Notes from an evening in Houston…

While visiting with Houston’s Judge Paul Pressler a few years ago, I had the opportunity to peruse his library. A book edited by perennial presidential contender and Council for National Policy patron, Howard Phillips, entitled, The New Right at Harvard, occupied my time for the better part of an hour. A few months later, I met Howard Phillips in San Antonio, TX, and asked him for a copy of the book, which he graciously mailed to me shortly thereafter.

In the book’s appendices there is a section on political strategy for the Reagan administration, complete with talking points for conveying to the public certain perceptions about the president, his adversaries, and the state of national security and morality in America. That evening at Pressler’s home, I wrote down the sixteen “principles of strategy” that Phillips suggested to his conservative cobelligerants. Today, in my office, I found those notes and decided to post them.

Readers will immediately notice many similarities, and a few differences, between the Conservative Caucus’ strategies and those of the Patterson-Pressler coalition.

1. The winners tend to be those who attack, not those who defend.
2. Determining the terrain on which the battle shall be waged can presage the outcome.
3. Changing the subject is very often more effective than winning an argument, especially when most voters pay more attention to the accusations than the explanations.
4. It is not the passive millions or the temporary majority that shape events, but the militant few.
5. The most influential combatants are those motivated not by lust for power, prestige, publicity, patronage, or parties, but those who seek the victory of principle, driven by a deep-seated yearning for justice and moral satisfaction.
6. Victory — achievement of ultimate objectives — must be the goal. Any strategy which concedes the inevitability of the adversary’s result concept is a plan for defeat. Losing as slowly as possible is not good enough. We need a fundamental change of direction, not a mere change of degree.
7. A leader will seldom get more than he asks for.
8. Hostile elites whose power is entrenched in the media, banking, big business, bureaucracy, legal, cultural, and academic circles cannot be permanently appeased. If they are not opposed, it is they, rather than you, who shall set the agenda for public debate, defining the nature of civic virtue and right action.
9. Personnel decisions fundamentally affect the character and course of any administration. When choosing between credentials and experience, on the one hand, and values, on the other, always choose values for positions which have a policy setting or policy influencing character. Credentials and experience can be hired.
10. Especially when a coincidence of promise and aspiration is lacking, a specifically delineated vision of desired results must be set forth.
11. Bad decisions, permitted to stand uncorrected, will produce ever more destructive results.
12. Play your game, not your adversary’s game. Don’t respond to your in-box. Make the world respond to your initiatives.
13. Mobilize your assets. Get off the defensive. Attack, Attack, Attack!!!
14. When one chooses the correct enemies, he acquires the right friends.
15. The president, by use of a veto strategy, can control budget decisions with the support of 34 senators or 145 representatives — provided that he is prepared to challenge the congress by vetoing continuing resolutions.
16. Special interests will complain as loudly for the elimination of 50% of their subsidies as for 100% of them. But if you cut 100%, their complaints will eventually grow too faint to hear.

3 thoughts on “Notes from an evening in Houston…

  1. Gracious! Did Pastor Ben misspell five words?! :)

    I like #12 – “Don’t respond to your in-box. Make the world respond to your initiatives.” Wish I could figure out how to do that. I think it would definitely change my approach to the world.

    I can definitely see how #4 applies to past and current SBC situations.

  2. DH:

    Your pastor is seldom wrong, but he isn’t infallible. Consider this an application of principle number eleven. And you, in particular, should note your pastor’s firm adherence to and application of number twelve.


  3. I have no idea what you just said, but am still compelled to salute and say “Yes, Sir!” Maybe that should be #17 on the list. :)

    Good post though. I’m thinking of using #13 when going into my next job review.

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