Timing Is Everything

Timing is everything, as the old saying goes. Being the recipient of a fortuitous set of circumstances due to the occurrence of random developments over which one had no influence is the very definition of “lucky.” Landing that plum job, scoring a big investment windfall, meeting a special person because of a confluence of unlikely events -- these are all the result of good timing.

In politics, advantageous timing plays as large a role as it does in any other aspect of life. The really interesting side effect of timing in politics, of course, is that the result has tremendous impact on the entire country.

Let’s look at two such occurrences from the last half-century. Doubtless there are dozens of other examples, but these two exemplify how random coincidental happenings affect not only the few individuals directly involved, but also the lives of millions of people unrelated to the actual incident itself.

Hurricane Sandy and the 2012 Presidential Election

Hurricane Sandy was the ultimate October Surprise: a last-minute random element -- too close to the election to react to effectively -- that proves disastrous to one candidate. Before Sandy, Mitt Romney was leading, narrowly, in the polls. He’d done quite well in the first Presidential Debate, winning it so convincingly over a stunningly lethargic Obama that even the über-liberal “Saturday Night Live” did a sketch lampooning Obama’s catastrophic performance. Romney was confident, and the basic sentiment among the liberal mainstream media was that Romney might very well win.

Then came Sandy, a horrifically destructive storm, especially in the northern Atlantic seaboard. New Jersey was especially hard hit. President Obama paid the obligatory visit to the affected victims’ area for his “I care” media photo-op. Republican NJ Governor Chris Christie welcomed President Obama with open arms -- literally, they were walking arm-in-arm on the beach -- and he spoke glowingly of the president’s efforts at helping NJ’s recovery efforts.

It was a huge public-relations coup for President Obama’s struggling campaign, a shot of adrenaline. With Obama’s new-found positive coverage and a changed narrative, Romney’s campaign lost its momentum and Obama’s surged into the lead, which it never relinquished.

The question, of course, is why would Governor Christie -- already a high-profile Republican on the national stage -- promote President Obama in such a positive light? He had to know that his actions would irreversibly affect the polls that close to the election. It is not at all implausible to think that Christie had designs on the Presidency himself and didn’t want to wait for the eight years of a Romney presidency, knowing the country often switches allegiance after eight years of the same party in the White House. Or perhaps Christie was simply upset that Romney had picked Paul Ryan as his VP running mate instead of him.

If Hurricane Sandy hadn’t hit at that time (late October) and the Christie-Obama hookup never occurred, there is the very real chance that Mitt Romney would have been elected president in November 2012. Much of what Obama did as president would have never occurred. When Obama’s presidency is looked at objectively, these facts become apparent:

  1. Other than the historic demographic occurrence of electing the first offspring of a white-black marriage, there was nothing of particular positive note that was accomplished for the country during Obama’s pedestrian, tiresome eight-year tenure. As a matter of fact, the country declined in almost every area.
  2. We experienced the worst economic growth ever after recovery from a recession in the post-WWII era, not even 2% GDP growth over his eight years. It was referred to as the “new normal.” Businesses lacked the confidence to aggressively expand and hire, because Obama threw new taxes, regulations, and penalties at the business community with reckless, unpredictable abandon as he pursued a Western Europe-styled “socialist democracy” society.
  3. Obama’s feckless foreign policy was marked by his embarrassing Apology Tour early on, where he groveled and made excuses to countries around the world for nonexistent past American transgressions. His lack of bold international leadership was marked by flubs such as the Syria Red Line and memorable phrases like “Leading from Behind.”
  4. Out-of-control federal spending -- to no real, beneficial end -- like the Stimulus and ObamaCare led to unprecedented national debt, more than all previous presidents combined.
  5. He gutted the military, like Jimmy Carter did in the late 1970s. It will take us years to recover.
  6. Obama severely curtailed the exploration, distribution, and production of fossil fuels, as he gave in to the Green lobby in his pursuit of voting support from the environmental faction.
  7. He spearheaded an Iran nuclear deal that was fatally bereft of meaningful inspection mechanisms, allowing Iran far too much leeway in pursuing nuclear and missile technology and essentially “rewarding” them by unfreezing hundreds of billions of dollars in frozen assets. In a very real sense, Obama was paying them to become a nuclear power. Note that this was no treaty -- it was never put forward for Senate approval, because it would never have received it. It was a disingenuous PR stunt, all the way. 
  8. In spite of (or maybe because of) Obama being half black, race relations in the country became arguably worse than at any time since the 1960s. It seemed like Obama was making everything about race and intentionally pitting segments of American society against each other.

But in a stroke of blind luck, Hurricane Sandy intervened at that precise time in history, quite possibly changing the outcome of an American presidential election and affecting the lives of untold millions all around the world.

Ted Kennedy and Chappaquiddick

Has there ever been a luckier recipient of good timing than Ted Kennedy, the Senator from MA? Edward (Ted) Kennedy -- the fourth and youngest son of Joe Kennedy Sr. -- was arguably the most influential player of the entire Kennedy political clan. Although he never made it to the presidency, his impact on American culture, politics, and society was far-reaching and has fundamentally altered this country’s direction in many ways.

On the very same weekend when American astronauts successfully landed on the moon, Ted Kennedy, leaving a campaign party late at night, drove off a narrow bridge on Chappaquiddick Island near Cape Cod MA, plunging into shallow water of Poucha Pond, killing his passenger Mary Jo Kopechne, a young campaign staffer.

The aftermath of the occurrence stands as Kennedy’s lasting contribution to the moral aspect of American politics and culture. After leaving the scene of the accident, he didn’t report anything to the police for several hours. Kennedy tried to get the local MA police report withheld so the NY Times and other major media outlets would focus on the historic first moon landing happening that same weekend, leaving his actions to skirt under the radar of national attention. He then schemed with his advisors to orchestrate a career-saving televised explanation/apology, one that was largely successful. The entire incident stands as concrete proof that Kennedy’s only real concern was professional self-preservation. Kennedy cared only for himself.

Had this not occurred when the world’s attention was transfixed on the moon landing, Kennedy’s actions would have been under the microscope of the media and the American public to a far greater degree than they were. It’s doubtful that his political career would have survived. An America without Ted Kennedy’s influence would be a very different place today. Robert Bork would have been appointed to the Supreme Court in 1987. Any number of liberal causes and bills which Kennedy helped shepherd through over the years would not have made it. This country would be a much different -- and better -- place absent Kennedy’s presence in politics from 1969 onwards.

However, in perhaps the best example of unbelievably fortunate political timing ever, Kennedy picked the moon landing weekend to commit the biggest blunder an elected official could possibly commit. And the country let him get away with it because we were too busy watching something else that coincidentally happened at the same time.

Timing is indeed everything. Barack Obama and Ted Kennedy may be two of the biggest beneficiaries of all time.

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