Politics Magazine

Of Madmen and Tea Partiers

Posted on the 12 July 2011 by Erictheblue

According to H. R. Haldeman, his chief of staff, Richard Nixon subscribed to "the madman theory of the presidency."  The idea is that, in adversarial negotiations, you benefit if the other side has to consider the possibility that you are just crazy enough to make good on threats that would be dismissed if made by a manifestly rational actor.  The threat to use nuclear weapons, for instance, is a bit too much like a gun with two barrels, one conventional and the other curved around so that it points straight back.  One may threaten an intruder with such a weapon but it can never make sense to shoot.  A smart burglar understands this and is undeterred. 

If, on the other hand, you appear unstable and reckless, then your adversary will be more inclined to credit the threat, and will conform his behavior to your will.

One problem is that your cultivation of madness has to be thoroughgoing to be believed.  Thus the madman theory commits you to act recklessly at all times, on all matters, lest your adversary see through the ruse.  Riding this logic to the end of the line, you can see how it is best actually to be crazy, and why President Obama is at somewhat of a disadvantage when negotiating with the Republicans on such issues as the debt ceiling.  It's possible that they really would shut down the government and default on the national debt.  By the logic of the madman theory, the tea-party brigade is well-positioned to take advantage of Obama's sanity, his seriousness about governing and natural reluctance to do whatever is necessary to avert a catastrophe.


You Might Also Like :

Back to Featured Articles on Logo Paperblog

These articles might interest you :

  • Through the Eyes of My Expat Child! Lessons Learned.

    Through Eyes Expat Child! Lessons Learned.

    People keep saying to me, “Oh your little girl must be loving the normality of being back home in Australia.” I smile, nodding meekly, not wanting to seem... Read more

    10 hours, 18 minutes ago by   Mint Mocha Musings
    EXPAT, SELF EXPRESSION, TRAVEL
  • Taking Stock – April 2017

    Taking Stock April 2017

    Another Month has come and gone!  We are travelling through 2017 far too quickly!   As much as I would love time to stand still for a moment – it can’t, and it... Read more

    10 hours, 27 minutes ago by   Mischieviousmum
    FAMILY, LIFESTYLE
  • Soda Sales at Deepest Valley Since 1985

    Soda Sales Deepest Valley Since 1985

    US soda sales are at the lowest since 1985. And they're not likely to pick up soon, as reports about the potentially brain-damaging properties of sugary drinks... Read more

    11 hours, 49 minutes ago by   Dietdoctor
    DIET & WEIGHT, HEALTH, HEALTHY LIVING, MEDICINE
  • Cartoon Guide to Biodiversity Loss XLI

    Cartoon Guide Biodiversity Loss

    Number 41 of my semi-regular instalment of biodiversity cartoons, and the first for 2017. See full stock of previous ‘Cartoon guide to biodiversity loss’... Read more

    12 hours, 3 minutes ago by   Bradshaw
    ENVIRONMENT
  • Snow in April

    Snow April

    Seriously what is going on with the weather? I woke up yesterday morning looked out the window and was greeted by beautiful blue skies, brilliant I though to... Read more

    12 hours, 54 minutes ago by   Ashley Crombet-Beolens
    ENVIRONMENT
  • 10 Reasons to Front-toss

    Reasons Front-toss

    Sitting or standing, underhand or overhand, front-toss is tough to beat.There are several ways to practice hitting. Live BP and hitting off a tee are popular... Read more

    13 hours, 15 minutes ago by   Meachrm
    BASEBALL, SPORTS
  • Crooked Federal Judge R. David Proctor, with His Deep-seated Ties to Perjurious...

    Crooked Federal Judge David Proctor, with Deep-seated Ties Perjurious Trump Jeff Sessions, Proves Apple Fall from Tree

    Judge R. David Proctor (center), with family members whohave benefited from ties to corrupt Trump AG Jeff Sessions(From facebook.com)How many ways can a... Read more

    14 hours, 12 minutes ago by   Rogershuler
    LEGAL, SOCIETY

Magazines