Author, Lecturer, Ethicist

Never Interrupt Your Enemy When He is Making a Mistake


After pretty much staying the hell away from politics the past two weeks due to being consumed with the rabbinic side of life, I find that things are pretty much the same . . . and a whole lot worse. But I thank the good Lord for being able to spend at least a couple of days away from the cares, woes and Inanities of partisan politics. And so, having confessed to more sins and transgressions than I thought possible, I’m ready to reengage in the hurly-burly of political insanity. I began the following essay 24 hours before the onset of the Jewish festival holiday called Succot. . . .

When one stops and thinks about it, there are just about as many definitions for politics as there are political practitioners. One of my favorites belongs to Groucho Marx - as written by Morrie Ryskind:

Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it everywhere, diagnosing it incorrectly and applying the wrong remedies.”

Then too, there is the very quotable H.L. Mencken, who famously noted:

"Under democracy, one party always devotes its chief energies to trying to prove that the other party is unfit to rule -- and both commonly succeed, and are right.

And of course, who can ever forget the eminently quotable (and wondrously literate) Winston Churchill:

“A politician needs the ability to foretell what is going to happen tomorrow, next week, next month, and next year. And have the ability, afterwords , to explain why it didn’t happen.”

Over the years, politics has been likened with many diverse sports and gaming metaphors: Texas Hold ‘em Poker, Mixed Martial Arts, and my favorite, Chess. To my way of thinking, Chess works best for it is a game - or art form - which requires one to be constantly looking five to ten moves ahead, with the goal of deciding whether to defeat the opponent’s strategy or forcing the opponent to play and trying and attempting to defeat yours. I rather prefer the former; this is the strategy attributed to Napoleon (that’s him on the upper left), who brilliantly observed: “Never interrupt your enemy when he is making a mistake. “

This “politics as chess” strategy has been on display for the American public seemingly ever since March 23, 2010, that historic and fateful day when the United States Senate passed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (aka the ACA or “Obamacare”) by a party-line vote of 60-39. From the day of its passage - and even further back to the days when it was first proposed by then First Lady Hillary Clinton - Obamacare has been labeled “Socialistic - a proposed takeover of American healthcare.” And despite more than 60 Republican attempts to vote it out of existence, Obamacare has remained the law of the land until this very day.

But that is likely to change. There is now a chance that one of newly reconstituted Trumpist federal Appeals Courts will soon invalidate all or part of the ACA in the coming weeks. And amazingly, in response to this tragedy, the White House may well try to delay a potential Supreme Court hearing on the matter until after the 2020 election. Talk about Chess!

Senior administration officials say they have some ideas for replacing parts of the 2010 health-care law, “principles” crafted in part by Centers for Medicare and Medicaid administrator Seema Verma. However, replacing key benefits — such as guaranteed coverage for people with preexisting conditions and permitting young adults to remain on their parents’ health plans until age 26 — would require the cooperation of Democratic congressional leaders, who have vowed to defend the law as a totality and have no interest in a piecemeal replacement plan likely to fall far short of preserving health coverage for about 20 million Americans.

The administration’s plan to seek a stay of any court ruling that undermines the law reflects the political disadvantages of its decision to side with GOP-led states seeking to topple the ACA. Even as the Justice Department urges the courts to invalidate the entire ACA, administration officials are promising voters that there will be no immediate impact on their coverage. Why? Because were said legal upending to become reality, ‘45 and his campaign would then have to reveal to voters from Maine to California precisely what their replacement is going to be. Remember, Boss Tweet has endlessly promised the American public that he can produce a far better healthcare plan than Obamacare.

Poll after poll after poll demonstrates that healthcare is at - or near - the very top of voters’ concerns heading into the 2020 election. If the Democrats can finally wrap their collective heads around this fact and keep their collective eyes on the Republican’s political chess game, they stand a strong chance of reaching “check mate” in both the presidential and Congressional elections. For as sure as God made little green apples, their strategy is going to rely far more on reliving and relitigating the 2016 election - plus slinging mega-gallons of mud, slime and flügel scheiss - than anything positive. Of a certainty, there will plenty of “running against Trump.” It only makes sense. However, a word to Democratic strategists: spend more time, effort and energy articulating plans and policies for the future than attacking either the past or the present. Knowing that ‘45 is going to use the same negative, hit-below-the-belt strategy in 2020 that he has used since the day he first entered politics, why not use it against him? Let him and his foul-mouth associates run against the so-called “far-left” and continue calling Schiff, Nadler, Pelosi and “the Squad” vile childish names; let him continue using fear as the intrinsic gear of his corrosive political machine.

Above all, let Trump be Trump . . . all the while being guided by Bonaparte’s political wisdom . . . to never interrupt one’s enemy when he is making a mistake.

That’s one great recipe for political success.

392 days until the election.

Copyright©2019 Kurt F. Stone