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May 30th, 2012
08:36 PM ET

Letters to the President #1227: 'A good move'

Reporter's Note: President Obama receives a letter from me every day, and many times I ask him to call me. It is possible that he has tried and just got my number wrong…although I doubt that.

Dear Mr. President,

So you placed a quick phone call to Mitt Romney to congratulate him on scoring enough delegates to clinch the GOP nomination? Excellent move. I mean, really first rate.

Makes you look presidential, like a good sport, gracious in battle; all solid positives for your campaign. And what does he get out of it? Nothing but a warm feeling and a vague feeling that he was just patted on the head.

He can’t very well celebrate (“Hey, guys, President Obama just called me! Woo hoo!”), but he can’t complain either. If he does the former he looks bush league, if he does the latter he looks petty and spiteful.

There is, however, another subtle advantage. I’ve always thought the best thing you can do with any opponent, especially one that could actually defeat you, is to put him to sleep. Praise his skill. Compliment his shots. Make it clear that you feel honored to even be on the same field with him. And wait until it all goes to his head, or as Al Capone put it, “Pat your enemy on the back until a small bullet hole appears between your fingers.” To be sure: I understand that Mitt Romney is not your “enemy” as such, and certainly I’m not talking about actual violence, but you get the rather grisly point behind the philosophy…

Flattery is one of the most insidious and unstoppable forces on the planet. Few are immune to it, even in the highest levels of competition. It makes people lower their guard when they should not. It makes them dangerously overconfident. And what could be more flattering than the President of the United States calling to compliment you on your accomplishments?

This is advice I would give to any candidate: Praise your opponent often (even as you attack his record and savage his policies;) tell him how much you respect his intellect, debating skills, and principles. Assure him that you could easily see him winning. Because nine times out of ten, the more he believes it, the weaker he will become.

And since you’re in a calling mood, want to give me a buzz? You know, I’ve been waiting.

Regards,
Tom

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