidential advisor and a popular columnist and political analyst for the Fox News Channel, Morris now brings his brilliant strategic mind to this fascinating survey of the most dramatic political moves in history.

Morris identifies five types of power play and focuses on politicians whose careers have skyrocketed after implementing one of them successfully — or foundered in the wake of misjudgment. He chronicles both the wildly effective and the disastrous, from ideologues like Ronald Reagan and Winston Churchill, who stood on principle and waited for their moment to shine, to the disavowal of environmental issues that, he argues, cost Al Gore the presidency in 2000. The result is an irreverent and enlightening playbook that holds lessons equally valuable to the planning of a political campaign, a business venture — or even George W. Bush's War on Terror.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
Outspoken Fox News Channel commentator Dick Morris offers his personal survey of history's most memorable triumphs and failures, ranging from Abraham Lincoln's opposition-splitting tactics to Al Gore's blunders in 2000. The author of the bestselling Behind the Oval Office delivers characteristically brassy opinions about chief executives, including his former boss Bill Clinton.
Publishers Weekly
Aspiring politicians who can't afford to hire high-priced campaign consultants could do a lot worse than to buy this election manual from former Clinton political guru Morris (Behind the Oval Office). He offers 20 case studies illustrating how history's greatest politicians sealed their fate by following or ignoring six classic Morris rules: "Triangulate," "Divide and Conquer," "Reform Your Own Party," etc. These strategies work, Morris maintains, regardless of party affiliation or ideological bent. For example, Morris shows how both Bill Clinton (on welfare) and George W. Bush (on education) managed to trounce the opposition by co-opting its core issues a classic "triangulation" maneuver. In contrast, Morris says, both Woodrow Wilson and Barry Goldwater failed to provide a convincing explanation as to why their fringe ideas (the League of Nations and passionate anticommunism, respectively) were right for America. This is quintessential Morris ideology: the content is less important than the approach. Ronald Reagan, in this understanding, won the White House because he was able to "Stand on Principle" and present a clear, consistent description of who he was and what he stood for. Al Gore lost because he failed at the same task. Obviously, such a reductive analysis oversimplifies an extraordinarily complicated process. Morris's arguments are broadly convincing, however, and work well in the context of a "beginner's manual" on political strategy, despite some occasionally spooky language Reagan's move toward social conservatism in the 1960s, Morris writes, was like an "established corporation launching a new product line." (Apr.) Forecast: Now a New York Post columnist and a regular on the Fox News Channel, Morris has a built-in audience. Still, this probably won't be a bestseller like his look at the Clinton presidency. Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
Famed Fox commentator Morris looks at political moves throughout history—from Lincoln's splitting the opposition over slavery to Gore's near-miss at the presidency—to see what principles we can discover. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Booknews
Former political campaign advisor and current Fox News commentator Morris surveys a number of political maneuvers from American and international politics, although mostly the former, and analyzes why the succeeded or failed. Twenty examples of such electoral strategies are categorized under the headings of: stand on principle, triangulate, divide and conquer, reform your own party, use a new technology. Examples are drawn from the political careers of such figures as Abraham Lincoln, Charles De Gaulle, Woodrow Wilson, Al Gore, George W. Bush, Richard Nixon, Tony Blair, and Lyndon Johnson. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780060004446
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 6/17/2003
  • Edition description: First Paperback Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 384
  • Sales rank: 631,532
  • Product dimensions: 5.31 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 0.86 (d)

Meet the Author

Dick Morris

Dick Morris served as Bill Clinton's political consultant for twenty years. A regular political commentator on Fox News, he is the author of ten New York Times bestsellers (all with Eileen McGann) and one Washington Post bestseller.

Eileen McGann is an attorney who, with her husband, Dick, writes columns for the New York Post and for their website, dickmorris.com. She has written extensively about the abuses of Congress and the need for reform.

