Friday, April 4, 2008

Clinton shares many Bush traits

Republican Politics, American Style
Published on March 27th in Metro Eireann By Charles Laffiteau

So how is it the Clinton Presidential campaign went from leading all the national and early voting state polls by margins of 20 plus percentage points for almost a full year, (not to mention having over 200 super-delegates pledging their support before the first state primary votes are cast) to being behind in the number of primaries and delegates won, total number of all delegates and total popular vote in less than 3 months time? How do you begin your Presidential campaign with a massive war chest of Senate re-election and lobbyist campaign funds and find yourself loaning the campaign $5 million of your own $50 million personal fortune a year later because your political campaign is broke?
Now I could be wrong but I believe the answer lies in Clinton’s lack of effective Chief Executive Officer (CEO) management skills. Allow me to elaborate on why I believe this to be the case. At some point during their tenure all Presidents and CEOs have to resolve conflicts and disagreements between various different subordinates or groups of supporters. Such conflict is inevitable within any large organization because no matter how hard you might try to only hire people who share similar perspectives there are bound to be legitimate differences of opinion on how to accomplish certain objectives. It is the CEO’s job to resolve such conflicts so the organization can move on to deal with other issues and not get bogged down by sometimes petty disagreements.
In the case of the Clinton campaign, Hillary Clinton has cultivated an image as a strong and steady chief executive surrounded by legions of loyal and efficient staffers when in fact the reality of the inner workings of her Presidential campaign has been the exact opposite. The truth is that many of Clinton’s campaign advisers despised each other and there were also deep divisions within her campaign over campaign strategy, TV and radio advertising, where to allocate resources as well as how best to use former President Bill Clinton as a surrogate for Hillary Clinton on the campaign trail. These problems were allowed to fester for months throughout 2007 until her campaign ship almost ran aground on the shoals of financial insolvency at the end of January of this year.
Now don’t get me wrong here, but there is a legitimate CEO organizational management style whereby some CEOs actually seek to surround themselves with feuding subordinates because they believe the conflicting ideas that result from these clashes gives them the best possible set of options to choose from. There is also some evidence that would suggest that this style of management can be quite successful, but it requires a CEO who is both very decisive and also very involved in terms of the divergence of opinions between his or her subordinates. They only let the debate of ideas continue for a brief period of time before they step in and make a decision on which course the organization will take so that all involved can then move on to the next issue.
But while Hillary Clinton assembled a group of campaign advisors who were well known for their dislike of each other, she paid almost no attention to the details of the issues her campaign staffers were debating. Nor was Clinton decisive, preferring to delegate virtually all campaign decisions (no matter how large or how small they were) to various different lieutenants and to defer to her advisors on all critical campaign issues.
For months Clinton appeared to be totally unaware of the many conflicts that were simmering within her organization and that were also preventing her staffers from making decisions on how and where to confront the upstart candidacy of Barack Obama. The Clinton campaign’s seething cauldron of campaign staff resentments and unresolved conflicts over political strategies finally boiled over in the wake of consecutive February primary losses to Obama and led to the departures of her campaign manager, Patti Solis Doyle, and Doyle’s top assistant, deputy campaign manager Mike Henry.
James A. Thurber, a professor of government at American University who is an expert on presidential management says this about Clinton as a CEO: “She hasn’t managed anything as complex as this before; that’s the problem with senators. She wasn’t as decisive as she should have been. And it’s a legitimate question to ask: Under great pressure from two different factions, can she make some hard decisions and move ahead? It seems to just fester. She doesn’t seem to know how to stop it or want to stop it.”
I found it interesting that Clinton chose another long-time member of her old White House inner circle of loyal aides as Patti Solis Doyle’s replacement. Maggie Williams, like Patti Solis Doyle, has had no previous experience running a presidential campaign or managing a paid political staff of almost a thousand people. In this respect Hillary Clinton has shown the same disturbing tendency that our current President Bush has shown during his two terms as President. Like Bush, Clinton appears to place a higher value on those who have demonstrated personal loyalty to her through the years than she does on their relative experience or competence.
Virtually all of Clinton’s key campaign aides are people who have worked for her for many years and are familiar with her peculiar management style. Clinton has also demonstrated the same propensity the current President Bush has shown for sticking by lieutenants who are not getting the job done even when other friends have urged Clinton to let them go. I find these tendencies troubling because it says a lot about the type of people Clinton is likely to nominate as Cabinet heads and for positions overseeing government agencies should she ever be elected President.
What the US doesn’t need is another four years of Presidential appointees who lack the experience or the competence to do the jobs they are tasked with. That is why I find these parallels between Bush’s and Clinton’s CEO management styles so disturbing.

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