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Using the management of their campaigns to learn about the candidates

By Andrew Pollack on 09/03/2008 at 07:22 AM EDT

Some things about these two political campaigns have struck me recently as glimpses of what to expect from an administration led by either candidate. It isn't a perfect picture, but it is telling in a way. It also matches what I think about these two men so clearly my own viewpoint is mixed in richly in the interpretation. To be clear about that bias, I should state here that I am currently planning to vote for Obama, though will not vote an entirely Democratic party ticket. We have some very good representation here in Maine from both parties.

One of the key differences I see in these organizations is how they respond to challenges.

The Obama campaign has had to really thread a needle on several key issues. There were the remarks and rhetoric made by Rev. Wright and all of the related tension of culture and race those remarks brought up. There is the simple issue of his name. There was the very prolonged split with the Clinton organization -- this being nearly as hard fought as most senate or governorship campaigns ever get. In every case, the Obama campaign has met the issue with a carefully executed and well considered plan. In most cases, the issued ended up adding to the reputation and status of the candidate. If anything, the Obama campaign has felt a bit like it has the momentum of an inevitable historic event.

The McCain campaign has really been at its best just about the time everyone is ready to write it off as a loss. John McCain seems to bring to the table a perseverance and a readiness to dig in deep and fight the long fight. It has served him well throughout his life, but comes at a price. His campaign has been up and down like a roller coaster. The decision to chose Governor Palen of Alaska feels very last minute and poorly researched. One gets the impression that once McCain failed to get support for his first choice -- Joe Lieberman, Democrat -- within his party that in frustration he accepted an alternative too quickly and without enough consideration and follow-through. Even more telling is how his campaign has been backed into a corner by that choice, and has fallen back to the strategy of defending its decision at nearly any cost. This is very much what we've seen from the G.W. Bush administration for the last 8 years. A poor decision or a poor choice of cabinet level official is backed up and supported well past the time to move on out of a misplaced sense of loyalty or a fear of being seen backing down (see Brown, Gonzalas, Iraq War).

Barak Obama seems to give real consideration to any question rather than a snap judgement. He's proven to be difficult to pin down on a couple of issues and been criticized for being willing to modify his position given new information. When I consider the international scene right now, there are several critical regions on the edge of major change. Iraq is just one. Iran, Venezuela, and North Korea are all critical places where a single strong leader is making decisions charged with so much rhetoric and bluster that their true positions can be very difficult to ascertain. These are relationships that I believe can become radically better or worse in the next four years. McCain's instinct seems to be to bunker down and fight. I don't believe that will be positive for us now. On the other hand, Russia, China, and Israel are all major problems where a stubborn but careful resolve is going to be needed. Is Obama as ready for that? While Obama strikes me as a negotiator, McCain's tendency is to get his back up and lock in to a position. When McCain is forced to back down, he seems to do so suddenly and with rash results. The man is famous for his temper.

In both cases, the campaigns seem to echo the style of the candidates. McCain may believe in slightly different things than G.W. Bush, his approach to politics and policy is every bit has hard line and uncompromising. There are times when its called for, surely, but for the time being I think most of the world both inside and outside our borders have had enough of that from our nation.


There are  - loading -  comments....

re: Using the management of their campaigns to learn about the candidatesBy Keith Brooks on 09/03/2008 at 09:32 AM EDT
Andrew,
In some respects Obama does what all the executive magazines and articles
suggest. Make a decision, but don't be afraid to adjust that decision if new or
better input comes to show.
On the other hand McCain, like Bussh, has a definitive line and refuses to
accept it should or could change. Which is odd because he at least recognizes
sometimes you need change to move forward.
As to if he wanted Lieberman as his VP, one could say life imitates art as that
was the ending of The West Wing series.
re: Using the management of their campaigns to learn about the candidatesBy Ben Langhinrichs on 09/03/2008 at 10:28 AM EDT
Thanks for a thoughtful and interesting analysis. I tend to agree both with
your perceptions of the two candidates, and with your choice on which we need
right now.
re: Using the management of their campaigns to learn about the candidatesBy Paul Gagnon on 09/03/2008 at 10:32 AM EDT
Decent analysis Andrew.

Neither side has any lack of ego or self confidence, thats for sure.

Correction, Lieberman = Independent Democrat, not beholden to Dems so much this
time around, remember the Dem party in CT ousted him and he still won his seat
back. He would be a great choice for any position in any administration, I
like Lieberman, good guy he is.

IMO, I think Palin was a terrific choice from the Mccain side. Finally
something really different. Unfortunately the liberal drive-by press in this
country is going to pull out all the stops to try and destroy her, this latest
round of attacks about her daughter are really out of bounds, imo. Obama was
born to a teen unwed mother... you don't hear that being talked about.
Anyways, vp, Biden's been there 36 years, since he was 29 in 1972..... so hes
really never had any other job other than working in washington dc. Doesn't
really fit the "change" mantra that the Obama campaign has been hollering.
They could have picked someone better than Biden, imo, although he is probably
quite capable and could do the job.

Either way the debates should be good.

The way I look at it, it doesn't really matter who wins it.... its the 538
members of congress that needs a good flushing. They pass all the silly laws
and spend/waste all our money.

The POTUS position is really just a
"Hi, I'm the new boss."...........
"I'm just like the old boss."

Neither Obama or McCain will be that much different than their predecessors.
Either of them will have to deal with the Ried and Pelosi agenda when they take
office, and that is really scary. ;)
re: Using the management of their campaigns to learn about the candidatesBy Jerry Carter on 09/03/2008 at 11:47 AM EDT
The big difference with Obama/Biden is that they will support Pelosi/Feinstein
in almost any left leaning socialist wealth redistribution plan. Obama has
already laid out his plan for our future where we all pretty much pay in more
so those who pay in nothing get even more of a free ride.

