A perpetual state of crisis

One of the observable ways in which politicians prove that they're destined-indeed, obligated-to govern is their ability to produce a well-turned phrase.

Case in point from the R.E. Chicago School of Politics: "Never let a crisis go to waste." Its author used just seven words to describe the skillful use of events to move public opinion toward his preferred ideological position.

Historically conspiracy theorists had invented, much earlier than the Emanuellian phrase, shorter acronyms to express the same crisis-utilization concept: LIHOP and MIHOP.

You'll recognize these from the discussions of the Pearl Harbor attack almost 70 years ago and the discussions of the Twin Towers attack almost 10 years ago. I'll now add a new one: MIWOP-Make It Worse On Purpose.

In terms of political intent, this falls somewhere between Letting It Happen On Purpose, which was the accusation against FDR, or Making It Happen on Purpose which is the accusation against GWB.

In a recent column I outlined a probable example of MIWOP: the 1952 Presidential Campaign of 1952; it focused on subjects ranging from the Korean War (HST in favor, DDE against U.S. involvement in any land war in Asia) to the farm-economy and food-price question (HST in favor of commodity parity price formula, DDE against and for "sub-parity" commodity pricing instead).

Part of the Eisenhower platform was the "food costs you abused consumers too much" argument and the promise to end full-parity pricing even though the inconvenient facts showed that urban incomes had been rising farther and faster than food prices.

Truman's successor designate Adlai Stevenson avoided mention of the urban-consumer food-cost question in his platform and campaign-maybe because his predecessor had been a clear-cut supporter of full-parity for farm commodities. He similarly avoided mention of the higher consumer prices it would supposedly cause.

Was it by accident, in 1951, that the "one pound of butter for two pounds of gold" pop tune was widely played on radio and the then-new T.V. during the DDE campaign?

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