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Games, politics, and game metaphors

[ by Charles Cameron — continued from Playing politics and other games, &c ]

I’ve been collecting gams and game metaphors applied to politics in Playing politics and other games, &c, but with additional examples surnning to 20 plus comments, and that particular post vanishing below a sea of more recent posts, it’s time to start afresh — hence this post.



That’s hard to beat, but there are a couple of phrrases I’ve caught in passing..

MTP: “folks have been playing games with their words on this.” ie their attitudes to Trump firing Muellerl

John McLaughlin: “To assure the public there have been no games being played here..”

Chyron on MSNBC: “Blame game?”

New White House security clearance policy could put ‘bull’s eye’ on Kushner

“Alex van der Zwaan wasn’t on anyone’s Bingo card” — Rachel Maddow, 20 Feb 2018

Ari Melber m.06, ouroboros:

“If your bodyguard needs a bodyguard, things are getting heavy; if your lawyer needs a lawyer, things are going down.”

“Starting with that cat-and-mouse game.”

“A rapid set of dominos falling” Chris Hayes, All in, m.16 “A sort of domino effect, Gates tips onto Manafort, Manafor tips onto Trump.”


It’s almost like a chess board, Mueller has a knight, Flynn .. they’re getting very close to check mate.” m.22


‘Mueller is playing chess — Trump is playing Donkey Kong’:


Special Counsel Robert Mueller has filed another indictment against Paul Manafort and Rick Gates, listing multiple charges of tax and bank fraud. The editors of The Masthead, The Atlantic’s premium membership program, dove deep into the workings of Manafort’s impact on U.S. politics in their special corruption issue.

16 Responses to “Games, politics, and game metaphors”

  1. Charles Cameron Says:

    And here’s the most complex game metaphor yet, from Nick Akerman on All In with Chris Hayes:

    I mean, it`s almost like a chess board. Right now, Mueller has got a knight. He`s got, Flynn. He`s got three pawns. He`s got Papadopoulos, he`s got the Dutch lawyer and he`s got, Rick Gates. He`s also knocked out one of his castles in the sense of the whole argument about the Russian investigation being a hoax. And in the meantime, the queen who is Manafort is being closed in from all sides and faces almost certain jail time. What we have is we`re getting very close to checkmate. And that`s why you see all of this crazy activity from Donald Tump where he`s tweeting all kinds of irrational statements.

  2. Charles Cameron Says:

    Games, sports, play:
    “The Chinese played him like a fiddle.” This one has been used several times, mainly of Donald Trump, though the instance I noted was (I think) about Jr.
    “It’s not like a video game, it’s not like a training” — on MSNBC, discusing being under live fire.
    ‘Donald Trump and the NRA have met their match’: Nicolle Wallace explains ‘savvy’ students have changed gun control debate:

    This looks like something bigger, and these activists, these are television and Twitter savvy warriors, these student activists fighting for common sense gun reforms, I think Donald Trump and the NRA have met their match. Am I watching too much TV?

    Final version, “scrums”: MSNBC, Ari Melber, transcript:

    Again, don`t under estimate Donald Trump. That was fascinating audio. You could hear that was push and pull, senator. You have been in those things. We call them scrums sometimes.

    Notable forms:
    David Shipler, quoted in McMaster Gives a Belated Russian Lesson:

    A Russian friend explained vranyo this way: ‘You know I’m lying, and I know that you know, and you know that I know that you know, but I go ahead with a straight face, and you nod seriously and take notes.’

    There’s a delicious verbal spiral in there..
    “How far is this from normal?” — to loosely accompany the other MSNBC bit about the distance between the headline and reality — and “close to perfect, but far from normal” (Key West ad)
    “This new day is nothing like yesterday, the trails are covered.. ” to go with the snow ad materials, not yet complete.

  3. Charles Cameron Says:

    Full “domino effect” quote from Hardball transcript, 19 Feb 2018:

    Let`s talk about Rick Gates.
    And the degree of – I`m not usually on the side of Trump, but I just
    wonder about overaggressiveness here. Could Mueller be up to basically
    using Rick Gates to pressure Manafort with a long prison sentence on
    something that has nothing to do with this past election in 2016, but just
    something they can squeeze him with, and then they will get Manafort and
    squeeze him to get to Trump?
    Is that overaggressive prosecution to do this kind of domino effect?

    Two comments from Daily Kos, Threw in a line and Moby Dick came back:

    Trump has to be both Moby Dick AND Ahab. It will take a surpassing good actor to play both roles. I suggest Robert DeNiro.


