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I was wondering what various figures of speech could be used to describe a situation where somebody exploits a situation in order to push their own agenda. For example in Persian we have 'Catching a fish from muddy water'. Are there any English equivalents?

EDIT

Per request, let me clarify further what I have in mind:

I'm looking for a figure of speech used to describe a situation: say something happens, and the previously dogmatic opinion of somebody about the something, could then be somewhat justified after an accident, and that person would gloat and say 'I told you so', much like politicians would do from a given incident and use the turn of events to justify their own agenda. What idiom could you then use to reply to that person? Like 'You're really [idiom about opportunistically exploiting] now'.

A real example here:

Politician A and B are engaged in a debate. Politician A has been running the country for the past 4 years and has been lenient toward gun control, whereas politician B and his party have been critical of this leniency from the outset. During these 4 years under Politican A's reign, society has been very safe and healthy, with no gun crime whatsoever, and the population have actually been happy with Politcian A's gun policies. A month before elections, a psychotic army conscript starts shooting at people in the street and kills 2 people. Politician B will then launch a scathing attack on Politcian A for being reckless in his decision making and not heeding the advice of others, intentionally failing to point to the fact that the person committing the crime is an army personnel and has had his guns for a long time, and would have had his weapons with or without a stringent nationwide gun policy.

What would be a good figure of speech to describe Politician B's exploit of the incident to his own advantage?

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Do you want a word for the situation where a situation is exploited, or do you want a word for the act of exploiting a situation? Or is “push their own agenda” the main thing? –  jwpat7 Oct 9 '12 at 17:10
    
Pushing their own agenda is the main hing. For example say something happens, and the previously dogmatic opinion of somebody about the something, could then be somewhat justified after an accident, and that person would gloat and say 'I told you so', much like politicians would do from a given incident and use the turn of events to justify their own agenda. What idiom could you then use to reply to that person? Like 'You're really [idiom about opportunistically exploiting] now'... –  Mohammad Sepahvand Oct 9 '12 at 19:53
    
Also see Single word for taking advantage of the situation, –  jwpat7 Oct 9 '12 at 20:41
    
Your comment gives a much clearer notion of what exactly you're looking for. If you will incorporate its substance into the question itself I will be happy to upvote your question. –  StoneyB Oct 9 '12 at 21:59
1  
I'd call them a "politician"... –  Kevin Oct 9 '12 at 23:53

4 Answers 4

Interestingly, English has almost the same expression: "fishing in troubled waters", going back to at least the 16th century.

It seems to originate in a belief among fishermen that fish rise to the surface in foul weather and may be more readily netted—hence the phrase "mackerel gale", a storm which promises a good catch.

But very early it was applied figuratively to just such situations as yours. Grafton's Chronicle and Foxe's Actes & Monuments (both 1569) quote a letter from Pope Innocent III warning King John of England not to trust those who advise him to dispute the authority of the Church:

Settle not yourself to obey their persuasions, which always desire your unquietness, whereby they may fish the better in the water when it is troubled.

I have not yet found their source for this; if authentic, it takes the phrase back to 1208 and, presumably, in Latin.

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Consider the somewhat-idiomatic phrase having an eye for the main chance. “If someone has an eye for the main chance, they are always looking for opportunities to make money and to improve their situation [eg] She was someone who had an eye on the main chance and who never missed an opportunity to exploit others.”

Also consider the term self-serving: “serving one's own interests often in disregard of the truth or the interests of others”.

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I'm in the U.S., and I have never heard of this phrase. (Your link lists it as British and Australian.) –  JLG Oct 10 '12 at 3:01
    
I'm from Australia, and I've never heard it, either. It might just be uncommon in my local area, I guess. –  user867 Nov 20 '12 at 0:59

You can consider:

There are variants for all of the above and are also adapted as necessary. For example, the first phrase could be adapted to "making lemonade from lemons". This would be understood by most readers familiar with the saying.

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How about the expression, and it's a bit long but could be shortened, "to determine the direction of the parade before jumping in front to lead it." It has the effect of sounding opportunistic and disingenuous.

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