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Tim Myers: The power of suggestion

Posted: July 27, 2013 2:00 a.m.
Updated: July 27, 2013 2:00 a.m.

In 1980 the Iowa State University basketball program desperately needed a new coach after running through three head coaches in four years and securing only two wins in the season just ended.

According to legend, Athletic Director Max Urich called old friend and then-current head coach of the blue chip Michigan Wolverines, Johnny Orr, to brainstorm on which current Division I coaches might possess some interest in the position.

Mr. Urich ran through the perks and conditions of the ISU job with Coach Orr. After a pause, to Mr. Urich’s shock, Coach Orr informed him that he thought HE would constitute a perfect fit for the job.

Johnny Orr went on to coach the ISU Cyclones for 14 years.

I know the truth of this tale, because Coach Orr confirmed it to me directly in 1984. I cite this example to show the power of suggestion: When someone hears a suggestion that interests them, they may act on that suggestion in a way even unknown to them just a moment before.

I find this informative on the recent discussion surrounding the issue of whether Congressman Buck McKeon, R-Santa Clarita, will seek another term in office in 2014.

Various Republican and other center-right bloggers over the last several months articulated "rumors" that the former business owner and first mayor of Santa Clarita would step down and retire, perhaps even before completing his current term in the 25th Congressional District.

All the bloggers and other commentators cited certain "evidence" for their conclusion that the congressman would retire other than the words of the congressman himself, who says he has no plans to retire at this time.

First, the rather oblique and nebulous statement that the congressman had engaged in only desultory fundraising efforts for his 2014 campaign thus far.

Second, the statement that several McKeon relatives recently formed lobbying organizations specifically targeted to the defense industry.

Finally, some cited supposed "house shopping" in the Salt Lake City area by Patricia McKeon, the congressman’s wife, like it constituted some type of argument ender.

The discussion got so heated that on a local Facebook political discussion page on possible successors to the Congressman, Assemblyman Scott Wilk actually endorsed Cameron Smyth over himself to take the open seat in the predicted Republican scrum that would ensue in the Jungle Primary if Buck actually did retire!

I could find myself proved wrong, but I think that most of this discussion results from the hope of the power of suggestion discussed in the case of Coach Orr.

One might find themselves shocked to learn that many political bloggers, particularly those of the local variety, actually earn their living by working on and perhaps running political campaigns. They maintain the blogs between gigs to keep up their visibility.

What better way to insure full employment for such politicos than actually attempting to cause what will surely ensue when Buck McKeon does eventually leave Congress?

Because when that seat does open, what a scrum will ensue! The speculation and possible combinations of outcomes seem too numerous to detail.

Will the anti-government yet always-elected official George Runner attempt to finally find an office that does not include term limits, the dream also of Tony Strickland, unsuccessful congressional candidate from Ventura and (some of) Santa Barbara counties?

Will the rival Knight clan — in certain instances, Antelope Valley politics seems more clannish than Somalian politics — attempt to rise up and overpower the rival Runners to obtain the seat?

Will our own geographic Republican Cameron Smyth come out of private life to seek the seat?

And, most interestingly, could a wild card — such as R. Rex Parrish, mayor of Lancaster and frequent local cable advertiser on my favorite TNT cop dramas — thread the needle through a jungle primary crowded with Republican contenders to at least come second and face a hapless Democratic winner in the general election?

For the bloggers and other operatives who attempt to put ideas into incumbents’ heads, the answers do not matter. The more candidates the better, since they will ALL need campaign organizations and paid professionals to move their primary efforts forward.

Naturally, success in the primary translates into a few months more of employment to see the candidate through the general election, and, if they win, a paid staff position (perhaps) in a field office or in the rarefied air of Washington, D.C.

It remains to be seen whether these folks can uncork the stampede of candidates for 2014 (unlikely) or will need to wait patiently for 2016.

Tim Myers is a Valencia resident. "Myers Musings" appears Saturdays in The Signal.


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