    They cast a line and caught Moby Dick….
    should be they cast a line and caught the Lernaean Hydra.

    A Fisherman’s tall tale in any case!
    Commenting on: 6 Important Details From Fusion GPS’ Secret House Testimony:

    Here’s the full text of the Schiff-Simpson Dialectic On Watersports [emphasis added]:
    Schiff: The kompromat which has become so much a focus of any discussion of the dossier, are there any of the facts related to that, the salacious video that were not a part of the dossier or other like allegations that came to your attention?
    Simpson: No. I mean, you know, we were asked about other allegations by reporters that didn’t come from us, and I am not – we were asked about earlier stories of earlier trips and whether other things had happened, and similar things. Actually not similar things, more sort of less colorful. But anyway, girls. And, you know, we didn’t – I mean to be clear, we never set out to investigate whether Donald Trump or anyone else was engaged in sexual activity for the sort of practical reason that I just didn’t think it was a useful subject to investigate. I investigate business stuff and financial crime and corruption and those kind of things. That’s my gig. So people came to us with stories that we never pursued. And we were recently asked by some reporter did you write a memo in 2015 about – I had no idea what they were talking about. You know, we threw a line in the water and Moby Dick came back, and we didn’t know what to do with it at first. So anyway.

    “That’s the point of the spear’ Rep Charlie Crist on banning AR-15
    Form of interest: Paul Manafort’s Fate Is Sealed:

    Manafort behaves as if he believes everything will eventually fall in his favor, that problems will inevitably resolve themselves.

    Plenty of ouroboric materials in there..
    And here we have a case of miniaturization, as with Matrioshka dolls:

    A commenter on the above wrote:

    recursive Putin — nightmare

    And for another (I think) ouroboric reference:
    Review: Skin in the Game by Nassim Nicholas Taleb — down with the ‘Intellectual Idiots’:

    Skin in the game comes with conflict of interest. What I hope this book will do is show that the former is more important than the latter. There is no problem if people have a conflict of interest if it is congruous with downside risk for themselves.

  4. Charles Cameron Says:

    Trump on the qualities he’d look for in teachers doing concealed carry in schools:

    I want highly trained people that have a natural talent, like hitting a baseball, or hitting a golf ball, or putting. How come some people always make the four-footer and some people under pressure can’t even take their club back, right? They can’t even take their club back.

    See the recursive tweet below re the need for two such teachers!
    Sen Nunes on MSNBC: “The Little Engiine that Couldn’t Hat Trick” — “The Little Engiine that Couldn’t” is, I think, American enough — but “hat trick” is pure Cricket, surely?
    Blake Hounshell: “Who would cheat for a game they didn’t want to win?”
    Chris Matthews: “We’re talking about spy games.”
    Kelly and Kushner stuck at an impasse after Trump’s punt on clearance. — punt — American Football, or Rugby?
    And for a fine ouroboros, Michael Steel, ex-Chair RNC, inredulous on MSNBC:

    We’re going to pass a law to enforce the law?

    Here’s another, with recursion in the tweeter’s comment:

    There’s enough recursion there to call for a third teacher, to watch the second, wouldn’t you agree? Indeed, Cheryl Rofer responded most aptly:

    Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

    And this gets richer:

    “Sessions is the President’s punching bag” — MTP
    “President bucks his base” — re gun control.
    YMCA ad: “How do we get back to ‘us’?” — for the “distances” collection
    The inimitable Sarah Kendzior, re-upped from Sept 2016:

    Some have accused the media of fabricating a “horse race,” but this is an erroneous assumption.

    “I think the President really did throw a curve ball” — at his meeting re gun reform.

  5. AnaBeth Says:

    Trump on the qualities he would look for! Oh my heavens, he thinks the people with guns should be the people who have the time and money to hone a “natural talent” like GOLF! That got a laugh out of me. Which of his advisers thought the aftermath of a school shooting was an appropriate time for plug about his golf ability?
    But I apologize, that was off-topic. The sport/game language is very interesting. Some potential consequences:
    ~An “us-them” mentality being reinforced by team imagery
    ~A lack of gravity in people’s opinions of the topics at hand
    ~A false comfort from any phrasing that allows one to perceive oneself as the “winner” of a political exchange without having done anything at all
    ~A spirit of competition, rather than one of actual development or improvement
    Potentially, also, using the language of sports and games might make the political realm more accessible or interesting to those who are familiar with the terms but are unfamiliar with politics. This could be either very positive, or used to manipulate the views of those who aren’t really paying close attention.
    What struck you about the connection?

