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7/23/05 Insider Letter

Posted by Sys Op on July 22nd, 2005 under Insider Letter Archive

(Reprinted to Blog from email list of 7/23/05)

*** Bob’s Insider’s Message ***

In the last Insider Letter I explained what real power was and how one plays the game.

It is a very private game.

As I said, one who uses the real thing is not that interested in credit. In fact, it is a straight tradeoff. The more power people know you have the less effective you are.

The president of the United States has very little real power. To get elected and reelected he must keep his options very limited. What the people you read about fight for is the title.

When I first went to Capitol Hill, my boss told me, “Bob, I spend all my time talking to people and taking care of problems and meeting deadlines and reading. I have no time to THINK.”

Then he said, “I want you to THINK for me.”

You may say he was handing power over to me, but that’s not true. If John Ashbrook had said, “You just do the thinking and I’ll do whatever you want done,” that would have given ME a lot of power over him.

But he did not tell me to do my own thinking for me any more than he asked someone he was dictating a letter to write his letter for him. I was hired to do HIS thinking for him. That is a matter of loyalty, which a senior staffer has to have in large amounts.

Many times what I wanted was not what John Ashbrook wanted. I was paid to think of exactly what John Ashbrook would like to say if he had the time to think of it and I was paid to get what John Ashbrook wanted.

Since what John Ashbrook wanted and what I wanted were almost always the same thing, this gave me a lot of power to do what I wanted to do. But I never even shaded anything I did for him my way.

A couple of times I put my job on the line by saying I simply could not go along with something. He would have another staffer do it. In one case I think my refusal was what decided him on an issue.

But it was all in the open.

More than once he had to take my word for something and go for it without knowing exactly why, as when we saved the Hubble Telescope. But it was always something he would have wanted if he had had the time to think it over and which he was later grateful to me.

Real power is, as I said, a very private business. Often when I tell someone something I am not interested in their agreeing with me. What I am telling them is a means by which I can judge them.

The best example is what I tell them about John Ashbrook’s death. John died in April of 1982. For fourteen years the entire civil rights establishment had been fighting to get Martin Luther King’s birthday declared a national holiday. John had stood in the way.

Two months after John died they got their national holiday.

There are two Houses of Congress. John was one of 435 members of one of them.

A minority member.

Yet he stopped the whole civil rights establishment from getting its way and they got it two months after he died.

I mention this and watch the reaction of the person I am talking to.

They NEVER get it.

They want to talk about presidential primaries and third parties, where they think the real power is. No one has ever even asked me HOW a lone congressman was able to stop the whole civil rights establishment cold.

I have said that if you want exciting financial advice, you just need to go to a local bar, find a guy who can’t afford to buy his own drink, and he will give you lecture on how money should be invested and a sure-fire way to make real money. The guy who has never had money knows all about it.

The guy who has never exercised any power can give you endless advice on it. In fact, he is even more clueless about power than the one you buy the drink for is about money.

At least the moocher in the bar knows where real money IS.

People who lecture you about real power don’t even know where power is.



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