One thing about having been a trial lawyer for 30 years — yup, I really am that old — is you develop a pretty good sense of when someone’s messin’ with ya.
So be on notice Barack Obama — John McCain’s campaign is messin’ with you right now. They’re trying to get into your head. They’re trying to throw you off your game.
Here’s how it works in the law. Most lawyers are gentlemen (or ladies) — tough adversaries, but good for their word. Unfortunately, there are always some out there you can’t trust as far as you can throw a dead moose (recently killed by Sarah Palin, of course).
But I’m not talking principally here about overt lying: this is about game playing.
When you’re a busy trial lawyer, especially one with a few decades of experience under your belt, your tolerance for mind games tends to be pretty much gone: “Can we please just get the work done without all of this f*cking crap?” is how you feel, if not what you say, when faced with such tactics.
But the truth is that with some lawyers, the crap — the game playing — is part of the package: so you have to deal with it. And mostly you have to make sure they don’t get away with throwing you off your game.
When you’re getting ready for trial (and when you’re in trial), for example, the rest of the world fades away: America could go to war during this time and you wouldn’t notice. Your spouse could leave you and it might be three days before you noticed the note he or she left behind telling you that he or she was going.
The last thing you need during this time is any unnecessary distraction.
And here, of course, is where the “game players” come in. Maybe it’s a letter from the opposing lawyer a few days before trial suggesting that a continuance will be needed, when one really isn’t being contemplated at all. Or perhaps a sudden expression of interest in settlement, when, in fact, no new offer is ever forthcoming. You may suddenly receive a letter containing groundless threats — accusations that you’ve committed some sort of wrongdoing.
Whatever the method, the goal is always the same: to mess with you, to get inside your head and hopefully throw you off your game.
In my experience, the vast majority of lawyers are ethical and honorable and do not engage in such tactics, and I mean that: but such tactics are out there and if you try enough cases you’ll run into them eventually.
And you can’t let them throw you off your game.
This brings us to John McCain’s sudden threat to cancel the first presidential debate if no agreement is reached on the bailout package. Yes, of course, it’s a political stunt. And, yes, of course, they appear to be trying to push back (or totally avoid) the Palin/Biden debate. But I’ll bet you all of the darkness in Karl Rove’s soul that there’s something else at play here too.
McCain’s campaign is messin’ with ya, Barack. They’re trying to get inside your head.
There you were, comfortably ensconced in the heart of the old Confederacy, ready for three days of debate prep. And what does McCain do? He throws a huge wrench into the works. He messes with you. Suddenly, you don’t know whether there’s going to be a debate or not. Will you end up appearing alone with an empty seat? If so, should you go on at all? Will the deal be done on the bailout in time to meet McCain’s “deadline?” And if it isn’t, will he throw you a curve and show up anyway?
Obama’s job, of course, is to put all of this out of his mind. He needs to keep focused on getting ready for the debate. That’s what matters. The rest is just background noise.
And yes, that’s a hell of a lot easier said than done. But for whatever it’s worth, I’m betting that Barack Obama, the original Mr. Cool, has what it takes to get the job done.
I guess we’ll know soon enough.