  6. Charles Cameron Says:

    Chris Matthews, Hardball 2 March 2018:

    I want to ask you about this chaotic situation in the White House. It’s like fun house mirrors that normally distort you. When Trump looks in the mirror, he looks normal. The distortion is the reality.

    Trump’s Chaos Theory for the Oval Office Is Taking Its Toll

    In private conversations, the president vacillates between sounding regretful that Mr. Kushner is taking arrows and annoyed that he is another problem to deal with.

    If he’s questioned, Trump will get the same legal advice as Aunt Goldie. But will he take it?

    Trump might well take the bait, should Mueller dangle the prospect of a one-on-one, winner-takes-all war of words.

    Chris Matthews, Hardball, March 2 2018:

    I imagine everybody who does business in the United States and the Middle East — we have a hand in there — would have a baseball card on Jared Kushner — a little baseball card that tells them everything they need to know about Kushner. What’s on the card? What do they have to work with? How can they perhaps manipulate him, knowing what they know about him? One w=thing without a doubt that’s on that card is 666 Fifth Avenue.

    John Kelly Jokes (?) That Working for Donald Trump Must Be a Punishment from God

    Kelly has responded to previous rumors of his impending departure by issuing halfhearted, self-loathing denials in which he insists that he is “not frustrated” and is, in fact, quite happy with the life decisions he’s made up to this point. Now, though, as rumors persist that he is locked in a “death match” power struggle with Jared and Ivanka—whose familial relationship with the president means they’re not losing any death matches anytime soon—those types of claims are going to get much tougher to countenance.

    Trump was angry and ‘unglued’ when he started a trade war, officials say

    Trump, the two officials said, was angry and gunning for a fight, and he chose a trade war, spurred on by Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and Peter Navarro, the White House director for trade — and against longstanding advice from his economic chair Gary Cohn and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin.

    Demoralized West Wing stokes fears over Trump’s capacity to handle a crisis:

    But there is something different about this week’s spasm of sudden policy lurches, graceless personal insults, oozing scandal news, and ceaseless West Wing knife fights.

    ‘Pure madness’: Dark days inside the White House as Trump shocks and rages

    The situation seems to be grating as well on White House chief of staff John F. Kelly, who had been on the ropes over his handling of domestic-abuse allegations against former staff secretary Rob Porter but who now appears on firmer footing.

    The Memo: White House reels after week of upheaval

    The Trump administration is scrambling to keep its footing after being hit by several gut punches over the past week.

    Destroying Jared Kushner: a five-part play

    Act I: The knee-capping
    Act II: The humiliation
    Act III: The Godfather turns
    Act IV: The plot
    Act V: Tortured Trump

  7. Charles Cameron Says:

    I think your “spirit of competition, rather than one of actual development or improvement” is really the key here, AnaBeth. Reminds me of my time wih Howard Rheingold, and his emphasis on collaboration:

    The key thinker here is Nobelist Elinor Ostrom.

  8. Charles Cameron Says:

    High seas shell game: How a North Korean shipping ruse makes a mockery of sanctions

    At least four ships of different flags showed up in August and September to dump North Korean anthracite onto a pile near the harbor’s southern tip, maritime records show. Then, six other ships arrived to pick up coal from the same spot and deliver it to foreign markets. Between the voyages, the harbor was witness to a kind of magic trick: Illicit North Korean coal was transformed into Russian coal, which can be legally sold anywhere.

    Marseille (Netflix) Season 2 episode 6:

    Manhunt (netflix) Season 1 Episode 4

    That last one’s a week one, but I wanted it for “pawn off” — rather than “a pawn in their game”, which I suppose might be either chess or pawnshop talk.
    ‘Like a pinball machine’: Lawmakers struggle to negotiate with an erratic Trump

    “It’s totally not on a straight line,” Rep. Peter T. King (R-N.Y.) said of Trump’s negotiating style. “It’s zigzagging, something like a pinball machine. But he does move [the ball] down.”

    Christopher Steele, the Man Behind the Trump Dossier

    Burrows, like Steele, had spent decades as a British intelligence officer. “This whole thing has been quite surreal,” he said. “We are being made into a political football, in U.S. terms, which we really regret. [ .. ]
    “M.I.6 is second only perhaps to the U.S. in its ability to collect intelligence from Russia.” He added, “We’ve always coördinated closely with them because they did such a great job. We’re playing in the Yankee Stadium of espionage here. This isn’t Guatemala.”

