Thursday, July 31, 2008

President or Prom King, Part 2

I never thought I would see the day when a candidate for the presidency would have this as their home page.

I'll say it again...I want a president that acts presidential. This just makes McCain look ridiculous.

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Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Is he running for the Presidency or Prom King?

Sure, Barack Obama is getting a lot of attention this week from the media. But, let's remember, he's meeting with foreign leaders, checking out the war zone, and doing things that are, shall we say, presidential. And lets remember who goaded Obama into making a trip overseas. Now that it seems to be generating a positive response, not just from Americans, but from people all over the world, John McCain seems to be a little jealous. So, what does the McCain campaign do? They whine about it just like Americans are apparantly doing about the economy.

Here's the current McCain campaign home page.

I'm not sure it even needs words, but let me say this: I want a president that acts presidential. I want a president that treats the election and campaign with respect and I don't want one that makes it look like the election for high-school prom king. That's what this home page does. That's what the silly count-down clocks on the GOP site do (and, not to be out done, it seems the GOP is showing the media complaint video too). span class="fullpost">
Since the beginning Barack Obama has been committed to running a clean campaign devoid of the silly politics we see every four years. Looking at the Obama website, I think you can see the difference without even leaving the home page. John McCain, on the other hand, runs comics.

Senator McCain: If you want the media to take you seriously and pay attention, perhaps you should take this election seriously. You can start by: suggesting your advisers not call Americans a bunch of whiners; by not referring to borders that don't exist; by not referring to countries that don't exist, and by actually answering a question about insurance coverage for birth control rather than driving the straight talk express off the side of the road in evasive measures.

Clean up the home page, start talking about important stuff and maybe people will pay attention. In the mean time, leave the comics to the pros.

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Thursday, July 17, 2008

Organizing for the Presidency (and a ding on the US press)

As the presidential campaign heads into the dog days of summer, two issues remain front and center for many who are not supporting Senator Obama: 1) Does he have the experience for the job and 2) What will he be like as president?

We live in turbulent times and, in many ways, the problems and risks we face are like nothing we have seen before. Instead of working from a well-tested play-book from the past, our next president will be forced to develop creative new ways of tackling challenges as diverse as national security and international relations, energy and health care policy, the post credit-bust economy, and more. All the while the next president will have to win back the confidence of the American public by ensuring them (especially the 45-50% who voted for the loser) that he can be a President that ALL Americans can be proud off. This is no easy task and it is easy for someone to question how Obama will deal with these issues.

One clue into Obama's skill as President really comes from the campaign organization he has developed. Throughout the primary and into the early parts of the general election the campaign has been a case study in discipline and professionalism. Little has come from the campaign in the way of leaks or major controversy (the same can't be said for the Clinton campaign or the McCain campaign). Despite building a far-reaching organization that has hit every state in the land, little has come in the way of publicly displayed infighting Despite being the "inexperienced" candidate, Obama has shown a managerial skill we have sorely lacked the last eight years. A great example of Obama's organization also provides some insight into his potential ability as the occupant of the West Wing. A recent article on Obama's foreign policy team was published in the International herald Tribune. It details an organization of 300 (mostly volunteer) foreign policy advisers that help funnel critical information to the candidate on a daily basis. The article describes the organization as "a tight-knit group of aides supported by a huge 300-person foreign policy campaign bureaucracy, organized like a mini State Department, to assist a candidate." Further, the article quote an Obama campaign official as saying:

"It is unwieldy, no question," said Denis McDonough, 38, Obama's top foreign policy aide, speaking of an infrastructure that has been divided into 20 teams based on regions and issues, and that has recently absorbed, with some tensions, the top foreign policy advisers from Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton's presidential campaign. "But an administration is unwieldy, too. We also know that it's messier when you don't get as much information as you can."

