Do you remember that old adage that “the enemy of my enemy is my friend”? Not necessarily. That depends on your enemy’s probable course of action once the mutual opponent has been vanquished. And that is a very unpredictable business.
Ronald Reagan understood this. His famous Eleventh Commandment, “Thou Shalt Not Speak Ill of Another Republican”, was not just grounded in his innate sense of decency. It was consummately sound politics. Because any alliance with any unsavory source to trash another Republican is almost sure to backfire on a party coping with a media dominated by the opposition. You would think the GOP would get this by now.
Apparently not. While it is possible that Democratic operatives instigated the sexual harassment allegations regarding Herman Cain, it is more likely that at least one of the Republican candidate organizations is involved. The strategy is crafty, too. Just enough facts to get the story going, and enough mystery to propel the flames of speculation and innuendo.
Of course, those who play with fire do have a tendency to get burned. That’s why, from a “strategery” perspective, the Republicans playing this game remind me of an episode from Chinese history. In the twelfth century the Song Dynasty, perhaps the most civilized to ever rule China but not good at war, lost a good part of its territory to the less sophisticated but more virile Jin.
Fast forward to the thirteenth century, and the Jin were facing the onslaught of the Mongols. The Southern Song, sorely tempted by the adage, ignored the desperate pleas from the old enemy not to ally themselves with this new and ferocious player on the world stage, warning that the Song would be next. To no avail. The Song allied themselves with the Mongols and enjoyed reclaiming some of their lost territories, until they were attacked in their turn by one of the most ruthless military machines the world had ever seen, one which destroyed nearly everything it touched, including the Islamic Caliphate, which perished in 1258 under a mountain of skulls. The last Song emperor, a boy, committed suicide with his prime minister as the Mongol tide engulfed the dynasty’s last stronghold.
It is no doubt tempting for some players on the GOP scene to make tactical alliances with the media, whose brazen pro-liberal partisanship has become the phenomenon of our times. But that merely feeds the beast that will devour them in its turn. In politics, it is critical to know one’s adversaries and one’s enemies, and to have the sense to know the difference.