    From the same Jane Mayer piece, here’s a quotable source for Moby Dick:

    Steele looked at the material and, according to people familiar with the matter, asked himself, “Oh, my God—what is this?” He called in Burrows, who was normally unflappable. Burrows realized that they had a problem. As Simpson later put it, “We threw out a line in the water, and Moby-Dick came back.”

  9. Charles Cameron Says:


    Of the Chinese as “bad actors”: “They’ve often gamed the system”
    Katy Tur: “What you’re seeing there is a high wire act”
    “dodgier that dodgerball.”
    11th hour on special cases, Canada & Mexico: “then the conga-line begins” of all the other countries looking for exceptions..

    Putin praises Trump, says U.S. political system eating itself

    Neil Katyal re Bin Laden’s driver “It looks so bad. I mean basically, You’ve got Donald Trump acting like a two-bit criminal here. .. You know, I’m a defense lawyer, I love a challenge. I represented Bin Laden’s driver, and let me tell you, Bin Laden’s driver acted with far more integrity at every stage in the investigation than Donald Trump has, so far.”
    Ari, on the Rachel Meadow show: “It suggests .. someone .. wants to be on the record in public tonight about this little memory-game, you know, we alll remember the time the President…”

    Trump’s meeting with the video game industry to talk gun violence could get ugly:

    Somehow, Democrats isolate the inherent evil of a gun almost as if it’s self-shooting, while denying our violent media has any influence on these under-21 shooters

    Wow, and the “millennials to snake people” app has an ouroboros for its logo:

    Spy games, MSNBC:

    Oh, ah, and Ben Wittes:

    This is wargames at the toy level, pure HG Wells. And dominos…


  10. Charles Cameron Says:

    Trump Accepts North Korea’s Invitation to Discuss Its Nuclear Program:

    For Mr. Trump, a meeting with Mr. Kim, a leader he has threatened with “fire and fury” and has derided as “Little Rocket Man,” is a breathtaking gamble. No sitting American president has ever met a North Korean leader, and Mr. Trump himself has repeatedly vowed that he would not commit the error of his predecessors by being drawn into a protracted negotiation in which North Korea extracted concessions from the United States but held on to key elements of its nuclear program.

    “a breathtaking gamble”
    Oh, and a MSNBC commentator:

    This is an all bets are off situation.

    I’ll leave these two to stand alone, since Trump’s decision to meet Kim Jong-Un came so entirely out of left field.

  11. Charles Cameron Says:

    Stormy Daniels beat Trump at his own game

    The president who boasted of treating women like sex objects is being outplayed at his own tabloid-warfare game by a porn star. Maybe there’s justice in the world after all.

    beat Trump at his own game and his own tabloid-warfare game

    snooker — “Snooker gained its own identity in 1884 when officer Sir Neville Chamberlain, while stationed in Ooty, devised a set of rules that combined pyramid and life pool. The word “snooker” was a long used military term used to describe inexperienced or first-year personnel.” — Wikipedia
    sucker — ??

    Discussing Smoot-Hawley and its repercussions:

    This tit-for-tat trade war depressed production, employment, and prices in many countries, including the United States.

    I tend to forget that “tit-for-tat” is a game theoretic construct, and hhave probably missed dozens of instances of its usage.
    On North Korea, Trump gambles from a position of weakness

  12. Charles Cameron Says:

    Quite a haul from today’s dialysis session:

    Nicolle Wallace: “When we come back, Donald Trump rolls the dice on “little rocket-man..

    Juan Zarate: “A diplomatic choregraphy, that would have put various steps in place..”
    Nicolle Wallace: “You talk about choreography as though that’s in Donald Trump’s skill-set..”

    Evelyn Farkus:

    The last visit with Presidential optics was Dennis Rodnab

    Donald Trump, orouboric:

    Rocket-man is on a suicide mission for himself.

    What Will Trump Give Up for Peace with North Korea?

    Finally, everyone should be aware that this dramatic act of diplomacy by these two unusual leaders, who love flair and drama, may also take us closer to war.

    Ambassador Chris Hill:

    [President Moon]”says the same thing to different people, he doesn’t put any spin on his ball.

    Lindsey Graham levels existential threat against North Korea if Kim plays Trump:

    Sen. Lindsey Graham said Thursday that he hoped for peace on the Korean peninsula but warned Kim Jong Un that “it will be the end” of him and his regime if he tried to take advantage of President Trump.
    The worst possible thing you can do is meet with President Trump in person and try to play him,” the senator said. “If you do that, it will be the end of you — and your regime.

