To Be or Not To Be (negative)…That is the Question
As you may know, I ran for U.S. Congress in the 2012 election cycle. Does that make me an expert on political campaigns? Well, not really… I did go to training before I ran, and had always followed politics closely. Although that really helped me become educated on the strategy and management of a campaign, it did not make me an expert on this question.
Should a campaign go negative?
Who is the best judge of that? You are! The American Citizens who can (legally) vote are the best judges of what makes a good campaign.
Because the electorate is the best judge of good and bad campaigns, and because the (legal) electorate is comprised of American Citizens, then the answer to that question changes with the times. As anyone with a television, smart phone, or any other media knows, the views of the American society are constantly changing…and have really been changing at warp speed since the mid ‘60’s (and yes, I just made a layered nerd reference).
Although I don’t normally talk about specific campaigns or candidates, I will here, just to illustrate a couple of points. This does NOT constitute an endorsement for any candidate or party, but is merely a discussion of the particular tactics or issues affecting a campaign for illustrational purposes.
Don’t think that a political campaign is just the candidate…s/he may be the star of the show, but there is an entire team that makes up the campaign. Generally there is a campaign manager (and maybe a deputy or two), communications director (media, messaging), finance director, political director, other senior staff positions and consultants, as well as an army of general campaign staff and volunteers.
The decisions on how the campaign is run has a lot of input from a lot of folks…although the candidate can override anything at any time, and is ultimately responsible for their campaign.
The strategy of the campaign has several of these folks in what is generally known as the “Kitchen Cabinet”. That doesn’t mean a cabinet on the wall…it comes from the fact that most campaigns start as an idea that the candidate shares with some of their closest friends and advisors, many times around a kitchen table at the beginning. These advisors are much like the Cabinet that a President has, so they’re called the Kitchen Cabinet – which I’ll call the KC here. Typically the candidate, campaign manager, finance director, communications director, and political director are in that group, although some of them may not be, and other folks may be…it’s pretty much up to the candidate.
Most of the strategy of the campaign will come from 1) the candidate – their views, positions, personality, etc.; and 2) the KC. All the critical parts of the strategy depend on the funding (Finance Director), political outlook and positions (Political Director), how the messages are put together and put out to the media and other outlets (Communications Director), and how the actual campaign is run (Campaign Manager).
Another big issue with campaigns is the opposition. There will be opposition within the respective party (in the Primaries), and with the opposing party or parties (throughout the full campaign, but with a major focus in the General election). A maxim in opposition planning is to define yourself before the other candidate(s) have a chance to, and to try to define the other candidate(s) before they are able to define themselves and their message / policies.
You’ve seen that in the current Presidential campaign, over and over. Donald Trump poking fun at or talking about his opponents (Jeb Bush – boring; Rick Perry – needs new glasses, a failure on the border; etc.). These may or may not be true, but they’re out there, so those who are on the receiving end of those comments are forced to try to defend themselves and their record. What is the goal here? To make your opponents go on the defensive and play catch-up while you move ahead with additional statements, and appear to be the one in control. These are examples of personal “attacks”, which are usually effective, but have a potential of backfiring and making the attacker look mean and petty. I personally do not like this particular tactic, and believe that it brings the entire discussion down from the conference table into the mud. However, a many people enjoy this type of exchange (lots of folks watch Jerry Springer and other “reality” shows).
Another tactic is to find chinks in the armor of the opposition, and exploit those. Anyone who has seen any news knows that Hillary Clinton is under fire for using her personal email server and account for government purposes, for not being forthcoming on the events during the attack on the American Embassy in Benghazi while she was Secretary of State, and a few other issues. Her opponents in both the opposing party, as well as her own party have seized on those issues, and continue to hammer at them at every chance. This tactic can make the candidate who is raising the issue(s) seem to be outraged (great tactic), and looking out for the constituents; and can make the candidate who is under fire for their generally self-caused faults seem to be disingenuous at best, and untruthful or criminal at worst. If the issues raised are genuine, then I don’t have a problem with this tactic. Candidates should be forthright, and transparent. They are putting themselves out there to represent the constituents, and those constituents have the right to know if their representative is honest, and that they will faithfully represent them. Depending on how heated these exchanges get, they can draw a large following.
One of the best tactics is to talk about policies. Candidates can talk about what the other person is not doing or is doing wrong, or if they are really good, they can talk about what they would do differently – especially if they describe their policies in detail. This is the highest form of political debate, but for a large portion of the current audience, this is boring. Generally those who are close followers of or who are involved with politics will really enjoy these debates, but the general viewer is not necessarily as familiar with all the technicalities of the policies, and the personalities (and even the looks) of the candidates have more meaning for most folks.
