Belmont Club

Cresting the Hill

Suppose the President’s campaign is falling apart? The Washington Times reports that the Obama campaign is explaining small turnouts by arguing that it is intentionally limiting crowd sizes. It is isn’t that the masses have abandoned the President. It’s just that the rooms are smaller. As early as June Ed Driscoll believed he was watching a preference cascade unfold.  A preference cascade happens when suddenly you realize everyone’s been thinking what you’ve been thinking, as in “the emperor has no clothes”.

Now Powerline says the latest FEC filing shows that the now has less in his campaign war chest than Romney. Obama had more money; only his blown his wad and couldn’t scare up enough money to replace it.

The numbers are pretty stunning, and bode well for Mitt Romney. The Obama campaign has been spending money like water. That is partly due to what appears to be an inefficient operation, and partly due to Obama’s attempt to smear Romney before Romney has a chance to introduce himself to voters. The result is that as of the end of July, the Romney campaign had $185.9 million on hand, compared with $123.7 million for the Obama campaign. These totals include the campaigns, their respective national party committees and joint victory funds that raise money for both.

If a preference cascade is actually unfolding in the actual teeth of an Obama campaign offensive it will recall those fatal moments in history when a desperate roll of the dice came up Snake Eyes. It evokes Colonel Ishiki at Guadalcanal hurling his doomed regiment into the water-cooled Browning .30s at the Tenaru Creek. It conjures up the Old Guard failing for the last time at Waterloo. (“La Garde recule. Sauve qui peut!”) But on the other hand it may also the deceptive noon before the darkness falls; it could be Romney enjoying Nagumo’s moment before the Enterprise’s dive bombers found his carriers.

When we read historical accounts it is important to remember that almost nobody on the scene knew how it was going to turn out. The Iron Duke at one point declared that “Night or the Prussians must come!” He did not know which. In the event it was the Prussians who came. And we know the rest.

But if there is one quotation to remember Wellington by it was his observation that information was obtained by taking a risk. He, along with the other great commanders understood that data came back in a continuous stream from the forward edge of battle. “All the business of war, and indeed all the business of life, is to endeavor to find out what you don’t know by what you do; that’s what I called ‘guessing what was at the other side of the hill.'” What’s on the other side of November, 2012? And why would a man take the risk of finding out. Why? Perhaps Napoleon knew the answer. “Glory is fleeting but obscurity is forever.” At any rate it is a compelling drama to watch. How did Conan Doyle’s Gerard imagine Waterloo?

But slaughter was no new sight to me, and it was not that which held me spellbound. It was that up the long slope of the British position was moving a walking forest-black, tossing, waving, unbroken. Did I not know the bearskins of the Guard? And did I not also know, did not my soldier’s instinct tell me, that it was the last reserve of France; that the Emperor, like a desperate gamester, was staking all upon his last card? Up they went and up–grand, solid, unbreakable, scourged with musketry, riddled with grape, flowing onward in a black, heavy tide, which lapped over the British batteries. With my glass I could see the English gunners throw themselves under their pieces or run to the rear. On rolled the crest of the bearskins, and then, with a crash which was swept across to my ears, they met the British infantry. A minute passed, and another, and another. My heart was in my mouth.

They swayed back and forward; they no longer advanced; they were held. Great Heaven! was it possible that they were breaking? One black dot ran down the hill, then two, then four, then ten, then a great, scattered, struggling mass, halting, breaking, halting, and at last shredding out and rushing madly downward. “The Guard is beaten! The Guard is beaten!” From all around me I heard the cry. Along the whole line the infantry turned their faces and the gunners flinched from their guns.

“The Old Guard is beaten! The Guard retreats!” An officer with a livid face passed me yelling out these words of woe. “Save yourselves! Save yourselves! You are betrayed!” cried another. “Save yourselves! Save yourselves!”

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