Thursday, July 12, 2012

When Hindsight Isn't 20/20

Politico came out with an article yesterday and I'm kinda annoyed about the writer's specious claim. The writer refers to Solicitor General Donald Verrilli's arguments in front of the Supreme Court as his victories, but they were anything but.

Read Sun Tzu. Art of War. Every battle is won before it is ever fought. Oral and legal arguments brought forth before the Supreme Court in high profile cases never sway the Justices. Their jurisprudence, ideology, and morality will guide their decisions. Saying that the Solicitor General's arguments swayed the Supreme Court is like saying that whoever argued Dred Scott v. Sandford swayed Taney and the other Justices to vote against the black guy.

This kind of media coverage really has me wondering how much perceptions, regardless of their accuracy, drive a narrative. The saying "victory has a thousand fathers" really stands out. Because whenever something good happens, everybody wants a share of the credit, deserved or not.

I'm sure Trent Dilfer would suggest that he was integral to Baltimore's Super Bowl run in the 2000-2001 season but deep down in places he doesn't talk about at parties, he knows it was just their incredible defense that carried them to the championship.

The point is, people always want more than they're entitled to. And if they can claim credit, then why not? The problem is whenever you talk about some great victory, it gets harder and harder to sort out who really mattered and what really counted.

Everybody regards Bill Clinton as a brilliant politician, but a lot of people ignore Ross Perot's independent Presidential campaign. If it weren't for one pissed off billionaire splitting the hardcore conservative vote in '92, Clinton would not have been elected President, and we might well be talking about a Republican Presidential dynasty from 1988-2004 instead of how a philanderer from Arkansas was able to confound the Gingrich-led Republicans in the 90s.

We can't rerun 1992 again. It's impossible. The infuriating thing about current affairs is that it isn't a science. You can't test and retest, consider new information and run it in a simulated test setting. And sometimes little things, things that people never would have considered at the time, can be enough to tip the outcome to the other side.

Consider the line from Al Pacino's speech in Any Given Sunday: "You find out life is a game of inches. So is football. Because in either game, life or football, the margin of error is so small. I mean, one half step too late or too early and you don't quite make it. One half second too slow or too fast and you don't quite catch it. The inches we need are everywhere around us."

Whenever somebody goes through a big defeat, they keep replaying the moment in their head. They start burying their heads in a bunch of what-ifs and if-onlys. If only I hadn't screwed up in that debate (Rick Perry), what if I didn't do that stupid tank photo-op (Michael Dukakis), why did I/my husband talk about high black turnout in South Carolina (Bill and Hillary Clinton)?

The victorious usually walk away with a distorted view of how they achieved their victory, more often than not attributing their success to their hard work and prodigious skill. Luck very rarely enters their mind. And in the world of electoral politics, as in boxing, the defeated are quickly forgotten and most likely doomed to obscurity, and we'll never really know why. We can only guess.

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