So should campaigns and candidates go negative? I don’t know. What is negative by the standards of today’s society, and what do audiences enjoy most today? I’ll admit, I’m old fashioned, and enjoy a good, clean, respectful policy based discussion of facts…but then I’m just one guy… The elections will tell what the majority thinks.
The Triple Entendre
Most of you who follow my posts, or who follow me on one of my social networks know that:
During my service I sustained the normal wear-and-tear injuries (knees, ankles, etc. from parachuting; hearing from gunfire, explosions, helicopters; and more…), but I also sustained some significant damage when I was wounded (blown up), to include TBI (traumatic brain injury), lungs (burned), heart, eyes, inner ear (affecting balance), spinal injuries, etc. In addition, because of the repeated involvement in combat situations in multiple wars/conflicts, the effects over the years (cumulative and untreated) resulted in fairly significant PTS(d).
When I started going through a bad time in 2013/2014, I decided to do something about it, so I contacted K9s For Warriors and applied for the program. It was a very involved process, because they check and verify your medical records, military records, financials, home situation, and more, to decide if you are in fact a Veteran that qualifies under the program, have the issues you say you have, that a service dog would be a good fit, and that you can provide a loving, safe and appropriate home for the dog – who is almost certainly going to be a rescue dog (95%).
After all that, they have you come down to their facility for a three-week intensive live-in training program with your new partner (K9), who has already been through 6-8 months of basic training, as well as up to 3 months of specific training focusing on your particular issues… And the intensive training continues for the first full month after you return home!
Man – and I thought boot camp was rough! (well…actually it was…).
Now here’s the rub. There are additional costs – different for each K9 / Warrior team. For me, it was significant, mainly because of the serious asthma I suffer from as a result of the burned lungs, as well as additional complications from the heart injuries that compound the effects. It turns out that dog dander (and dust) is a big trigger for asthma – and Labradors have skin and dander issues…
Bringing Freedom home was killing me (mostly figuratively). I couldn’t breathe. I was having serious asthma attacks, and ended up in urgent / emergency room care numerous times – coughing my lungs out (I have cough-variant asthma), and having significant trouble breathing. Any activity other than sitting in my recliner with a nebulizer on my face was out of the question.
We tackled that issue with numerous solutions:
And after months of working on this, I still have asthma attacks – just not as serious (usually…), and not as frequently.
This is not the only cost. As anyone with a Service Dog can tell you, there are daily assaults on your privacy – people just can’t leave you alone when you have a dog. Some have good intentions, some are just ignorant, and some are downright hostile and angry. A good friend of mine (William “Rick” Smith) wrote a great guest post about K9 Protocol – what do you do when dealing with a K9 / Handler team.
A big one, at least for me, is the notoriety and stigma of having a dog with you everywhere you go. Everyone looks at you (actually, the dog), and many folks, even some of your closest friends and family will never understand – they may be embarrassed to be with you, may think you have the dog for attention or as a crutch, or that people will think you are mentally weak or unbalanced.
All told, it is a heavy price to pay to have Freedom here with me. Is it all worth it? Absolutely. I can’t imagine him not being here with me.
So…let’s tally up the cost of Freedom!
America’s Military serving to preserve your (our) “Freedom”: Many servicemembers injured, physically, emotionally and/or spiritually, by the effects of their service to this great nation. Many others killed or who have died (immediately or over a long period of time) as a result of their service to keep our Country strong and free.
The financial cost – over $20,000 – to train “Freedom” (and me), as well as the hundreds or even thousands of dollars I’ve personally spent (and will spend) in costs to keep him, to compensate for the disabilities I have due to my military service, in peacetime and in war. Additionally, the emotional cost – the stigma and additional strain caused by attitudes towards what some believe to be just “vets with pets” – which are in fact life-saving service dogs (see Rick’s post).
And the actual cost of my dog “Freedom”, and what he brings to my life? Priceless…
After B.R.A.S.S. – The Next Steps
I talked about the basics of shooting – B.R.A.S.S. (Breathe, Relax, Aim, Slack, Squeeze), and how they related to life and success in my last post. Now it’s time to move on from the basics to some of the graduate lessons of Sniper techniques and experiences, and how these directly apply to your success in life, relationships and business.
If you’ve seen movies about snipers, read books, etc., you may already have a pre-conceived notion about snipers. They’re not just the Hollywood version of good rifle marksmen. In fact, the most successful snipers are “master chess players” (both in big-focus strategy, and in immediate-focus tactics). This isn’t by chance…
The Marine Corps has had sniper schools, off and on, since the day of our founding, November 10th, 1775, when a “corps of Marines” was established. It was founded to, among other missions, provide sharpshooters to climb up in a ship’s riggings, and shoot down on the enemy when ships were being boarded during battles at sea.
