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Monday, June 25, 2012

Power Plays: Win or Lose--How History's Great Political Leaders Play the Game by Dick Morris

Interesting, even if it is a bit simplified

Published by Harper Perennial in 2003

Dick Morris, Washington insider turned political analyst, knows all about political strategy. He was once an advisor to Bill Clinton and is credited with coming up with Clinton's famed "triangulation" strategy. In this book, Morris identfies six political strategies that can lead to political success. Interestingly, he provides 20 splendid examples of how these strategies have been misplayed and have led to failure.

The six strategies are:

1. "Stand on Principle"
2. "Triangulate"
3. "Divide and Conquer"
4. "Reform your own Party"
5. "Use a new technology"
6. "Mobilizing the Nation in Times of Crisis"

Sometimes, Morris oversells his explanations. For example, he places Lincoln in the "Divide and Conquer" category, since the Democrats split themselves into three parties in the election of 1860 and allowed Lincoln to win the Presidential election. That makes sense, since the Democrats divided and the Republicans conquered. However, Morris makes it sound like Lincoln maneuvered the Democrats into their crisis as part of his master plan that began with comments and questions raised during the Lincoln/Douglas debates in 1858, rather then simply taking advantage of the split. Lincoln was a political genius, but Morris oversimplifies here.

I am a history teacher. I am also a Spanish teacher and Morris quotes George W. Bush speaking Spanish in a campaign speech: "Muchos espanos viver en ese estado". That's not Spanish. That's not even Spanglish. I've heard Bush speak Spanish. It is nothing to brag about, but it is definitely serviceable. It threw the rest of Morris' research into doubt since he had obviously not even bothered to talk to any Spanish speaker to see if his attempt to write down Bush's Spanish words were even correct. Double checking research is always important. By the way, it should have been "Muchos hispanos viven en ese estado."

So, I give this one a 4 stars out of 5. The grade was not really reduced because of the Spanish thing, although it left some nagging doubts and was a major pet peeve.

This book can be found on Amazon.com here: Power Plays.

Reviewed on July 2, 2007.

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