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Hardball Reading Guide

This guide is simply to give you some thoughts about the chapters and how you might respond to the stories and lessons within.  This is NOT an assignment for Town Halls and nothing on Hardball will be collected.  The idea here is to understand some of the political techniques that politicians use and that we often mirror in our everyday lives.  The questions below are simply though exercises and they may be helpful to review prior to or after reading the chapters.  If you find them helpful, continue to use them, if not, feel no pressure to continue to go through them as a mental exercise.

Chapter 1:

What is retail politics?  What is it important?  What is the significance of the congressional cloakroom to engaging in retail politics?  What skills and characteristics does a politician need to be successful in retail politics?  What is the Johnson treatment and ow did it help make Johnson a master retail politician?  Discuss the limitations of retail politics. Is it still as important today as it was in the 1950s?

Chapter 2:

What does the phrase “all politics is local” mean?  Give examples from the chapter.  Give at least one example from contemporary politics or current events.  How does this principle impact the way democracy functions and laws are crafted?  How does it impact the loyalty of party members to the position of the party on policy issues?  Does the phrase always refer to “local” geographical locations?  Discuss how “retail” politics fits into the “all politics is local” concept.

Chapter 3:

Discuss, analyze and explain the basic principle examined in Chapter 3.  How did Carter and Perot use this principle?  Discuss what the low license plate principle reveals about the motivation of those who help candidates.  Is there a downside to employing this strategy?

Chapter 4:

Why is it so unusual for politicians to switch parties?  When a politician does switch parties, what risks do they face?  Why is the following quote a truism? "The ideological difference between the parties has narrowed yet party loyalty is even more important."   Why is the "Christmas Card" seen as so important, and why would Senators vote against automatic increases in the minimum wage?

Chapter 5:

Explain and analyze the thesis of this chapter.  Compare and contrast the ways in which Reagan and Carter employed the “keep your enemies in front of you” concept.  Are there disadvantages to employing this principle?

Chapter 6:

Explain and analyze the basic thesis of this chapter.  Relate the ideas in the chapter to what you have learned about political parties and the relationship between the President and members of Congress.  What should a politician do instead of getting even?

Chapter 7:

Explain and analyze the basic thesis of this chapter.  What is the risk of not responding quickly to political attacks?  Give examples from the book.  Discuss and explain each of the defenses to attacks identified by Mathews.

Chapter 8:

Discuss and explain each of the different ways in which silence can be used for political gain.  Provide examples.  Are there potential risks to this strategy?

Chapter 9:

Explain and analyze the basic principle discussed in this chapter and give examples from the text. What aspects of human nature does it exploit?  Are there situations in which this strategy can’t be used?  Give an example of how this principle has or could be used in your own life?

Chapter 10:

Discuss why the “hang a lantern on your problem” principle works.  Cite two examples from the text.  Are there situations in which it would not work?  Are there situations in your own life where this principle worked or could have worked?  How did Reagan violate this principle during the Iran-Contra scandal?  Did he recognize his own error?  Why do you think he made this mistake when he was otherwise so astute as a politician?

Chapter 11:

What are the two steps to effective spin?  How did Nixon employ these two steps and put his Democratic and Republican critics on the defensive in his famous “Checkers” speech?  Is spin ethical?  Can spin backfire?  How does this principle relate to the principles in chapters 7 and 9?

Chapter 12:

Discuss why politicians can’t trust the press?  Do politicians need the press?  How should a politician go about feeding the press without getting his hands bitten?  What do the principles in this chapter say about freedom of the press in America?  Reconcile this chapter with the principles discussed in Chapters 8 and 10.

Chapter 13:

Some of these techniques seek to make a candidate look better, and others to make another candidate seem worse - which of the techniques seem more applicable to most politicians?  How are these techniques used in everyday life?

Chapter 14:
Explain and analyze the basic political lesson Mathews highlights in this chapter.  Are there limits to how or how often this principle can be used?  Compare and contrast this principle with those in Chapter 4.

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