Politics is a breeding ground for martial metaphors, starting with the word "campaign" itself. Politicians "under fire" "take flak" as their consultants sit in "war rooms" and launch ad "blitzes" in "targeted districts" and "battleground states" to put their clients "over the top" -- with the help of their "troops" in the field. When that doesn't work, the generals sometimes resort to some dreaded "nuclear option." Even if it succeeds, the pundits often declare it a "Pyrrhic victory."
Most of us don't even realize we're using bellicose language. For instance, I'd guess most people think "over the top" is a term from football, not a reference to WWI trench warfare.
Still, there's a reason politics lends itself to such language. Watching Sens. Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio emerge from the pack after last week's CNBC debate, I was reminded of my favorite character from Tolstoy's "War and Peace."
"The strongest of all warriors," Field Marshal Kutuzov explains, "are these two: Time and Patience."
With Napoleon's army advancing, Kutuzov wisely wanted to wait for reinforcements before engaging in battle. When Russian generals demanded that Kutuzov attack Napoleon at his strongest, the field marshal replied, "Dans le doute, abstiens-toi." ("When in doubt, do nothing.")
Strategic patience is a difficult and valuable quality in an era of ever-shrinking news cycles and 24/7 social media carping. The temptation to react instantly to every controversy is hard to resist. So far, Cruz and Rubio have been the Kutuzovs of the race, while Jeb Bush and Donald Trump look an awful lot like the Napoleons.
Consider some of the candidates who've already dropped out. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker was undone because he was ill-prepared to be the front-runner. Texas Gov. Rick Perry, whose impatience led to self-immolation in 2012, was well equipped on the issues this time. But he fatally attacked Trump when the Napoleonic mogul was at his strongest.
Meanwhile, Cruz hung back, refusing to criticize Trump even though Trump was siphoning off many of the senator's supporters and stealing Cruz's populist thunder. A brilliant, classically trained debater, Cruz barely registered in the first two debates. That was a choice. He was biding his time.Read the rest of this Jonah Goldberg op-ed HERE.
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