poker-speak, a "tell" is an unconscious habit some players exhibit that lets
anybody in the know read that player like a cheap dime novel. Maybe it’s a
scratch on the ear, a twirl of the hair, a twist of the ring, or the
drumming of the fingers, but whatever it is, the habit "tells" everyone that
you’re lying or bluffing.
High-stakes political poker is a rough game and each side’s always looking out for something that’ll give the opposition away their political "tell". Knowing when the other guy’s full of crap, pulling a fast one, or talking out his ass is invaluable. If you see the "tell", it’s safe to call the bluff, make him show his cards, expose him as a fraud and a liar.
The executives at BushCo have a "tell". You’d think as refined as they are in the dubious art of widespread public deception and propaganda foisting, their "tell" would be hard to spot, requiring months of careful observation, insight, and attention to every detail of the not-so-subtle lies rolling from the tongues of Dick, Scott, Condi, Rummy, Powell, and Dubya himself.
But in fact, theirs is the easiest "tell" of all. It’s used by Presidential Administrations and mischievous children of all ages and is one of the less mature and noble attitudes we adopt when we’re confronted with accusations, allegations, or facts that are unpleasant, uncomfortable, or just plain make us look bad.
In true hawk/warmonger fashion, I call BushCo’s political "tell" The Proportional Response or TPR. You’re probably familiar with this phrase from a Schwarzenegger movie where they talk about retaliating for some violent attack with a proportional response. It means that if somebody blows up something of yours, you respond by blowing up something of theirs.
That’s the response part.
The proportional part means you don’t blow up something so relatively small that it doesn’t get the message across, and not something so relatively big it seems like revenge. Tit for tat. Like for like, with a little extra thrown in for good measure. That’s the proportional response.
When BushCo gets attacked, winged, or wounded (usually by those pesky whistleblowers with their bookloads of facts), they too have to respond.
It’s supposed to be proportional; a shot across the bow for the milder cases and a "shock and awe" campaign of orchestrated character assassination for the really dangerous boat-rockers.
We’ve seen BushCo use TPR many times, so let’s call it what it really is - proof positive that BushCo is spreading lots of manure on the truth in the hope that, in its place, something wonderful and convincing will grow.
TPR can even be expressed in the form of a simple principle:
The truth of any given political accusation, allegation, or charge is directly proportional to the ferocity, vehemence, and shrillness of BushCo’s response to it. In other words, the louder they yell, the truer the claim.
Their latest involves the scathing attack on BushCo by Richard Clark, former anti-terror big-wig. Among other unsurprising things, Clarke relates with blistering candor how BushCo was so obsessed with Iraq and Saddam they completely dropped the ball on terror, their disinterest ultimately setting the stage for the preventable 9/11 attacks.
Clarke relates how, for various political reasons, BushCo consistently trivialized the terrorist threat prior to 9/11 and have done little to nothing since to improve national security. In fact, they’ve made us less safe by diverting badly needed military forces to the misguided and failing oil crusade in Iraq.
BushCo immediately began attacking Clarke’s loyalty, sanity, and credibility (as if they have no problems there!), much the same way they trashed Paul O’Neill when the former Treasury Secretary went public about a similar lack of focus inside the Cheney White House. Unlike O’Neill, who was quickly cowed into submission (the bow shot worked), Clarke’s "Bring It On!" attitude has BushCo scrambling to get its stories straight. The more Clarke holds his cards and further details of their criminal incompetence and complicity emerge, the louder BushCo screams. It’s TPR in action.
Fortunately, Clarke has a winning hand (the truth) and a good poker face.
He knows a ‘tell’ when he sees it and he’s not afraid to call BushCo’s hand. For instance, when the GOP started whining about declassifying Clarke’s earlier and allegedly contradictory testimony, rather than fold, Clarke raised the pot, demanding not some, but all, of his previous statements be released, lest there be any misunderstanding.
Clarke’s case shows it’s possible to survive BushCo’s withering personal attacks intact. Hopefully, his courage will inspire others (and believe me, there are others) to come forward and expose BushCo’s illegal criminal activities. And when the inevitable Proportional Response from BushCo comes, we’ll all know from its vigor whether or not the accusations are true.
Allen Snyder is an instructor of Philosophy and Ethics. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. This article is copyright by Allen Snyder but permission is granted for reprint in print, email, blog, or web media so long as this credit is attached.
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