The group includes a small paid staff and a cadre of volunteers including the likes of Madeleine Albright and Warren Christopher, both former Secretaries of State. Of course this group will be tested in the coming weeks as Obama begins his overseas trip and this will give us some insight into Obama's capability as president. But, equally important, is the comparison of this group to that advising McCain:

Obama's Republican rival, Senator John McCain of Arizona, has a far smaller and looser foreign policy advisory operation, about 75 people in all, and none are organized into teams.

The early end to the Republican primary season gave McCain several months of a head start to build an organization that will support the campaign and form the base for a potential presidency. But, when we look at the many missteps and recent reorganization of the McCain campaign one has to wonder about the overall management capability of John McCain and how his skills will map onto the challenges faced by the next President.

My own interactions with the Obama campaign also provides some interesting insights. Last month the campaign launched the Organizing Fellows program and which trained and dispatched more than 3000 organizers out into the field. Just a few days into the start of the program I was contacted by one of the Fellows assigned to Central PA. The organizing fellows quickly tapped into local volunteer networks to organize dozens of events and register hundreds of voters. The skill they have shown in just a few short weeks is a testimony to the overall campaign.

One just has to visit the Obama website to see all the ways in which one can interact and be a part of the campaign. In contrast, just last week I visited the John McCain website in an effort to see what kind activities were running in my area. Despite my best efforts, all I could find was a phone number for the Ohio-PA regional office.

In talking to members of the paid staff, I have also been impressed with the way the campaign can coordinate actions between HQ and the local offices. I'm told that even the most distant staffers have the ability to get information to the top which is a far cry from the isolated bubble of our current President.

In short, I believe the Obama campaign, as a whole, and his foreign policy group, as a specific example, provide an nice preview into the way Obama will tackle the challenge of the Presidency. It seems clear to me he has the management skills necessary for the job as well (not to mention communication skills). McCain, on the other hand has shown some weaknesses in this area despite having had several months of a head start.

Finally, a little ding on the US press. The article mentioned earlier on Obama's foreign policy advisory team is a great example of how reporting ought to be done. It provides some detailed insight into how a candidate will organize and access information, two critical aspects of the job. The US press could learn from this type of reporting and perhaps focus on these types of details rather than Obama's workout schedule.

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Thursday, July 3, 2008

Campaign Funding - Broken System

A lot of noise has been made about Obama's decision to opt out of public financing. If you are wondering why Obama did it, have a look at this article.

The NRA (National Rifle Association) plans to spend more than $40 million running ads against Obama. To put that in perspective, that would be equal to about half the money that would be allowed under public financing. This is just one group. There will be many others and they can take large chunks of money from donors giving the wealthy unequal power in the election and, thus, defeating a key goal of the public funding system. When these groups can't be controlled, the public funding system is broken.

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Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Service is Different than Judgment

Here in Pennsylvanians, we have seen more of our neighbors, children, spouses, and relatives killed in Iraq than any other state save the much larger states of California and Texas. With that as a backdrop I find unsettling the uproar in the media over General Wesley Clark’s comments about John McCain, especially in light of comments made by McCain right here in Pennsylvania the very next day.

In an interview with a newspaper in Bucks County, PA (near Philadelphia) following a campaign stop, McCain reiterated his support for the war and said, even knowing what we know today, he would still vote to authorize war! Even knowing that Iraq had no connection to 9/11; even knowing that Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction; and even knowing that five years would pass and more than 4000 lives would be lost (186 from Pennsylvania), McCain would still authorize war. No matter how honorable John McCain’s past service, this position reflects poor judgment.

It is this type of decision that General Clark was referring to when he suggested that McCain lacked the judgment needed to be President. Yes, McCain served honorably and is a hero. Watch the video yourself – Clark acknowledges this. But, past service is irrelevant if you are still willing to commit to war in Iraq knowing what we know today. We have had eight years of a president unwilling to learn from or admit past mistakes -- we don’t need another four. Barack Obama was against the war from the start and is committed to bringing our troops home. That is the kind of judgment we need back in the Whitehouse.

The video is below the fold.

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