Know when to fold 'em

The Duke of Wellington once defined the best test of a leader.  His idea might be helpful to an organization presently needing a bit of help from a wise old head: the Democratic Party.

The best test of a general, he wrote, was 'to know when to retreat, and to dare to do it.'  He knew what he was talking about, because he executed the most successful retreat in British history, from the battle that he had won in the summer of 1809 at Talavera in central Spain to the Lines of Torres Vedras that he had fortified just outside Lisbon, capital of Portugal, for the winter.

We can understand why the courage 'to dare to do it' is so important.
Anyone who retreats, as the Duke did in the fall of 1809, immediately becomes an object of derision to the chattering classes. There will be intrigues and talk of 'quagmires.'  Newsweek's Conventional Wisdom Watch will show a down arrow.  Even if the retreat is successful, as the Duke's retreat was, the chances are better than even that he will never survive the quagmire talk to advance subsequently to victory.

In the early days of 2005 there must be a number of leading Democrats who know that the time has come for retreat.  After all, in their wilderness years after the New Deal, the Republicans learned how to retreat.  GOP President Eisenhower consolidated the New Deal with the creation of the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare.  President Nixon once declared that we were all Keynesians now.  Now it's the Democrats' turn.  The question is: who will dare to do it?

Ever since 1980 the Democrats have lacked a strategy.  They have had only an Order of the Day: Activists of the Democratic Party!  Hold your position! Concede nothing to the Evil Republicans! To this day, Democrats rail against the Reagan tax cuts, and pretend that the collapse of the Soviet Union was inevitable.  To this day, they remember Reagan as an amiable dunce. Now they are in the absurd position of insisting on no retreat on gay marriage, partial—birth abortion, and Social Security reform.

Sooner or later, just as in World War I, the troops (the remaining office holders) are going to mutiny against the butcher's bill of this mad strategy of endless offensive.

Somebody must order a retreat.  But who could that be?  Who has the authority, the coolness under pressure, and the smarts to know that it is time to retreat?  Above all, who has the courage to dare to do it?

The answer is obvious.  The Democratic savior is the presidential hopeful who's already priced at 34 percent to win the Democratic nomination in 2008.  She enjoys the unquestioned loyalty of the many of the troops no matter what she does or says. Her ability to raise money and then distribute it to other pols gives her tremendous power and locks in many delegate votes at the nominating convention. She's kept her powder dry on the Iraq War.  She can tell the gay mafia to cool it on gay marriage.  She can tell the feminists to retreat to a better defensive line than 'late—term' abortion.  She can cut a deal with President Bush on Social Security reform and still roar back with some sort of universal health insurance plan in the spring of 2008.

Hillary Rodham Clinton will be able to conduct a great retreat in her campaign for 2008 because her supporters will believe that her retreat is merely a tactical feint.  But what will happen if she wins a great victory in November 2008?  Will President Rodham Clinton dare to continue building the Republican ownership society, a governing agenda appropriate for a competent, confident middle class?  Or will her supporters insist on governing America with one—size—fits—all programs as if it were still a nation of helpless victims traumatized by the Great Depression?

The problem for Hillary Rodham Clinton is the same as the one that Bill Clinton had and that Tony Blair has in England. The educated elite that comprises her most vocal and committed support base really believes in its political program — that what's good for the elite is good for the nation: the war on the family, the emasculation of men, the professionalization of women, 'peace and justice,' no more war, and all the politicized science of environmentalism, global warming, AIDS, and rent—an—expert social science.  Twenty—five years of defeat and humiliation by amiable dunces and stupid morons have not yet convinced them that they have a problem. Confident they can win with one more Big Push, these World War I generals are not ready for retreat. When Bill Clinton retreated on welfare, he had to pretend that the Republicans made him do it.

We know that the Democrats need to retreat.  But will the future Presidential candidate Rodham Clinton dare to do it?

Don't bother asking her that now.  Why worry about tomorrow, eh, Scarlett?  'After all, tomorrow is another day.'

Christopher Chantrill (mailto://chrischantrill@msn.com) blogs at www.roadtothemiddleclass.com.  His book, Road to the Middle Class is forthcoming.

