Thrust & Parry: T. SHER SINGH
Obama's Forte, Romney's Foible
Thursday, October 4, 2012
A parry is a fencing bladework manoeuvre intended to deflect or block an incoming attack. To execute a parry, fencers strike the opponent's foible, or the area near the tip of the blade, with their forte, or the part of the blade near the handle of the sword. This deflects the opponent's blade away from them, protecting them and placing them in a good position to strike back. In épée, a parry can be classed as anything that prevents the opponent's attack from landing. [Wikipedia]
I fondly remember my debating days and the nuggets I received from my trainers.
One of them was: don’t charge blindly, like a ram with its head down; study your opponent, anticipate his moves … and then pre-empt them or deflect them.
And: If your opponent is desperate, he’ll throw caution to the winds; wait till he is a spent force.
Those words came back to me last night, interspersed with images of my daughter learning fencing one summer, and the loud instructions shouted by the coach over the click and swish of the blades.
I was, of course, watching the first presidential debate on TV between President Obama and Mitt Romney being held in Denver, Colorado, USA, in anticipation of the election a month from now.
The world expected Obama to pounce on Romney over the latter’s Bain Capital shenanigans, or the mysteriously missing tax returns, or the decrepit 47% of America Romney says he will ignore, or the axis of evil between him and George W. Bush.
Not only did the world expect this, but Obama -- an intelligent man and a deft debater -- also knew that Romney too expected to be attacked on each of these points.
Obama also knew -- we all knew, because this was bandied about by the vehla pundits everywhere -- that Romney was spending much of his time preparing his response to these very attacks; in fact, we were told gleefully by his handlers, Romney had spent most of his time studying these vulnerabilities inside out and arming himself with “zingers”.
We were told that he planned to throw out nifty, pre-packaged, memorized sound-bites which would deflect the issue and, who knows, maybe even put Obama on the defensive.
Going into the debate, Obama also knew that he was in a good position, considering the lead he was enjoying in the key battle-ground states. He had little to lose if nothing big happened at the debate. Romney, however, had everything to lose if nothing big happened in the debate.
That is, Romney was in a desperate situation. He’d grab the slightest opportunity to get a juicy sound-bite in and try to create a sensation of a roller coaster.
So, what did Obama do?
Being the brighter of the two and good at the art of ‘thrust & parry’ in a debate, he did the unexpected.
He didn’t mention Bain Capital even once.
He didn’t mention Romney’s elusive tax returns even once.
He didn’t mention the 47% even once.
He didn’t mention George W. even once.
He stole Romney’s thunder - the beautiful zingers he had so meticulously memorized and poised to sling them on a hair-trigger.
The mere fact that Romney came out of the evening standing and without having received any big hits is being touted by the chattering classes as a victory.
Having forgotten what they’d been saying till the very moment before the debate began: that Romney needed a knock-out if he wanted to change the game.
He didn’t get a knock-out.
The sheer relief that he walked out of the ring, instead of being carried out on a stretcher, is now being described as a game-changer.
The losers in all of this are, of course, the American people … sadly.
Led by the openly partisan pundits by the nose -- the so-called experts who will toe the party-line no matter what! -- the public has no idea of what constitutes a leader, or how to go about selecting one.
They’ve been told the selection is done by knock-out punches. Even if they are below-the-belt. Illegal. Fraudulent. Lies. Obfuscations. Half-truths. Noise. If it’s a KO, it’s kosher.
There’s no room left for poetry.
No one seeks for statesmanship anymore.
No one is interested in looking at one’s life-time record.
So, we ignore all that Romney has done in the decades preceding the Republican Convention and say: “Now, we are going to find out what the real Romney is all about!”
So we do, all over again. A hollow, shifty, slippery man.
Then, comes the debate night.
And we say: “Now, finally we have an opportunity to find out what Romney is really about!”
So true, isn‘t it: we get the leaders we deserve.
See where America is today, and you’ll know exactly the kind of leader it will elect tomorrow.
Conversation about this article
1: Sangat Singh (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia), October 04, 2012, 9:25 AM.
Thanks, Sher ji, for a peep into the modern version of Sun Tzu's "The Art of War" - the ancient Chinese military treatise.
2: Paramjit Kaur (Illinois, U.S.A.), October 04, 2012, 10:10 AM.
I too am totally baffled by some of the analyses: Romney had a victory? Were we watching the same debate? Since when did not-being-mauled translate into a 'victory'? Our pundits are worse than ever in their shallowness.
3: Kelly (New York, USA), October 04, 2012, 10:13 AM.
Romney was sweating, literally, and also looked like he urgently needed to go to the bathroom all through the debate. Look at the clips again and tell me if I'm not right!