It was Eisenhower who pointed out how if you pull a string you can get it to go in the required direction - push it, and it gets all out of shape going nowhere.
For the past month, political leaders have been pushing the string. It finally fell to Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin to give it a tug yesterday, in a serious attempt to reel in Fine Gael.
Whether it was the threat of the coronavirus or an opinion poll - showing Sinn Féin's popularity has surged to the extent that it has almost as much support as its two main rivals - that concentrated hearts and minds is irrelevant. All that matters is that serious consideration is finally being given to putting an administration together.
Mr Martin knows the clock is ticking, with his leadership on the line.
"The people would not forgive us if there's another election," he acknowledged.
He is also correct to point out there is no credible pathway to opposition for Fine Gael.
"Realpolitik will have to break through at some stage," he added.
The longer the stand-off continues, the more momentum Sinn Féin is likely to gather. If this goes on much longer, we should hardly be surprised to find ourselves in the situations vacant columns, under the headline: "Small country in need of a government."
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar is taking an extraordinary position in the face of so many challenges.
The view of the Fine Gael parliamentary party is that it wants to go into opposition.
One would have expected, amid such serious difficulties, elected representatives would be eager to get involved in acting in the national interest. If there is a misconception within Fine Gael that Fianna Fáil will buckle when it comes to the crunch, and go into government with Sinn Féin, it was not caused by Mr Martin.
It is time for Fine Gael to either shed its reticence and enter detailed coalition discussions or take the consequences for walking away.
There is way too much in the balance, with an escalating health threat and grave economic challenges for the country to be left in the hands of a caretaker government indefinitely.
EU's Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier has already warned of "serious divergence" between the UK and the bloc on their future relationship.
This is bad news for Ireland.
Against this background, eyebrows will surely be raised at how the Dáil could adjourn for another two weeks.
And temperatures will also be raised at how it could be that serious talks on forming a government will not even begin until after the St Patrick's Day period.
That is if they are to take place at all.
This is not an ordinary time. Something more dynamic than jaded party-political manoeuvring is demanded.
We are shaping up to deal with a significant national crisis.
Our politicians will be judged on whether they do likewise.