The Duke of Wellington once defined the best test of a leader.  His idea might be helpful to an organization presently needing a bit of help from a wise old head: the Democratic Party.

The best test of a general, he wrote, was 'to know when to retreat, and to dare to do it.'  He knew what he was talking about, because he executed the most successful retreat in British history, from the battle that he had won in the summer of 1809 at Talavera in central Spain to the Lines of Torres Vedras that he had fortified just outside Lisbon, capital of Portugal, for the winter.

We can understand why the courage 'to dare to do it' is so important.
Anyone who retreats, as the Duke did in the fall of 1809, immediately becomes an object of derision to the chattering classes. There will be intrigues and talk of 'quagmires.'  Newsweek's Conventional Wisdom Watch will show a down arrow.  Even if the retreat is successful, as the Duke's retreat was, the chances are better than even that he will never survive the quagmire talk to advance subsequently to victory.

In the early days of 2005 there must be a number of leading Democrats who know that the time has come for retreat.  After all, in their wilderness years after the New Deal, the Republicans learned how to retreat.  GOP President Eisenhower consolidated the New Deal with the creation of the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare.  President Nixon once declared that we were all Keynesians now.  Now it's the Democrats' turn.  The question is: who will dare to do it?

Ever since 1980 the Democrats have lacked a strategy.  They have had only an Order of the Day: Activists of the Democratic Party!  Hold your position! Concede nothing to the Evil Republicans! To this day, Democrats rail against the Reagan tax cuts, and pretend that the collapse of the Soviet Union was inevitable.  To this day, they remember Reagan as an amiable dunce. Now they are in the absurd position of insisting on no retreat on gay marriage, partial—birth abortion, and Social Security reform.

Sooner or later, just as in World War I, the troops (the remaining office holders) are going to mutiny against the butcher's bill of this mad strategy of endless offensive.

Somebody must order a retreat.  But who could that be?  Who has the authority, the coolness under pressure, and the smarts to know that it is time to retreat?  Above all, who has the courage to dare to do it?

The answer is obvious.  The Democratic savior is the presidential hopeful who's already priced at 34 percent to win the Democratic nomination in 2008.  She enjoys the unquestioned loyalty of the many of the troops no matter what she does or says. Her ability to raise money and then distribute it to other pols gives her tremendous power and locks in many delegate votes at the nominating convention. She's kept her powder dry on the Iraq War.  She can tell the gay mafia to cool it on gay marriage.  She can tell the feminists to retreat to a better defensive line than 'late—term' abortion.  She can cut a deal with President Bush on Social Security reform and still roar back with some sort of universal health insurance plan in the spring of 2008.

Hillary Rodham Clinton will be able to conduct a great retreat in her campaign for 2008 because her supporters will believe that her retreat is merely a tactical feint.  But what will happen if she wins a great victory in November 2008?  Will President Rodham Clinton dare to continue building the Republican ownership society, a governing agenda appropriate for a competent, confident middle class?  Or will her supporters insist on governing America with one—size—fits—all programs as if it were still a nation of helpless victims traumatized by the Great Depression?

The problem for Hillary Rodham Clinton is the same as the one that Bill Clinton had and that Tony Blair has in England. The educated elite that comprises her most vocal and committed support base really believes in its political program — that what's good for the elite is good for the nation: the war on the family, the emasculation of men, the professionalization of women, 'peace and justice,' no more war, and all the politicized science of environmentalism, global warming, AIDS, and rent—an—expert social science.  Twenty—five years of defeat and humiliation by amiable dunces and stupid morons have not yet convinced them that they have a problem. Confident they can win with one more Big Push, these World War I generals are not ready for retreat. When Bill Clinton retreated on welfare, he had to pretend that the Republicans made him do it.

We know that the Democrats need to retreat.  But will the future Presidential candidate Rodham Clinton dare to do it?

Don't bother asking her that now.  Why worry about tomorrow, eh, Scarlett?  'After all, tomorrow is another day.'

Christopher Chantrill (mailto://chrischantrill@msn.com) blogs at www.roadtothemiddleclass.com.  His book, Road to the Middle Class is forthcoming.