You run plays. Plays are run on you. Here are three as explained by The Standard Table of Influence.
WEATHER REPORT. If Larry Summers, former White House economic adviser and president of Harvard University, gets President Obama's nod as the next Fed Chief, he'll have gotten there by way of the play we call the Trial Balloon. This is the testing play of politicos, pollsters and the generally unsure. And, most important, it's the strategy that offers the player an escape, a back door through which to back out. Unique among 23 other plays in politics, Trial Balloons are designed to invite, not avert, feedback and counter plays. They offer a target for opponents to shoot, like this statement from Shaunna Thomas, co-founder of the feminist group UltraViolet on the consideration of Summers: "Women will not soon forget...a man who believes women are somehow inherently less capable than men." If Obama was wondering about the memory of his constituents, he's getting his answer. His well-lofted barometer is measuring the political climate and consequences of Summers' installation at The Fed.
DANGEROUS DISCO. Notorious Twitterer Carlos Danger (aka, NYC mayoral candidate Anthony Weiner) thought he was running a Disco -- the play-of-choice for embattled southern cooks (Paula Deen) and fellow New York politicos (Elliott Spitzer) -- when yesterday he stood with his D.C. insider spouse, Huma Abedin, and fessed up to more naughty tweets. Disco's are the play of debate champions who throw one part of their argument under the bus to salvage the rest. Yes, I did these things... now let's move on, was his attempted talking point. But by putting his wife, a close adviser to Hillary Clinton, at the microphones, Weiner was in fact trying to divert, not disco, his way around an awkward moment. Abedin was a surrogate, perhaps unwitting, to the former congressman's attempt to make the lurid facts more about his wife because, by way of her HRC association, his sexting of online companions could be placed with Bill Clinton's off-line dalliances. The principle play was a Red Herring, all to swing a bad story in another direction. It may have worked, but likely to the chagrin of his loyal wife and her loyal POTUS candidate-in-waiting. They'll consider hard counters as Red Herring victims are inclined to do.
A MOMENT, NOT A MOVEMENT. When President Obama called last week for a time of reflection on the controversial Trayvon Martin murder trial "not guilty" verdict, he was running a Ping, a testing play to encourage us to think hard about what we'd just witnessed. But one play is often insufficient, and Obama surprised everyone with an impromptu visit to The White House press briefing room to run a few more. This time, his plays were more emphatic -- Call Outs and Screens on profiling that declared, rather than suggested, that black youth are targeted every day. It was Professor POTUS at the lectern, teaching but never quite fomenting. If only he'd go a few steps further, but that is not Obama's style or strategy. As quickly as he took up the cause of Trayvon Martin he was boarding a jet for the Midwest and five days of middle-class recovery speeches. Too bad. It was a moment that could have become his movement.
For more on this post listen to Alan Kelly on SiriusXM POTUS 07-24-13