    Will The Real Donald Trump Please Stand Up:

    Now I’ll be the first to confess that I was filled with trepidation when Donald Trump got the nomination in 2016; brash, at times crass and apparently possessed of that “ready, FIRE, aim” mentality that seemed to blow up in his face often enough.

    MSNBC to Air ‘This Happened,’ A Look Back at Gary Hart Scandal

    The documentary, slated to air at 10 p.m. eastern on Friday, explores how discovery and coverage of the candidate’s extramarital affair changed the rules of reporting and made the private lives of public figures fair game for the press.

    Amb. Bill Richardson:

    We need a game-changer, a Hail Mary pass on the peninsula.


  13. Charles Cameron Says:

    Trump Makes A Mess Of North Korea Talks Hours After Announcing Them

    In a span of less than 24 hours, the White House announced at least three different positions on the meeting — the most recent of which involved walking back the walk-back it issued earlier in the day.

    walking back the walk-back
    I covered steel 26 years ago. Trump’s solution didn’t work then and won’t now.

    President Trump, playing the charlatan, is telling steelworkers he’ll protect their jobs with his 25?percent tariff, made official Thursday, on all imports but those from Canada and Mexico. “We’re going to have a lot of great jobs coming back into our country,” Trump promised.

    playing the charlatan
    Myself at Zenpundit, How the hell can Un trump Trump

    China, Japan and Russia, India, and obviously South Korea, are all actors with significant interesta in any US – North-Korean diplomacy — giving us a seven-node tug-of-war for our planners to map — and Donald Trump to intuitively grok.

    a seven-node tug-of-war for our planners to map

  14. Charles Cameron Says:

    On Hardball, 12 March 2018, Rep Joaquin Castro:

    He (Devin Nunes) basically decided at some point to make his politicaL career a sacrifice fly for the President of the United States, that he was basically going to be a blocker and tackler for the White House. And the result you can see today.

    Chris Matthews:

    Sacrifice fly — a great metaphor, so the President can walk home..

    Chris Matthews:

    He looks like a guy who, as was just said by the Congressman, that he looks like a guy who is just going to hit up a nice sacrifice fly out there, way out by center field, so that the runner can come in from third. Without teaching baseball to everybody, it’s a simple matter: the guy seems to be working for Trump.

    That’s a neat, extended sports metaphor.

  15. Charles Cameron Says:

    Kyle Cheney reports on “sources familiar” with Trey Gowdy’s thinking on Russian interference in favor of Clinton vs Trump:

    In a two person race, wishing one candidate will lose is the same as hoping the other candidate prevails.

    And how could I have missed the nuclear football:

    The nuclear football (also known as the atomic football, the President’s emergency satchel, the Presidential Emergency Satchel, the button, the black box, or just the football) is a briefcase, the contents of which are to be used by the President of the United States to authorize a nuclear attack while away from fixed command centers, such as the White House Situation Room. It functions as a mobile hub in the strategic defense system of the United States. It is held by an aide-de-camp.


    MSNBC, re the electoral prospects after the Conor Lamb win for the Mid_Terms: “This is still Spring Training”
    Phil Elliott (TIME) on 11th Hour 3/14 re Hope Hicks and Keith Schiller:

    They were also very useful fto WHite House staff. The preesident really wouldn’t listen to everyone, but if they could have Hope hicks say something in a meeting, the president would pay attention; if there was an inclination that the president was going perhaps off the rails, they could maybe have Keith perhaps suggest nimbly, gently, and the president would see that. They were really the bumpers, they were like, if you’re going bowling, they’re the things that kep you out of the gutter. They’re both gone now.

    Then this:


    Deputy Minister Sergei Ryabkov said Russia may reciprocate the sanctions and told Reuters that “Washington is playing with fire,” while threatening an expansion of an American “blacklist.”

    playing with fire
    11th hour:
    Brian Williams refuting a suggestion from Bill Kristol that perhaps, maybe, Jeff Sessions firing McCabe wasa means to save the Mueller probe, say there’s no way “this was a reverse bank shot”.
    Same program, Jon Meacham re Stormy Daniels case, what the President has done because to him, “this is paintball, this is all paintball”..

  16. Charles Cameron Says:

    From ‘I made Steve Bannon’s psychological warfare tool’– meet the data war whistleblower on Christopher Wylie and Cambridge Analytica:

    Because the past few months have been like watching a tornado gathering force. And when Wylie turns the full force of his attention to something – his strategic brain, his attention to detail, his ability to plan 12 moves ahead – it is sometimes slightly terrifying to behold.

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