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Read an Excerpt

Strategy One

Stand On Principle

For some leaders, the art of politics is not about movement but about positioning. More passionate about their ideas than about political gamesmanship, they hunker down and await the light moment for their ideology, deeply confident that it will certainly come. If their policies and ideas do not immediately catch fire today, so be it. If not, they are content to hang back until they sense that public opinion is on a course to converge with their vision. A position that is untenable today, such figures hope, will become inevitable tomorrow as events force things their way. The key, to them, is to monopolize and fortify their position, so that they are its leading advocate and can step, uncontested, into power, proving that they had been right all along.

Like Leninists, such political leaders are confident that the future is on their side, and that they are standing on the tight side of history. Ralph Waldo Emerson commented on how the worldview of such men differs from the opportunism more common in public life: They did not yet see, and thousands of young men as hopeful now crowding to the barriers for the career, do not yet see, that if the single man plant himself indomitably on his instincts and there abide, the huge world will come round to him."

The person who chooses to "plant himself indomitably on his instincts and there abide" hopes that history will see him through his defeats to ultimate victory. As John Stuart Mill wrote, to such people "Persecution is an ordeal through which truth ought to pass." Their patience in the face of adversity stemsfrom their conviction that they are right, as Mill said: "The real advantage which truth has consists in this, that when an opinion is true, it may be extinguished once, twice, or many times, but in the course of ages there will generally be found persons to rediscover it, until some one of its reappearances falls on a time when from favourable circumstances it escapes persecution until it has made such head as to withstand all subsequent attempts to suppress it."

But history can be a faithless lover. The political graveyards are filled with men and women who have firmly planted themselves upon their "instincts," only to watch events move past them without so much as a glance over the shoulder to wave good-bye.

What distinguishes those who succeed by standing on principle from those who fail? Why does the strategy assure success for some and leave others stranded in irrelevance? What makes some who stood firm seem prescient and others appear foolish? What separates the dogmatic and stubborn who "don't get it" from the visionaries who are "ahead of their time?" It is a question that carries weight in any field of endeavor: '"here does prescience end and obsession begin?

Obviously the basic validity of the leader's vision is the most importantfactor. Those whose vision is fatally flawed are usually doomed to wait in vain at the political railroad station for a train that never comes. Yet even a solid grasp of the trends of history — or of the marketplace — cannot guarantee success. Many who patiently waited have gone to bitter graves, only to have their reputations posthumously honored by the vindication of their views.

There are, of course, many reasons for success and failure. But there is one factor that may distinguish those who succeed from those who do not. Those men and women who start in the wilderness, bide their time, and find that the "world comes round to them" have generally managed to weave their ideas into a deeper and more important framework, most often a vision of their nation's high calling. Those who fall short often remain entrenched in the langtiage of ideology and fail to make the transition to the rhetoric of patriotism.

This section will examine four men who stood on principle, and ultimately succeeded: Ronald Reagan, Winston Churchill, Charles de Gaulle, and Abraham Lincoln. Each man met with initial failure and defeat, was exiled to the political wilderness, and later returned to claim power. All four kept to their principles and refused to compromise to gain office. But each, in his Own way, managed the transition from ideology to patriotism as lie made his final push for power.

Many felt that Reagan Should have learned the futility of his hardline conservatism from the sad example of Barry Goldwater's landslide defeat in 1964. But Reagan didn't get die message. Without missing a beat, he pushed his conservative dogma with (logged consistency, through two terms as governor of California and a failed bid for the Republican presidential nomination in 1976. When Reagan ultimately returned from his four years in the wilderness and won die 1980 presidential election, little had changed in his vision — but America, in the meantime, had sunk into a national malaise under President Jimmy Carter. As Americans began to fear they'd been coilsigned to what Leon Trotsky called the "dustbin Of history," Reagan won the presidency by wrappinghis right-wing philosophy around a deep, abiding patriotism and contagious optimism about the future.

Winston Churchill's wilderness years were even longer- lasting eighteen years. Confined to the political desert in the 1920s and 1930s, this quintessential military imperialist seemed a distant voice in a world turning away from war, and a Britain turning in on itself. As the menace of Hitler grew, Churchill alone warned of the danger decrying the policy of appeasing the Germans. But his was a lonely voice to which few listened . . . until Adolf Hitler came along to prove Churchill right, and Britons of all political stripes turned to him for leadership. Yet though his warnings were vindicated, it was not as an empire-builder or militarist that Churchill carved his enduring place in history. It was as the herald of optimism and determination in a nation almost suffocating in self-doubt and defeatism.

