A while back, I really got some dimwitted - though likely highly credentialed - chat room dimwit out of his mind with rage when I commented, en passant, that Richard Nixon was possibly the greatest pure politician of the 20th century.
How could I say such a thing about a horrible person like Nixon, the commenter raged, failing to note that being labeled a "pure politician" is not necessarily high praise, particularly in Dick's case.
Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan would also be under consideration but both of them had far too many principles, which too often (or not often enough) informed their policies. And of course FDR deserves mention but since to this day nobody is quite sure what the hell he was doing most of the time - no more complex, unfathomable, unknowable man ever sat in the Oval Office - he's hard to judge except by the only yardstick that politicians truly care about-winning, in which regard he's the Auerbach-era Boston Celtics or John Wooden era UCLA Bruins of Presidents: his win streak will never be equaled.
Which brings us back to Nixon. Love him, hate him or have the rarely sighted nuanced view of him, whatever else you can say about the guy, when everyone agreed it was time for him to go, when - in the words of the immortal Nicholas von Hoffman on 60 minutes, he had become "a dead mouse on the nation's kitchen floor" - he faced the cameras late one afternoon and announced that he was resigning at noon the following day. Pat spent the night packing up the linens and knick knacks and in the morning he boarded a chopper on the White House lawn, gave his famous wave goodbye and,for all intents and purposes was never seen again.
Regardless of how you may feel about anything else he ever did, the guy resigned well.
(Thank you for indulging my hopeless historical geekiness; we now return you to your regularly scheduled rant.)
Which is how a "resignation" works: You grab an empty copy paper box, pack up the photos of your wife and kids, and that old Employee of the Quarter plaque (from back when they appreciated you), stop by payroll to drop off your last expense report, and then head for the parking lot.
Put bluntly, you leave.
Which brings me to the purpose of our little talk today, which you have surely already deduced is, of course, Sepp Blatter.
We keep hearing and reading about how Sepp Blatter has "resigned" as President of FIFA - it's almost literally everywhere - which is rather confusing since Sepp Blatter is still President of FIFA and fully intends to remain as such until some indeterminate date which is variously described as "six monhs" or "as early as December" (any seven year old will surely tell you that Christmas is actually nowhere in sight) or "between December and March" which puts Sepp's retirement dinner on track for a full ten months from today and nobody can say for sure if it will happen even then.
FIFA has said that the reason why it will take so long to get the Swiss Miss out on the golf course is because it's so doggone hard to "organize" an election. One helpful drone last week told the media that a big problem is vetting the candidates, which takes a lot of time, an argument which would be much more convincing if they hadn't just done this exact thing for four candidates back in March.
Then, the filing deadline was on a Thursday and the boys were all declared fully approved by Wednesday of the following week. There's this thing called the internet, see, and if you still aren't up to the task then there are firms who'll investigate job applicants for a fee which probably isn't half the size of the AFC's bar bill from the first night of the just concluded Congress.
And it won't take them ten months.
As for how hard the thing is to organize, that's just an excuse. If you truly don't think you can trust an IT firm or a Big Four accountant to setup a secure, one time, on line voting system to preserve a secret ballot and you don't believe that certified mail orFedEx secure or some other chain of custody mailing system is safe enough then fine,do it the hard way:
Print up 209 paper ballots, Hand one to each of 209 Coopers and Lybrand associates, put them on planes to 209 countries, have the ballots filled out and sealed, and fly them back to urich. With a little planning, 48 hours ought to be plenty.
If all else fails, hold a one day Congress in 2 weeks time and bring everybody in. It won't kill these guys to not have a week to dine and drink their way around Zurich. This is a business trip.
Obviously, there's not one thing in the World preventing FIFA from electing a replacement for Sepp and having him in place by July 1 with time left over for him or her to pick out new furniture and draperies for the office.
No, the only real reason why the President of FIFA isn't handing in his parking pass and saying goodbye to the cleaning people is that he doesn't want to go. Which, in truth, we already knew.
This is Sepp the master politician at his most strategic, playing the game the only way he knows how: to win. And he's all in.
So the question comes down to just why it is Sepp wants to hang around as a lame duck for another six months, or eight months or ten months or whatever it turns out to be.
Surely after 17 years in the Big Chair another few months one way or the other isn't going to make that much difference to him unless, like Hitler in the bunker he's going to hang on down in his bunker until the last possible moment, when the Red Army knocks on the door and asks if there are any frauleins around.
Again, really no point; he has choices that Adolf didn't.
.When asked, Sepp says that he reason he wants to stay around is to reform FIFA, a laughably ridiculous response considering how hard he has worked every day for the last 4 years to stall, delay and - in the end- prevent any meaningful changes from seeing the light of day.
For example, take the issue of term limits. The Pieth Commission made that one of the absolute, rock bottom, had to have items in their final recommendation, but less than six months ago when it was time to implement age and term limits he engineered a unanimous no vote and then announced rather huffily "And now there will be no more discussion of term limits. That subject is closed"
Now all of a sudden he's so passionate about adopting term limits that a) he has to delay his retirement so as to usher them in and b) we're supposed to believe that nobody else on Earth could do it.
So if he's not hanging around just to milk a few more months out of the deal - months where they've already announced that he won't be doing the one thing he loves most of all, which is jetting around the globe receiving awards and medals and applause (he's apparently worriedabout the FBI snatching him up) - and he's not doing it because he cares so gosh darn much about reforming FIFA, then why is he staying?
Well,one cynic suggested that he's doing it to make sure the shredding goes smoothly, and while maybe there's an element of truth there, I believe that the main reason is much more simple:
He thinks he may be able to ride this thing out and keep the job.
While we all know now that Loretta Lynch's people have painted a bullseye on his chest, what if after six or eight or ten months they can't come up with a case?
Suppose it's next January or so and the Justice Dept - along with the Swiss - have handed out the last series of indictments and Sepp's name isn't on the list.
After all, the only question with Sepp - we think - is not what he took but what he knew. And while the former comes down to paperwork and forensic accounting, the latter is much harder to prove.
If that happens, if they don't find the smoking gun from Seppy. if he somehow skates on all of this, then come early next year do you really see him leaving?
Isn't it much more likely that Sepp say "Now that I've been completely exonerated and found innocent of any wrongdoing" - which of course isn't what they'll say but it's how Sepp will spin it - "my love for football demands that I stay and finish my mission".
Isn't that much more likely than him saying "Now that they've proven they've got nothing on me, I'm going to quit"?
What he can't do is walk away and then, when they don't indict him, come back and say give me the job back.
This non-resignation is brilliant, perhaps his cagiest move ever. It means absolutely nothing but it gets the media off his back and lets him hang on until he sees what they've got on him.
Dick Nixon should have thought of this.