Before you embark on a journey of revenge,
dig two graves.
-- Confucius --
The American government can forgive many high crimes and misdemeanors. Forcing it to close one of its foreign military bases isn´t one of them.
In 2009, the President of Ecuador, Rafael Correa, made the U.S. air force pack up and get out. Ever since, the C.I.A. and Pentagon have been chomping at the bit to get rid of him. They will get their chance early next year, when Correa comes up for re-election.
According to a former British ambassador, the C.I.A. has amassed $87 million to "swamp" Correa.
The Tale of The Tape:
A nationwide Cedatos-Gallup poll released November 30, 2012 shows Correa with 53%, Guillermo
Lasso 22%, and each of the other six presidential candidates with 10% or less. Assuming those numbers are correct and given Ecuadorian voters´ penchant for electoral surprises (Correa was a huge one in 2006), the C.I.A.´s goal of pushing Correa below 50% in the February election -- thereby forcing him into a run-off in April -- is within reach.
But will Washington reach it?
Pushing a well-established incumbent below 50% is not all that mysterious or difficult for anybody who knows how to conduct a campaign.
Start with a ball-park estimate. Assume 11 million people vote in Ecuador´s February election. If 53% vote for Correa, he will receive 5,830,000 votes. 5,500,000 are the 50% hurdle needed to avoid a run-off election. Conclusion: a swing away from Correa of 330,000 people would knock him under the 50% hurdle. More people live in Plovdiv, Bulgaria.
There is a way to create that swing. C.I.A. agents did not and cannot now put into practice ...
For starters, because the tactic is counter-intuitive, it never occurred to them.
Let´s look at what the intuitive knowledge is regarding elections:
President Correa once noted that the more candidates who run against him in February, the better it is for him. In nearly all elections that observation is as often-voiced as it is true. The reason is, any well-established incumbent has a base of voters who will stick with him no matter what. If that base is only 35%, for example, and seven opponents carve up the remaining 65%, the incumbent wins.
For incumbents seeking to avoid a run-off election, I would add this nuance to the prevailing, intuitive, purely quantitative assessment: its truth depends on who the opposition candidates are.
Beware of geographically-based Favorite Son candidates. Recruiting and funding them is a trick of the trade; they can upset conventional political wisdom. True, an incumbent´s through-thick-or-thin base does not vanish under an assault by Favorite Sons; however, the base flakes off. The more city/regional Favorite Sons enter the race, the harder it is for the incumbent to clear the 50% hurdle.
Why does a Favorite Son do what no other candidate can? The answer in the form of a dictum: blood is thicker than ideology.
Now, the simple truth is not a single Favorite Son tossed his hat into the up-coming Ecuadorian presidential election.
You can be sure C.I.A. agents headquartered in Langley, Virginia, and throughout Latin America are wringing their hands on reading those words. Damn. NOW he tells us! Yep, it´s too late. The deadline for candidates to file in Ecuador is past.
Look again at the photo of the C.I.A. headquarters at the top of this post. Not a single person in that gigantic building complex was aware of the Favorite Son tactic -- or if they were, nothing happened.
Why not? Inquiring minds -- both pro and anti-Correa -- want to know.
It´s Reality Therapy Time. Our post of October 9, 2012:
"Why, after all these years, do the C.I.A. and State Department not have a grasp of basic election mechanics?
I will go ahead and do the unheard of: reveal what Washington´s dilemma is and why it cannot be solved. Unheard of, because the following discussion has never before appeared in public. It is covered by an omerta, the Italians call it: a silence more silent than silence ...
Washington´s problem in one word: gators ...
The gator corps consists of election consultants. Most are third and fourth generation scions of well-known but long-dead politicos; flotsam-jetsam from loser political campaigns who have no place to go, beg for help from state political party hacks and land on consulting firm doorsteps; House and Senate office staffers who were, ah, let go; lobbyists´ sons and daughters whose expertise in political campaigns consists of having attended Exeter or Andover where they roomed with you-know-who in tenth grade ...
D.C. election consultants constellate around the two major political parties. They all know each other, and one hand washes the other. A community, then. It is time to add [a qualifier] to the term gator: mafia.
The gator mafia has two major traits:
(1) It is a classic manifestation of the Peter Principle. With a handful of exceptions, D.C. election consultants are as well paid as they are incompetent ...
(2) The federal government´s hands are tied. Washingtonian contacts rather than competence founded the gator mafia; inbreeding did the rest ...
With gators dripping off both arms, what is the government to do? When in D.C., there is only one recourse to Beltway Bandits: other Beltway Bandits."