Power Plays. Copyright © by Dick Morris. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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Table of Contents

Introduction
I Strategy One: Stand on Principle 1
Example One - Successful - Reagan Stands on His Principles ... and Wins 7
Example Two - Unsuccessful - Goldwater's Crusade Crashes 18
Example Three - Successful - Churchill Emerges from the Wilderness to Lead Britain in Its Finest Hour 26
Example Four - Successful - De Gaulle Defeats the Political Parties 42
Example Five - Successful - Abraham Lincoln Moves from Abolitionism to Union ... and Wins 56
Example Six - Unsuccessful - Woodrow Wilson Goes Down Fighting for the League of Nations 64
Example Seven - Unsuccessful - Al Gore Runs Away from His Environmental Beliefs ... and Loses as a Result 75
II Strategy Two: Triangulate 89
Example Eight - Successful - George W. Bush Moves the GOP Toward Compassionate Conservatism 95
Example Nine - Successful - Bill Clinton Leads His Party to the Center 110
Example Ten - Successful - Francois Mitterrand Lets Jacques Chirac Pass His Program ... and then Beats Him at the Polls 127
Example Eleven - Unsuccessful - Nelson Rockefeller Crashes as He Falls Between the Parties 138
III Strategy Three: Divide and Conquer 151
Example Twelve - Successful - Lincoln Splits the Democrats over Slavery and Gets Elected 153
Example Thirteen - Successful - Nixon Capitalizes on the Democratic Split on Vietnam to Get Elected 164
Example Fourteen - Unsuccessful - Dewey Splinters the Democrats but Truman Wins Anyway 178
IV Strategy Four: Reform Your Own Party 197
Example Fifteen - Successful - Tony Blair Reforms the Labour Party and Takes Over Britain 201
Example Sixteen - Successful - Koizumi Reforms Japan's Ruling Party ... and Transforms Japanese Politics 218
Example Seventeen - Unsuccessful - McGovern Reforms His Party ... and the Empire Strikes Back 233
V Strategy Five: Use a New Technology 249
Example Eighteen - Successful - FDR Uses Radio to Reach America 253
Example Nineteen - Successful and Unsuccessful - John F. Kennedy Uses Television to Win the Unwinnable Election ... and Richard Nixon Uses It to Lose the Unlosable One 269
Example Twenty - Successful - Lyndon Johnson Runs Negative Ads ... and Transforms Politics 280
VI Strategy Six: Mobilizing the Nation in Times of Crisis 291
Churchill and Roosevelt Mobilize Their Nations for War While Lyndon Johnson Mobilizes Only Mistrust and Opposition 297
Epilogue 315
Acknowledgments 317
Notes 319
Index 345
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First Chapter

Strategy One

Stand On Principle

For some leaders, the art of politics is not about movement but about positioning. More passionate about their ideas than about political gamesmanship, they hunker down and await the light moment for their ideology, deeply confident that it will certainly come. If their policies and ideas do not immediately catch fire today, so be it. If not, they are content to hang back until they sense that public opinion is on a course to converge with their vision. A position that is untenable today, such figures hope, will become inevitable tomorrow as events force things their way. The key, to them, is to monopolize and fortify their position, so that they are its leading advocate and can step, uncontested, into power, proving that they had been right all along.

Like Leninists, such political leaders are confident that the future is on their side, and that they are standing on the tight side of history. Ralph Waldo Emerson commented on how the worldview of such men differs from the opportunism more common in public life: They did not yet see, and thousands of young men as hopeful now crowding to the barriers for the career, do not yet see, that if the single man plant himself indomitably on his instincts and there abide, the huge world will come round to him."

