THE BLOG
05/31/2013 09:53 am ET | Updated Jul 31, 2013

The Plays of the Hunted Politico

Whether it's the missteps of Benghazi, the IRS' profiling of Tea Party folks or the DOJ's end-run on reporters, there is a pattern to the plays of the crisis-ridden playmaker. Think Nixon on Watergate, Reagan on Iran-Contra, Clinton on Lewinsky or, lately, Obama and his deputies on You-Name-It.

As seen in The Standard Table of Influence, there are plays among the back-peddling set that are freely run to slow or stop the packs that are giving chase.

It starts with the revelation of a crisis -- like a murdered ambassador, a profiled Tea Partier, a spied-upon FOX reporter -- that invites these plays, typically run in sequence as the crisis evolves and often escalates:

THE PAUSE. The implicated party takes a beat to catch its breath, examine its options and generally buy time. Emails and phone calls go unanswered. It's a slow walk, D.C.-style.

THE DEFLECT. Once the Pause's parking meter ticks to zero, the player resorts to vague references and excuses, none of which address the crisis. None of which satisfy the inquisitors: I have only time for one other question... That's something I'll take under advisement... But it serves to buy time, just like the preceding Pause.

THE RED HERRING. That the embattled politician won't play ball, draws media dogs closer. Hard on its scent, the playmaker now tosses the decoy to confuse the mob. It came in the form of Moore, Okla., where last week the president hustled to view tornado wreckage. He changed the venue and focus onto something that, for him, was more positive.

THE FILTER. Cornered, the playmaker finally offers its version of the matter-at-hand. By way of the Filter play, it edits and omits to frame the story and circumstances to its advantage. Benghazi has been a clinic for sorting out what was known, when and by whom.

THE RECAST. When the filter fails, there's the Recast, the play that reorders and re-frames how the storyline should go. AG Eric Holder is running this play as he meets with news organizations to polish up the reporter shields his leak investigations have lately dented.

THE DISCO. Exhausted of its options, the playmaker (and usually its lawyers) succumb to the dreaded Disco. It's the play they should have run from the start -- to concede a mistake, beg forgiveness, and to move on. But that's seldom in the lexicon of the CEOs, politicos and celebrities whose stakes are high, whose brands are valuable, and whose fall from grace can be devastating. No Discos yet on the Benghazi, IRS or DOJ events. But with so few plays left to run, watch for them, and soon.

Whether it's journalists, lawmakers or jurists who're hunting for answers, players who have something to hide are seldom as clever as their egos are large. When politicos stall, dodge, edit, reorder and redirect, the chase is on and, usually, the outcome is bloody.