How do you send in the A-Team when there is no A-Team? As the "Ghostbusters" theme song phrased it, Who ya´ gonna call?*
Actually, if you´re the C.I.A. chief, you don´t call anybody. They call you -- from the White House. An aide utters the magic words, "The president wants ... " Presto -- a government contract for Ecuador´s election flies off the shelf.
The gator mafia will take a big bite out of the C.I.A.´s $87-million get-Correa stash. Any leftovers will go to private Ecuadorian media. More on them in Part 3.
If you, Dear Reader, want to learn about election campaigns, the first thing to do is stop listening to D.C. political consultants. The vast majority knows even less about elections than you do. I say that because, unlike you, they are filled with misinformation, misconceptions, mistakes, bad habits -- in brief, all kinds of negative knowledge that would take them years to unlearn. The C.I.A.´s shocking ignorance of the Favorite Son tactic is only the latest blatant example in a long series of blatant examples.
Second, take all campaign schools -- especially those run by the Republican and Democrat parties -- with a grain of salt. Painting by the numbers will never make you an artist. All it will do is keep you from learning how to paint.
Instead, turn on the TV and watch The Dog Whisperer. Yes, I am serious. In almost every episode César Millán shows the importance of zones in animal behavior. Zones are the first principle, the music scale, of election campaigns. If you can´t play that scale, anybody who can will knock you out pronto.
The metaphor is more than a metaphor ...
To see a zone in operation between human combatants, watch this two-round championship fight between Thomas Hearns and Pepino Cuevas. Controlling zones = ring generalship. We extrapolated from Hearns´ technique, which was developed by his legendary trainer Emanuel Steward, in many election campaigns. If you want to know what happened, see what happened to Cuevas, an excellent fighter and deservedly a world champion. Ditto Roberto Duran four years later.
If you feel more comfortable with a book, read The Territorial Imperative.
* * *
O.K., the C.I.A. missed the Favorite Sons boat in Ecuador. However, there is another tactic they can still use in their journey of revenge:
To assure a passive public, the oligarchy running the U.S. drills into its citizens day in day out that they have no power. That message is flat-out wrong. On the most rudimentary level, no man lacks the power to defeat himself.
Carl Jung analyzed an archetype in the unconscious of all people everywhere. Blunders, gaffs, slips of the tongue, stumbles: the trickster figure causes people with even the most extraordinary awareness and abilities to say and do stupid things, to sabotage themselves. Potential presidents who get caught with their pants down or chasing maids around hotel rooms are the most celebrated cases.
In election fights in which we were behind, we activated the opponent´s trickster. The results were stunning. Which leads me to ask: Will the C.I.A. do likewise against Correa?
Frankly, I don´t think they have the foggiest idea of what I am talking about. I say that because current events in Ecuador include a classic unconscious blunder by the C.I.A.-backed candidate,** conservative banker Guillermo Lasso.
I noted In August that Lasso´s campaign was well-run but not perfect. Two months later, on October 27, 2012, he named Indian leader Auki Tituaña to be his vice-presidential running mate. Tituaña accepted, but a few days later withdrew because of a dispute with his political party, Pachakutic. I doubt the blunder was consciously made. Stated differently, Lasso literally did not know what he was doing.
Depending on what Correa makes of Lasso´s fumble, it could be fatal:
Most readers, including C.I.A. employees, are too young to remember the Thomas Eagleton affair.
In 1972, Democrat presidential nominee George McGovern picked Senator Eagleton to be his vice-presidential candidate. When reports of Eagleton´s hospitalizations for depression and exhaustion emerged a few days later, McGovern fired him and hired Sargent Shriver.
The message was loud, clear. The guy can´t even pick his V.P. properly. What makes you think he can run a government?
I will let this fact speak for itself: in the 1972 election, McGovern carried only D.C and Massachusetts.
A personal anecdote: in 1979, I met George McGovern, chatted with him. I was shocked by how much he had aged since 1972; I almost didn´t recognize him. McGovern did not merely lose an election; he was wiped out.
A thing is its limits. The significance of Ecuador is that it is testing the limits of American power. Even with $87 million the C.I.A. cannot defeat Rafael Correa. At this point, only Rafael Correa can defeat Rafael Correa.
Coming soon. The Significance of "Insignificant" Ecuador. Part 3: Rafael Correa and George Orwell´s Door.
*The gator mafia is a manifestation of a contemporary phenomenon: incomcruption. For an analysis of the growing synthesis of incompetence and corruption, see The Source of Terrorism: Middle Class Rebellion.
**Guillermo Lasso spent $5.8 million mostly on a torrent of media spots aired before the official election campaign season began. O.K., I give up: where did those megabucks come from? So far, utter silence, omerta. All Quiet on The Western Front. The Eastern Front, too.