DOUG SCHOEN: Power Is No Mystery: Here Is My Insider’s Guide

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Power can, from the outside, appear very mysterious and opaque. We often do not know who is exercising power over us, nor why, nor sometimes even how. We just have that queasy feeling that we are not in control — and that somebody else is. That is why power breeds so many strange and contradictory conspiracy theories.

In truth, power is very predictable. It is as stable as physics — and its natural laws are as knowable. Despite the seemingly chaotic clash of interests, there is an inner logic. Just as there is still no single Unified Theory of the physical world, there is no single theory of power. But an understanding of its internal dynamics enables individuals — you and me — to maximize their chances of achieving a successful outcome.

I have spent my lifetime as a political insider. Indeed, it was the name of the Fox News show I presented for years with fellow consultant Pat Caddell. The modern political consultant plays the role that the vizier played in the days of empire, or a consigliere in the world of organized crime. He or she whispers into the ear of the ruler.

In a decades-long career, my clients have included a famous assassin-turned-Prime Minister (Israel’s Ehud Barak) and a celebrated “terrorist” (Menachem Begin of Israel) who also became the leader of his country, a bootlegger-pimp who was elected as a pioneering civil rights mayor (Charles Evers) and a “Mafia priest” who rebuilt one of America’s poorest slums (Rev. Louis Gigante).

I have advised presidents and prime ministers and congresspeople and mayors and billionaire businessmen who raised up the poor, empowered the down-trodden, stood up for the persecuted, rose up against oppressors, battled rogue nuclear states, fought just wars and made peace.

I conducted the first-ever presidential poll for Donald Trump — way back in 1987. I witnessed the Monica Lewinsky scandal from inside the White House. Two of my clients (Yitzhak Rabin in Israel and Zoran Djindjić in Yugoslavia) were assassinated, as was the brother of a third (Medgar Evers in Mississippi). Three (Israeli leaders Begin, Rabin and Shimon Peres) won the Nobel Peace Prize.

For many years, I have made a living proffering advice to paying clients. It is time I now share my accumulated know-how with you. It is my belief that this knowledge can help anyone, as it has helped me, optimize their prospects of success. My underlying message: With a thought-out strategy, you too can do great things in your life.

My new book offers a definitive insider’s guide to power. It is titled simply Power: The Fifty Truths. You will note that I say fifty truths. Not one. As I say, there is no single Unified Theory of Power. This is not the Pravda (“Truth”) official organ of the Soviet Union, nor even Trump’s Truth Social. I identify the 50 key truths of power I have observed close up in my career, through war, peace, and revolution – and everything in between.

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My starting point is that all power begins ultimately from within ourselves. Without understanding that, nothing else is possible. The first of the five sections of my book is titled starkly “Know Yourself.” It is an age-old wisdom. Indeed, the maxim was inscribed on the Ancient Greek oracle at Delphi.

It is probably therefore no surprise to you that I start with a case-study of the self-destruction of Bill Clinton with his office romance with White House intern Monica Lewinsky. This was not just a matter of salacious interest and cause for impeachment. The scandal had also, I believe, a serious impact on U.S. national security.

On Aug. 20, 1998, Clinton ordered cruise missile strikes against al-Qaeda in Sudan and Afghanistan in response to the bombing of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. What was called Operation Infinite Reach missed Osama bin Laden, but the United States could have been expected to try again. Distracted by the Lewinsky affair, however, the Clinton administration failed to pursue him aggressively and Bin Laden hit us at home on 9/11.

Power has a certain architecture, as I explain. We are all situated in time and space. Once we have mastered ourselves, we have to accurately assess our circumstances and carefully judge our timing.

Unfortunately, many of us, if not most, suffer from poor decision-making, if not outright delusion. Too often, we anticipate we will get extraordinary outcomes that are so unlikely that we put our entire lives and livelihoods at risk. We treat life as if it were a Lotto ticket — and when we don’t win we act surprised.

Human psychology is like this: A big American lottery company once hired me to conduct a poll to determine whether the public preferred a one-in-a-million chance of winning $1 million, or a one-in-five hundred chance of winning $1000. I thought it was obvious that people would prefer the better odds. But people do not. Some 70% of Americans preferred to take the long shot.

Once we have made a realistic assessment of ourselves, our circumstances and our timing, we then need to consider other people — both friend and foe. It is one of Trump’s great strengths in politics that he is simultaneously able to attract friends towards him and summarily destroy his foes.

The first time I saw this attribute in Trump was when I accompanied him to one of his Atlantic City casinos when I was working for him in the late 1980s. People flocked to him just to touch him, as though he were a religious figure. They evidently hoped his gold-plated lifestyle would rub off on them — even though they were gambling in his own casino, where the house always wins.

Trump also boasts a preternatural skill at mass messaging. As President John F. Kennedy was to television, so Trump is to the new world of social media. He has pioneered a style I call “Communicate to Dominate” in which controlling the narrative is everything, even at the price of accuracy or indeed truth.

Trump can slay a political opponent with just two words, as we have seen with “Crooked Hillary” and “Lyin’ Ted.” He has already nicknamed “Ron DeSanctimonious” and we all await with bated breath what he will make of Nikki Haley, Mike Pompeo, Tim Scott or Mike Pence.

You might wonder why Haley is even running for president, since her old boss Trump is in the field. The final section of my book is about how to recognize victory.

Because, surprisingly, many people can’t. Often we fight for something other than what it appears we are fighting for. I call this “Lose the Battle, Win the War.” Haley, for instance, is probably just running against Trump to position herself to become his vice-presidential pick. You won’t see her criticize “The Don.”

Understanding such truths about power will help you not just if you want to become Leader of the Free World or even Vice-Leader of the Free World. It will help you in your workplace, your community, your family and even, for those unlucky enough to be there, your prison.

We are all, after all, in our own prison. And we all seek to jail-break in our own way.

Some seek to escape to wealth and fame, others to political power, but most of us are just seeking our own independence.

Douglas E. Schoen is a Democratic pollster and strategist. He is the author of “The Political Fix: Changing the Game of American Democracy, From the Grass Roots to the White House.”

The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of the Daily Caller News Foundation.

All content created by the Daily Caller News Foundation, an independent and nonpartisan newswire service, is available without charge to any legitimate news publisher that can provide a large audience. All republished articles must include our logo, our reporter’s byline and their DCNF affiliation. For any questions about our guidelines or partnering with us, please contact

All content created by the Daily Caller News Foundation, an independent and nonpartisan newswire service, is available without charge to any legitimate news publisher that can provide a large audience. All republished articles must include our logo, our reporter’s byline and their DCNF affiliation. For any questions about our guidelines or partnering with us, please contact

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