Three things are required for political success in the modern day West.
First can be summed up in one sentence, "Blame the Other Guy". The sentiment may be derived from Machiavelli but this timeless aspect of politics in a media culture is about all that remains of a larger body of political leadership.
Blaming the other guy has ceased to be part of a larger debate for advancing a particular program. It is no longer the means, it is the end. Blaming the other guy associates a problem with him, rather than with yourself. In this way Clinton could associate a bad economy with Bush Sr or a runaway government spending could be associated with the Clinton administration. Once this is done, the blamer is free to continue ignoring the problem.
Blaming the other guy stops being a way to gain advantage in order to solve problems, it leaves you free to ignore the problem KNOWING THAT YOU CAN POLITICALLY PROFIT FROM IT. Read that again.
Politicians prefer to solve only phantom problems and leave real ones unresolved. About the only time politicians actually attempt to solve real problems is when that solution creates new problems which are themselves politically advantageous. Case in point, the welfare state.
Secondly, it isn't about finding solutions, but appearing to be prepared to work diligently on the problem. The programs a politician presents before the election rather often have little to do with what he actually intends to do when getting elected. These are usually a few crowd pleasing promises that make good soundbites but add up to utterly nothing. For the brainier crowd, some of his PhD advisors will usually roll out a plan or two, that amounts to nothing more than piles of paper in regards to the actual post-election legislative agenda.
Overall the politician's credo during the election is to make the point that he is 'committed' to addressing these problems. Not that he will actually do anything about it. Staking out actual plans is dangerous and often backfires. It's safer to have no plan, a vague plan composed of generalizations or something crowd pleasing but unworkable to be discarded when reaching office.
Modern politicians do not succeed by embracing an agenda, as much as by minimizing their controversy. This is called seizing the center. The politician who can point his or her opponent as an extremist wins. And how do you best do that? By not being an extremist yourself. By being so moderate you become vanilla so that it's difficult to figure out what if anything you stand for. But your opponent who actually has a proposal and a political outlook... clearly he's an extremist. In this way politicians whose chief goal is to do as little as possible while remaining in office get elected. Sometimes they change after their election-- usually if the circumstances force them to. More often they don't.
Thirdly, the main and only real reason for elective office is the redistribution of tax money. Tax revenues are the common pot which politicians argue over and divide up, investing major portions of it into repaying favors and creating programs that create dependency on them. Welfare programs, bases, public works, tax credits for various projects are all means of creating dependency on the Federal government through the conduit of that individual politician.
These in turn generate votes and generate political donations and a support base which the incumbent builds to insure that it becomes very difficult to leverage him out of public office. Once that's achieved, the campaign slogan becomes, "Who else is gonna take care of ya, baby".
This form of government requires a constant expansion of public spending and the redistribution of income from the citizenry under various guises and various programs. The cycle leads inevitably, under either party, into a restriction on freedoms and civil rights-- since by its very nature a concept of government premised on taking responsibility from the citizenry to the government is one that inevitably suppresses their rights. Americans today continue to live under the shadow of FDR and the transformation of a Democratic Republic into a socialist bureaucracy. There have been social benefits to this transformation, as well as severe costs.
To sum up the three lessons of the modern day political school of the west are,
1. Blame the other guy
2. Do as little as possible
3. Grab the money
Where real leadership means taking responsibility means doing the hard work and paying the price when your programs fail, modern politics is involved mainly with appearances. Politicians are the products of a Darwinian school that teaches them to be chameleons, to have no real loyalties and no agendas that can't be horse traded. When disaster happens, the average politician has too swollen an ego and too much invested in his career to take responsibility and do the right thing-- especially when the essential trick for political advancement in the west these days is to find creative ways to blame your opponent for everything that's wrong.
In the end they'll always fall back on what they know. Blame the other guy. Blend in by doing very little. Grab the money.
For a case in point, take a look at Ehud Olmert. A politician who has studiously avoided having any real political agenda besides staying in power, who has avoided actually doing anything and who has mastered the trick of blaming the other guy, using every dirty tactic in the book. Countries wind up being strangled by leaders like this who sit in their offices and smirk while men die and defy anyone to remove them. They are accomplished graduates of the modern school of politics.