Rodney Clough
3 min readOct 1, 2021


The Number Dumber Game

Flanked by press ‘reporters’ Manchin questions $3.5 T infrastructure bill. Courtesy

Lawmakers, media in tow, seeking video bites.

One of the most common ways to claim “victory,” particularly when you are suspect of losing, which you risk, is to predict the outcome of a negotiation or conflict. Some call this “bait and switch.” The shorthand-for-the-media version of this pas de deux is called “claiming the stage,” and on Thursday, Sept. 30, America got a bellyful of stagecraft.

As House Speaker Nancy Pelosi had warned Monday, “The next few days are going to be a time of intensity.”

For starters, follow Manchin’s video bites about the vote on the. combined $4.5 T infrastructure bill:

9/30, 10:00 am: “It’ll never pass” (the Senate)

9/30, 6:00 pm: “I have been saying since this summer that I think $1.5 T is the way to go.”(Not $3.5T)

What is Sen. Manchin doing here?

Next in line: Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, self-appointed to throw down a gauntlet-of-sorts: ‘We (Progressive Caucus and liberal ‘moderates’) made a deal three months ago that we would vote on both bills together ($1.5 “tunnels and bridges bill, $3.5 “social safety net” BBB bill) and now they (House Liberal and ‘moderate’ Democrats) are reneging on the deal they agreed to 3 months ago.’

Yeah, well, duh.

What is AOC doing here? Getting self-righteous? Not exactly. She is “claiming the stage.”

The soothing voices — and boy, we need them — are Rep. Pramila Jayapal and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who together are painting a slightly different picture, or rather speaking as observers rather than “bait and switchers.” For their efforts, cable hosts frequently cut off sunny Jayapal before she can finish her appraisal of where we are. Perky Warren is accused of “spinning” optimism as a ‘cover’ for opportunism: “Well, I do thank you, Sen. Warren for your diplomatic equanimity.” (MSNBC host Chris Hayes, Sept.29)


The number(s) “game,” proffered by Pres. Biden last Friday, was not meant as a ‘line in the sand,’ but as a negotiation “starting point.” This seemed to have been lost on the media, myself included. ‘Manchinema’ refusing to accept Biden’s invitation to negotiate could mean many things. However, publicly, all we could see is that these two refused to negotiate. Again, “claiming the stage.”

Negotiation-wise, how does one trade ‘observing’ for ‘claiming the stage?’ Its in the reporting results during a process of determining results. We do this incessantly in our daily lives. We accept this responsibility — it helps us get through the day — and thusly are prone to be taken in by its counterpart, ‘dissembling.’

Former Pres. Obama once chastised aides for watching ‘news’ on cable: “You waste your time watching that stuff?” He has a point. But annoyingly, he posed no alternative.

Well, Mr. President what else are we supposed to watch and keep informed?

The point is, there is no news — no real news — news that reports, clarifies, illumines, guides, reveals. Instead we get a magic show posing as a reality show.

‘Breaking news’ or broken news? Down to earth observation or self-serving ‘bait and switch?’

October 1



Rodney Clough

Refuses to nap. Septuagenarian. Cliche’ raker. Writes weekly.