Hey Barack, Let’s Play Hokm
Hokm is a very popular Persian card game. It’s played not only in Iran but all over the world on the Internet. Hokm is quite the rage, in fact. I’m still a beginner, but sometimes a Persian friend lets me win a round or two and then tells me how clever I am before going on to win the game.
Just for fun, let’s look at the first part of the third Presidential debate as if it were a round of Hokm. We’ll analyze how Obama won the first trick. Recent polls indicate that it may be the last thing he wins for a while. Note: There will be no diagrams. If you want diagrams, please take up bridge.
The Rules of Hokm (simplified): The highest card in a designated suit wins the trick. The object of each round is to win seven tricks. The winner of seven rounds wins the game. It’s very hard to know if your opponent is holding a particular card as some cards are discarded from the deck unseen during the course of play.
When you play Hokm, one player has the privilege of looking at his hand and then choosing a suit that will be the special (or favored) suit for that round.
Let’s say Barack or Mitt checked out his hand and chose Diamonds to be the special suit. Mitt Romney certainly held at least one high Diamond in the form of a sparkling question: “Hey, Barack, what happened in Benghazi?”
Obama had to be waiting for Mitt to ask that question. That is, he expected Mitt to play all his Diamonds if he had any from low-to-high; and that Barack would ultimately trump with his Ace of Diamonds. Barack’s verbal Ace, preloaded by David Axelrod, was chock full of zingers and one-liners to obfuscate yet appear to answer the Benghazi question.
But Mitt didn’t want to take the risk that Barack was holding the Ace of verbal dazzlement, so he threw in his hand after letting Obama win the trick with a lesser card, maybe the Jack of Diamonds. That’s right, Mitt was content to fold early, and Barack’s verbal treasure trove went unused. It was the ultimate head fake.
Can we speculate on what treasure was in store, had Barack Obama played his Ace?
Well, Barack could have started by giving a shout-out to his good friend “Chris.” That’s what he kept calling our dead ambassador Christopher Stevens for several days after his rape and subsequent death. (I may have the timeline wrong here; the details are murky. We do know from Hillary Clinton that Libyans carried Chris to the hospital though no word on any stops that may have been taken en route.)
Then there are Tyrone Woods, Glen Doherty and Sean Smith–three other “bumps in the road”–more dead Americans who were “not optimal” at all and got in the way of the narrative. Barack might have said that Tyrone and Glen were heroic Navy SEALs and good family men. (Did anyone in any capacity in America ever die without being called a good family man? Well, maybe Jeffrey Dahmer.) And Sean Smith was a legendary online gamer known to his competitors as “Vile Rat.”
Now there’s something Axelrod could have fashioned into a meme with legs. Vile Rat getting killed by an outraged pack of local rats protesting a video! These rodents turned out after two weeks of investigating and the feeding of Susan Rice to talk shows, to be terrorist rats with vile intentions and heavy weapons. Now a rat trap is about to be sprung as Barack and Navy SEALs hunt for the killers. (At last word, O.J. got turned down by the court and will not be free to assist Barack in the search.)
But none of that happened. Mitt decided not to risk getting trumped by the dreaded Axelrod Ace, which would mean giving Barack an excuse to unleash his verbal torrent of lies, excuses, distractions, and intellectualizing. The conversation meandered around lesser topics like Assad slaughtering more Syrians and what happened last year to Moammar Ghadafi (who?). Mainstream pundits declared Barack to be the winner of the trick (or was it the trickiest winner?).
Well, that’s enough of analogizing with Hokm.. I’m not very good at the game’s finer points. I suspect Iranians don’t really want us to know all their secrets anyway–just a gut feeling.
Maybe Mitt and Barack should stick to Texas Hold ‘Em, where a gentleman knows how to keep a poker face and a bluffer always has a chance to fake his way to the win. And fake it again, if he’s a real pro.