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  • Writer's pictureT. Kearny Vertner, III

How to Ride a Dead Horse

James Clapper's wonderful and humorous anecdote on Washington D.C.

Former DNI James Clapper and former Deputy AG Sally Yates on Capitol Hill, May 8, 2017. (Jim Bourg/Reuters)
Former DNI James Clapper and former Deputy AG Sally Yates on Capitol Hill, May 8, 2017. (Jim Bourg/Reuters)

I'm in the middle of reading former Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper's memoir, Facts and Fears. While I'm enjoying the career intelligence professional's insights on a variety of issues, I had to go back and re-read a particular joke one more time. It was such an enjoyable and humorous take on the many tropes of the many challenges of working in Washington D.C. (or any element of government, for that matter), that I felt I needed to share it immediately. Here goes:

“Wisdom says: “When you’re riding a dead horse, the best strategy is to dismount.” Well here in Washington, we often try other strategies that are less successful, such as:
We buy a stronger whip for the dead horse.
We change riders.
We say things like, “This is the way we’ve always ridden this horse.”
We appoint a committee to study the horse.
We lower the standards so that more dead horses can be included.
We appoint a Tiger Team to revive the dead horse.
We hire outside contractors to ride the dead horse.
We harness several dead horses together – to increase speed.
We attempt to mount multiple dead horses, in hopes that one of them will spring to life.
We provide additional funding and training to increase the dead horse’s performance.
We do a productivity study to see if lighter riders would improve the dead horse’s performance.
We declare that since a dead horse doesn’t have to be fed, it’s less costly, carries lower overhead, and therefore contributes more to the mission than live horses.
And last but not least, my favorite, we’ll promote the dead horse to a supervisory position.”

I am dead! So good! The hits, as they say, just keep coming. The only failure is that it must be written down; I feel that the length of this would be so much better spoken. I look forward to sharing the rest of my views and reflections on Clapper's book in an upcoming blog post, Observations: Facts and Fears by James Clapper.

Are there any other ways that you think Washington can dead with riding a dead horse? What's missing from the list? Let me know!


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