One of the basic tenets of being a US Marine is that regardless of what job you do out in the Fleet Marine Force, you first train as a rifleman.
Every Marine, man and woman, learns to shoot, and learns basic infantry tactics.
In the world of politics there are many things said about Democratic strategist and attack dog James Carville. Some call him the Ragin' Cajun, others the Mouth from the South.
They do this because Carville is tough, opinionated, fearless, relentless, and above all, successful. He has brought candidates back from as far as 40 points out.
But what people rarely say when they talk about James Carville is that he spent two years in the US Marines. Not a long hitch as time in goes, but enough to go through boot camp, learn infantry skills and spend a respectable period in Marine world.
At midday Tuesday the word suddenly spread among political commentators that Carville was coming to help Hillary Clinton. Carville also was said to be denying this, although Clinton's campaign manger certainly left that door wide open when he was interviewed by Chris Wallace on Fox News late Tuesday afternoon.
But later Tuesday, when it was apparent that Hillary Clinton was not going to be trounced by Obama, as virtually every pollster had said, Carville's denial was stronger and more emphatic. If he is not going to help the Clinton campaign, Barack Obama will live (politically speaking) to fight another day.
Because if Carville remembers his basic infantry skills, and a review of his history as a strategist indicates he does, he knows something that most other strategists can only hint at – how to plan and lay out an ambush, but most importantly, when to spring it.
Any reasonably intelligent human can be taught the basics of preparing an ambush. But the real skill is knowing how and when to wreak havoc on the opposing force.
Spring the ambush too soon and it is turned back on the ambushers. Spring it too late, and all you get is a few tail-end Charlies while the main force regroups and comes back after you.
Knowing when to spring the ambush, what weapons to employ, and which version of ambush to use is as much an art as a skill, and in the world of Democratic politics the only adviser out there with the knowledge to put it all together is Carville. Woe be to the campaign that ignores this capability or discounts it.
Hillary Clinton is fighting for her political life and in many ways in her campaign is disoriented, otherwise she wouldn't be bringing in new people, and she sure wouldn't be seeking help from Carville.
But Carville bowed out of domestic politics years ago, stating that he had become too much of a distraction and thus would work in the international arena. A glance at his website shows that he is is as well known internationally as domestically.
Hillary Clinton is, at the moment, in the political race of her life. It pushed her to the brink of tears on Monday, real or imagined, depending on which version you believe. She either had an emotional moment or a contrived and planned tearfest that immediately was used to show her "softer side."
But she successfully diverted attention to her femininity instead of to a perceived weakness. She was fortunate, or skilled, since even the hint that he was on the verge of tears was the death knell for Edmund Muskie in New Hampshire a generation ago.
I guess it's OK for a woman to cry on the way to the presidency of the United States, but not a man. Frankly, I think Vladimir Putin is licking his chops and hoping she wins. That guy will eat Obama for breakfast and Clinton for lunch.
On the homefront, this certainly has been a dramatic two weeks in political circles with both the Iowa caucus and New Hampshire primary defying the polls, but now it is time to get down and dirty. There are primaries in South Carolina and Michigan and Nevada and then there is Super Tuesday, February 5, when the American political terrain will erupt.
For all the talk about the importance of New Hampshire and Iowa, they still don't provide many delegates in the overall scheme of things, which is what matters when convention day arrives.
Early Tuesday virtually every pundit and commentator was writing Hillary Clinton's campaign off as done and gone. But then the word came out about Carville, even as he reportedly denied it.
As the polls closed and the votes started coming in Tuesday night Clinton was not being lambasted by Obama as predicted. By the end of the night, Hillary had pulled it out and Barack was giving a concession speech.
Maybe the pundits and pollsters were wrong all along, or maybe just the hint of Carville entering the fray was enough to sway some last minute undecided voters.
Whatever the truth, there is only one sure bet about Super Tuesday. Hillary Clinton will definitely be factor, and she can allow herself a sigh of relief.
Barack Obama may have lost but he still is formidable. And if Carville is not going to join the other side, Barack can also breathe a sigh of relief that he will go on to fight another day without learning the real meaning of fear.
Tuesday, January 08, 2008