Saturday, July 12, 2008

Obama & Clinton As Executives

Stuck without a book on a recent long flight, I ended up reading a bunch of current magazines. Among the articles I read were a number of post-mortems on the Democratic primaries.

Two stories in particular really struck me. The first was the companion piece to Jann Wenner's interview with Obama in Rolling Stone, "Obama's Brain Trust" by Tim Dickinson. The second was Gail Sheehy's look at the Clinton campaign in the most recent Vanity Fair.

A lot has been made about Obama's readiness to govern versus Hillary's experience. But after reading these two articles, which leader seems like the superior executive? Obama comes off as trusting, in control of his team and his message, willing to delegate, willing to try new things, flexible in the face of changing circumstances. Hillary seems manipulative, unable to control her staff, a poor judge of character in hiring (vis Mark Penn), possessing no fiscal discipline, and willing to vary her message based on polling.

I realize that the victors write the history, and we might be seeing a different side of this had, god forbid, Hillary won. However, I recently talked to someone who had lobbied Hillary's senate office on some health care legislation. She said that Hillary's senate office was just as disorganized and arrogant as these articles portray her campaign.

The Dems spent years in the thrall of one of the biggest dumb-asses in American politics, Bob Schrum. This guy had a tin ear for the American Zeitgeist. Total loser. But candidates came back to him again and again because he had experience (Mark Penn, who ran Hillary's campaign, seems cut from the same loser cloth). Experience is not a panacea. It's got to be the right kind of experience.

The Obama folks, on the other hand, are not exactly outsiders -- the prevalence of the Daschle team was news to me -- but they are innovators. On this evidence, you'd have to conclude that Obama would be far more likely to be ready on day one than Hillary. She would have made a terrible chief executive. I'll take his execution over her experience, any day of the week.

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