The person who chooses to "plant himself indomitably on his instincts and there abide" hopes that history will see him through his defeats to ultimate victory. As John Stuart Mill wrote, to such people "Persecution is an ordeal through which truth ought to pass." Their patience in the face of adversity stemsfrom their conviction that they are right, as Mill said: "The real advantage which truth has consists in this, that when an opinion is true, it may be extinguished once, twice, or many times, but in the course of ages there will generally be found persons to rediscover it, until some one of its reappearances falls on a time when from favourable circumstances it escapes persecution until it has made such head as to withstand all subsequent attempts to suppress it."

But history can be a faithless lover. The political graveyards are filled with men and women who have firmly planted themselves upon their "instincts," only to watch events move past them without so much as a glance over the shoulder to wave good-bye.

What distinguishes those who succeed by standing on principle from those who fail? Why does the strategy assure success for some and leave others stranded in irrelevance? What makes some who stood firm seem prescient and others appear foolish? What separates the dogmatic and stubborn who "don't get it" from the visionaries who are "ahead of their time?" It is a question that carries weight in any field of endeavor: '"here does prescience end and obsession begin?

Obviously the basic validity of the leader's vision is the most importantfactor. Those whose vision is fatally flawed are usually doomed to wait in vain at the political railroad station for a train that never comes. Yet even a solid grasp of the trends of history -- or of the marketplace -- cannot guarantee success. Many who patiently waited have gone to bitter graves, only to have their reputations posthumously honored by the vindication of their views.

There are, of course, many reasons for success and failure. But there is one factor that may distinguish those who succeed from those who do not. Those men and women who start in the wilderness, bide their time, and find that the "world comes round to them" have generally managed to weave their ideas into a deeper and more important framework, most often a vision of their nation's high calling. Those who fall short often remain entrenched in the langtiage of ideology and fail to make the transition to the rhetoric of patriotism.

This section will examine four men who stood on principle, and ultimately succeeded: Ronald Reagan, Winston Churchill, Charles de Gaulle, and Abraham Lincoln. Each man met with initial failure and defeat, was exiled to the political wilderness, and later returned to claim power. All four kept to their principles and refused to compromise to gain office. But each, in his Own way, managed the transition from ideology to patriotism as lie made his final push for power.

Many felt that Reagan Should have learned the futility of his hardline conservatism from the sad example of Barry Goldwater's landslide defeat in 1964. But Reagan didn't get die message. Without missing a beat, he pushed his conservative dogma with (logged consistency, through two terms as governor of California and a failed bid for the Republican presidential nomination in 1976. When Reagan ultimately returned from his four years in the wilderness and won die 1980 presidential election, little had changed in his vision -- but America, in the meantime, had sunk into a national malaise under President Jimmy Carter. As Americans began to fear they'd been coilsigned to what Leon Trotsky called the "dustbin Of history," Reagan won the presidency by wrappinghis right-wing philosophy around a deep, abiding patriotism and contagious optimism about the future.

Winston Churchill's wilderness years were even longer- lasting eighteen years. Confined to the political desert in the 1920s and 1930s, this quintessential military imperialist seemed a distant voice in a world turning away from war, and a Britain turning in on itself. As the menace of Hitler grew, Churchill alone warned of the danger decrying the policy of appeasing the Germans. But his was a lonely voice to which few listened . . . until Adolf Hitler came along to prove Churchill right, and Britons of all political stripes turned to him for leadership. Yet though his warnings were vindicated, it was not as an empire-builder or militarist that Churchill carved his enduring place in history. It was as the herald of optimism and determination in a nation almost suffocating in self-doubt and defeatism.

Power Plays. Copyright © by Dick Morris. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 28, 2004

    revisionistic, convoluted, hyperbolic

    In his series of political vignettes, Morris too often bends over backwards and twists facts to shape the historical facts of each candidate's campaign into his overarching theories. Most agregiously, McGovern's 1972 loss is cast as a failure to benefit from the reform of his party, but ignores how out of touch McGovern's far-Left platform was with the electorate. Morris correctly correlates political victory with manipulation of public opinion, but overlooks, or at least underemphasizes, that some strategies cannot overcome broad opposition from the people.

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