In early 1973, with the Vietnam War coming to a close, Marine sniper (or Scout Sniper) schools were not as formalized as they are now – not counting the school in Quantico established by GySgt. Carlos Hathcock, a legendary Marine sniper. I wasn’t fortunate enough to attend that school, but I went through some great training with 1st Marine Division in Camp Pendleton. Even though the curriculum was not like today’s, the lessons taught were the same.
Knowledge: Knowledge of your equipment and weapon(s) – their limitations and capabilities. Knowledge of yourself – your stamina, willpower, abilities. Knowledge of the mission – what you are expected to or intend to achieve. Knowledge of the conditions – terrain, weather, friendly and/or enemy units, and anything else that can help or hinder your mission. Knowledge of human reactions – what will the enemy be doing to counter you, what is their most likely reaction if you are successful in taking the shot, are there habits or actions you can take advantage of, etc. Knowledge of the strategy behind your assignment, and the tactics you intend to employ to achieve the assignment. We spent a good part of the entire school going over these – learning how to learn, and really getting to know your weapons, capabilities, planning, etc. If you couldn’t get this, you didn’t stay in the school very long – this is critical.
It sounds like a lot, but if you really want to achieve a goal, the best way to start is to know everything you can about that goal. Take whatever time that is available, and study all the information you can during that time. Are you going to a job interview? Have you studied the company, the executives, their stated company mission and goals, tried to find out who will be doing the interviews and studied their backgrounds? What is the dress code for their company?
What do you want to do? Be successful in business, write a book, have a successful long-term relationship, build a log cabin in the Wyoming wilderness? Take time to get to know everything you can about a person, your goal, how to build a cabin, how to not only write, but to market your book.
Mission Focus: Part of this can be taught, but part of it may be inherent in the really great snipers. How intently do you focus on your goals? When we were given a mission or assignment, they actually put us into isolation so we were not distracted from the mission. After a while, that became such an ingrained habit that we could “self-isolate”, even in the middle of a crowded chow hall… All we would think about, talk about, or work on was the assignment. This seems a bit OCD for a lot of folks, and you don’t have to take it to that extent in normal circumstances – just remember that those missions could be life-threatening if we weren’t successful.
I know that in my writing, and many other writers agree with this, that when I’m not doing something (and even when I am doing something sometimes), I’m thinking about the book I’m writing, the story – and can’t wait to get back to my writing. Steven Pressfield nails this in his books Turning Pro and The War of Art. This can carry through to whatever your goals are.
Patience: Ok, now here’s where it starts getting real… Have you ever heard of a “stalk”? No, I don’t mean of celery. It is the movement of a sniper from a point of insertion (where they enter the area) to a place where they can successfully take the shot. It can take a couple of hours to several days to make that move into a dangerous target area, and get set up. In the modern school, there are a set number of stalks and shots, but in the less formal era when I received my training, there were some minor stalks, but one big “pass or fail” stalk at the end.
The final stalk was a three day exercise. You were “inserted”, and then had to move (a long way) into the target area to within 200 yards of a steel target, take a shot at (hit) the target, move back out to a second firing position, and take a shot (hit) the target a second time – all within three days (72 hours) from your insertion. Sounds easy, right? Well, you had observers with binoculars trying to find you, jeep patrols running around looking for you, occasional foot patrols looking for you, and the terrain did not have a lot of cover (places to hide). Besides that, they knew you were coming, and from long experience, about where you would have to move and set up to get a successful shot.
If you stood up, moved quickly, ate, went to the bathroom, or even scratched the bugs and ants all over you, you could give yourself away – and it was over. I only beat them because I didn’t set up where they expected at 200 yards. I was only 75 yards from the target when I fired the first time, and about 125 yards the second time. I stayed well within their “home” circle…
If your goal is worth it, take your time, be patient, and go for the long win, not the quick “victory”.
Perseverance: Finally, perseverance. Despite the obstacles (terrain, weather, bugs, hunger, enemy patrols, lack of sleep, soiled trousers, heat/cold, bright sun or darkness, or anything else), a successful sniper will just continue on and not be distracted from his objective. No matter what. I didn’t enjoy the physical aspects of the final stalk, but I sure did enjoy watching their faces when I took those shots…and remained undetected.
Decide what you want, use B.R.A.S.S. to set up the basics, then gain as much knowledge about it as you can, decide your course of action and define what you want to achieve (mission). Focus intently on your goal, be patient, and don’t ever give up. Good hunting!
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