Friday, September 12, 2008

Whip it up...

In addition to following the Jupiter size disappointment that is West Point’s football program that I've been boring my three readers with lately, I’ve been enjoying The Misanthrope’s election analysis of the last month or so. Yes, we’re both of similar conservative bent, but we also share a bewilderment of the rich foamy lather that the campaign season brings. I refer to this as the WWF factor. It breaks the sanest and well spoken of pundits and bloggers. A blogger I admire and respect to the level of brotherhood was so incensed this week about Sen. Palin that he hurled borderline insults that kind of shocked me and many of his other readers. I hold no grudge and remain a faithful reader and friend of course, but what an ungluing. You have to have thick skin to talk politics with your friends in a bar, much less an open public forum like a blog. No way I could say that I’ve not lost myself on occasion as much as I try to stay afloat on top of it.

This week what has struck me as amazing is how fast the "reach across the isle" meme has disappeared from Obama’s stump. Sad, because that was the thing that most appealed to me about Obama. It appealed to me that he seemed to be a listener. I liked that he changed his mind on his Iraq withdrawal plan. To me it showed that facts can change his mind. I gave a great deal of thought to what I see as a major difference between the two men running for office last night, the differences beyond the well trotted ground of supposed major policy issues and the jingoism of both campaigns, the differences that mostly guide my voting decision.

I think the major diff between the two PRESIDENTIAL candidates is one guys operating strategy is to rely heavily on advisors and consult to sort of adjudicate a decision and make policy. I’ve worked for people that manage this way. They’re managers who have little understanding of the minutia and nuance of a particular issue that requires a decision be made. They didn’t rise through the ranks like many of their subordinates. They call a meeting with representation from both sides of the issue either together or separate, earnestly listen to “arguments”, and then make a decision. Obama is a lawyer; this is sort of his training. He’s also young and less in the know about the minutia that makes ANY major policy decision difficult, but if he picks trusted intelligent folks to summarize for him it can and has worked.

The other candidate has been around for a LONG time. He graduated from USNA 3rd generation. He’s got a foundation of principled ideology underneath a great deal of worldly experience dealing with the minutia and the macro, both failures and successes. On account of this, he has very specific ideas of how he’d like to see things operate. I have worked for these types of people too. It’s sometimes referred to in the hyperbolic sense as “visionary”. These people also utilize advisors and consultants, but for a different purpose. They tend to use these folks to support their “vision” and advise them of pratfalls and risks of their ideas, in addition to making recommendations for compromises. I think this encapsulates McCain’s legislative approach pretty fairly.

These two subtle management approaches mirror the aged old and often argued beef NCO’s have with their commissioned counter parts. One has boots on the ground experience and training with actual troops, perhaps in live fire situations. The other has studied tactics and leadership in a classroom setting, but will have to rely on NCO’s and other advisors to guide decisions. History provides many examples of both types of leaders, exceptional, grossly incompetent, and all point inbetween. It's also worthy of note that both bring a management skill set to the table that is valuable to the other.

Bush for example I would argue was/is more like Obama than many supports might think. Not as well studied version of Obama, but one who relied on his “trusted” advisors to a fault. His lack of vision and gulibility made him a slave to these advisors and it led to disasters (one word: Rumsfeld. Oh, here’s another: Brownie). It seems that Bush never made any attempt to bone up on the minutia even when things started looking bad. Managing like this can also put you in the compromising position of being beholden to others. I think this is how Bush spent his way into oblivion. Bush did a horrible job of managing using this approach. He simply lacked the big brain to keep his head around it all. No need to point to evidence, it's pretty glaring to most (i.e. proxy Pres in the VP seat). That does NOT mean Obama couldn’t make it work. He’s a VERY smart guy (despite his campaign blunders lately) and if he could somehow manage to keep from being cooped by special interests and partisanship, be his own man, perhaps go against his party on a few issues, he could really be something else as president. That’s a big somehow though.

It’s also the most glaring example of how different John McCain is to George Bush. Even McCain's worst detractors couldn't claim he doesn't comes to the table with strong opinions, ideas, and policy. John McCain has spent a second lifetime digging through minutia in decades of committee meetings before becoming a legitimate candidate for the executive office. He’s served in the armed forces from pee on level to decorated officer. This is stated fact. Part of the reason I believe that McCain was still hanging around in the polls before the Palin pick was that most know he’s NOTHING like George Bush and Misanthrope is right when he says that the whole McCain = Bush thing is a failed campaign approach by Obama.

No telling what will push the needle to one side or the other in this campaign. It might be something completely unrelated to either’s suitability for office. It might be a slip of the tongue that morphs into a viral sound bite that takes one guy down. We’ve got a Presidential candidate running himself against a Vice Presidential candidate for cripes sake. I sincerely hope not and will continue to do my best to ignore the Sean Hannity/Bill Mahr bullshit as best I can, or mock it at least.

So, weird things have gone down and I'm not expecting that much will change. I’m prepared for both camps to carefully couch what they say for the next seven weeks which is truely sad. I'd much rather hear them speak their mind about how their particular management style is better suited for the office of President.


At 1:28 PM, September 12, 2008, Blogger Dave Cavalier said...

There was an interesting article in The Atlantic last month about the inside workings of Hillary's campaign. It was clear that, however smart she may be, she is a horrible, horrible manager. She just doesn't know how to organize people. When I look at that and the way she handled Hillarycare, I see a pattern. She's a bright woman who doesn't actually know how to get things done.

One of my biggest questions about Obama is why I am supposed to believe that he will be able to get things done. I don't see anything in his background that says he can. As a bare minimum, I would expect that he can point to a record of legislation that he either authored or sponsored that shows he knows how to work the legislative process. It's not the same as managing on the executive side, but it shows he can work with people and make them do what he wants.

He just doesn't have that record. The legislative "achievements" he points to are telling. What to make of a candidate who touts as "his" record legislation he didn't even write and, in some case, didn't even show up to vote for?

Obama is what I would call the "West Wing" Presidential candidate. It's lovely to watch Sorkin's imaginary world where the President is a noble Philosopher King fighting against the evil of the nasty Republicans. Obama talks about the role of the President in such lofty terms.

The problem is that the actual President operates in a much messier world. Obama has had an easy ride in elections so far. He's only run against other Democrats and he won his Senate seat against Alan Keyes, a last minute substitute who was never a serious contender. Now that he is in the big leagues, he doesn't seem to know how to play the game. HIs whining about the media and the Republicans is childish. This is the game. It's as if he were to show up for the NFL and complain that he would do better in the Punt, Pass & Kick competition because that's the better test of skills. Part of being President is understanding the game and playing it well. As much as I despise him, Clinton knew how to do that. Obama clearly does not.

At 1:29 PM, September 12, 2008, Blogger Dave Cavalier said...

BTW, is it just me or is that a picture of a centaur?


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