Friday, April 4, 2008

Its Trench Warfare Now

Republican Politics, American Style
Published on April 3rd in Metro Eireann By Charles Laffiteau

Last week I discussed the CEO management style Mrs. Clinton has displayed over the course of the last year while running her Presidential campaign into the ditch. While not all of the problems Clinton has experienced on the campaign trail were of her own making, when you are telling voters you are the most experienced and capable Democratic candidate running for President then the buck stops with you regardless.
As President you can’t blame those you have appointed to positions of power in your administration for failing to get the job done. You have to casually admit you made a mistake appointing them by unceremoniously cutting them loose as quickly as possible, and simultaneously naming a successor who has a reputation for possessing whatever qualities that their predecessor lacked. There is no room for sentiment or personal loyalty when it comes to running a business enterprise or the US government. You have a much greater responsibility to US citizens and that responsibility is more important than one’s sense of personal loyalty to any one person, no matter how long they have been with you.
President Bush has repeatedly put his personal feelings of loyalty ahead of the interests of the US and its citizens by stubbornly resisting calls to replace long time aides who were failing in their jobs such as Alberto Gonzalez and Donald Rumsfeld. My concern is that Hillary Clinton has, from the outset of her presidential campaign, shown the same propensity as Bush for putting a higher premium on loyalty than competence or experience as a pre-requisite for working for her in her presidential campaign.
Thus far Clinton’s poor campaign management skills and inability to make hard choices have only had consequences that have affected her Democratic presidential nomination prospects. But install that same management philosophy and indecisiveness in the White House and it will be the American people who will suffer the consequences not just Clinton and her staffers. Is this the type of President I want answering the phone at 3am? A President who isn’t decisive and can’t bring herself to make tough choices?
When I saw Clinton’s 3am phone call advertisement questioning Obama’s ability to respond to some kind of middle of the night emergency, I got scared at the sight of her answering the call. While I understand her campaign’s use of this TV attack ad tactic in an attempt to cast doubt on Obama’s fitness to serve as Commander in Chief, the reality of such crises is that decisions on how to respond to them are made in much more unexciting ways. Even former Clinton National Security advisor and Hillary Clinton supporter David Rothkopf says that “It's a bit of a specious issue, somehow implying you need better judgment in the middle of the night.”
In fact US government historians and former national security advisers from both parties say that all serious presidential decisions have been made over the course of days or weeks and never in the middle of the night. Regardless, Senator Clinton’s decision to not even bother reading the CIA’s National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) prior to voting to authorize the Iraq war calls into question her ability to make better judgments as the US Commander in Chief in the middle of the day, much less in the middle of the night.
Aside from the fact that Senator Obama has shown better judgment than Senator Clinton on the Iraq war, Obama has also shown himself to be a much stronger and more decisive CEO than Clinton in terms of how he has managed his presidential campaign. The Obama presidential campaign staff is not composed of a bunch of people who all get along and agree on everything particularly as regards campaign strategy and tactics.
There were a number of Obama’s campaign advisers who were suggesting he change his campaign strategy and or tactics during the course of the last year while Obama continued to languish 20 plus percentage points behind Hillary Clinton in both national and early voting states’ polls. They wanted Obama to attack Clinton and among other things try to shed some light on the Clintons’ many questionable financial dealings since they left the White House in 2001.
Questions such as: How much money was Bill Clinton earning from speeches, (compared to what other former presidents made from speeches) on the basis of the presumption that he and Hillary would be returning to their White House perch after the 2008 elections? What were the names of the donors who had “donated” over $500 million to the Clinton Presidential Library and could they have been doing so to curry favor with the “next” Clinton administration? Why won’t the Clintons release their post-2000 tax returns until after they have been nominated as the Democratic candidate? What is in these tax returns that they don’t want Democratic voters to see until “after” they have voted?
Obama heard the voices calling for a change in strategy and considered the reasoning offered by those who proposed it. But Barack Obama decided that he was going to be consistent and continue to try and maintain a positive campaign message of bringing an end to the divisive politics that have dominated in the United States for the past forty years. He said that if he had to attack and tear his opponent down in order to win the nomination that he would be no better than that which he was fighting to change.
The Clintons have no such lofty illusions about political campaigns.. They are after all a product of the divisive anything goes politics that Obama is trying to bring an end to. Having squandered their advantages in name recognition, money and political establishment support, the Clintons have decided that they will attack Obama with a “kitchen sink” strategy in a final desperate effort to win the nomination no matter what it costs. I don’t think it will succeed but this is trench warfare now ….and the Clintons are very good at it.

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