I agree though - good analysis from you Andrew - good approach to looking at
things. I think you're spot on with their personalities. However, I think
Russia is going to be true to it's historic image as the bear and will require
a very tough jaw in a US President. Biden might have the chops to handle them,
but his earlier plan for breaking up Iraq suggests he's willing to let radical
factions have their way when convenient. That would seem to directly support
Russia's current position on the break away regions in Georgia. McCain has
already said Russia will get no traction with their current tactics. At this
point, I think we really need someone without the potential to waffle. McCain
is no ace, but I think he'll handle Putin and Medvyedev better.
That's one view, from a pretty far right perspectiveBy Andrew Pollack on 09/03/2008 at 12:34 PM EDT
I think this election is very much about the differences you bring up.

In this U.S., your view would be considered right wing. To the rest of the
world, it would be considered extreme right wing.

Personally, I think we've been dealing with wealth redistribution for many
years -- just pointed the wrong way. The economic figures support this.

Some degree of socialism is something we all agree on. We differ only in how
much. Surely you don't favor zero welfare, zero foodstamps, no public schools,
no medicare, and no public housing assistance -- and very low taxes.

You'd draw the line in a different place, but its still socialism to provide
any of those at all. I think the line does in fact need to me moved further
toward helping make sure healthcare, education, basic food and shelter are all
available to anyone regardless of circumstance. I've spoken at length in my
other blog postings about why I believe this is better for all of us, not just
poor people. My reasons have nothing to do with fairness or charity. Just
good economic sense.

I don't worry about a US/Russia or a US/China standoff as much because those
nations are mature and diplomatic processes are long established. The less
predictable and more volatile regimes, on the other hand, require a flexibility
of approach rather than a hard line threat. I believe that is more suited to
Obama's thinking than McCain's.
We interpret some things very differently.By Andrew Pollack on 09/03/2008 at 12:26 PM EDT
Palin is a good choice in that it revives the ticket, but no - I don't think
she makes a good VP choice. I don't see her as President at all -- and that's
the job for a VP.

Is the "Liberal Media" really tearing her up? If Obama had ever even whispered
about a secessionist group he'd have never gotten the nomination and would have
no chance at the Presidency. As to the teen pregnancy -- I'm torn. On the one
hand, its a private matter and surely not the end of the world. On the other
hand, it does speak to the results of her parenting in the eyes of many
people. Ironically, most of those people are on the Republican side of
voting. It is a counter point to the statement that she's been so successful
at balancing five kids with a political career. If the shoe was on the other
foot -- if this was one of Obama's kids, again I think the response from both
parties would be flipped and even more extreme.

As far as Barak being the result of a teen pregnancy, that's hardly something
he personally had the slightest influence on. Frankly, I find his biography
compelling. He stumbled around until mid way through college without direction
and then suddenly found what he wanted to do -- then went and did it. I can
respect that.

Finally, about half of the American voters don't find Pelosi and Ried to be
that scary -- along with a very large portion of the rest of the world. On the
contrary, much of the world and half of the U.S. finds another term of hardball
diplomacy based on weapons and saber rattling to be a very scary prospect
indeed.
re: We interpret some things very differently.By Paul Gagnon on 09/03/2008 at 10:04 PM EDT
"and that's the job for a VP."

imo, I think she'll make a very good VP, at least as good as Biden, (and way
better looking too), and probably a really good CIC after that. Many
disenfranchised conservative voters who didn't care much for McCain and weren't
going to bother voting are now engaged again and will cast a vote for Palin, so
its a much better race.

"Is the "Liberal Media" really tearing her up?"

You bet they are. NBC, CBS, ABC, MSNBC, NYT, et al and some CNN, are all doing
it. And its only just beginning. It'll make the treatment they gave Vice
President Cheney seem tame. Anything that has the left this worked up over a
nominee must either mean that there is fear on the left or that the left just
really doesn't like women in power positions. Just calling it like I see it,
Clinton was clearly a better choice for the Dem ticket.

"If Obama had ever even whispered about a secessionist group he'd have never
gotten the nomination and would have no chance at the Presidency."

It was a libertarian party that the Palin's belonged to that had some members
with those intentions, yawn, doesn't really compare to the America-hating and
racist reverend Wright association that has been so conveniently swept under
the rug. Heck NBC alone is running 10 to 1 postitive stories on Obama, totally
nauseating.

"As far as Barak being the result of a teen pregnancy, that's hardly something
he personally had the slightest influence on. Frankly, I find his biography
compelling. He stumbled around until mid way through college without direction
and then suddenly found what he wanted to do -- then went and did it. I can
respect that."

No beef there, that's spot on and a fair assessment.

"Finally, about half of the American voters don't find Pelosi and Ried to be
that scary"

I'd like to see a poll on those numbers. They are locally elected in their
states and American voters don't figure into it. My comment about Pelosi and
Ried (who are currently at the head of the lowest rated congress ever) have
their own agenda with which they'll handcuff whoever ends up in the oval
office. And I believe there are some stark differences between theirs and
Obamas plans. Doesn't matter for McCain, they'll predictably agree to disagree
just on political opposition.

"along with a very large portion of the rest of the world. On the contrary,
much of the world and half of the U.S. finds another term of hardball diplomacy
based on weapons and saber rattling to be a very scary prospect indeed."

I, and I suspect many others, don't much care what the rest of the world thinks
of the US. The "lets appease the UN" and John Kerry style litmus test lost him
that last bid for Pres. Classic cases of the "have nots" telling us how things
should be and appeasement of dictatorship regimes that hate the US is not the
way to craft effective foreign policy. More saber rattling, not less, is
needed, imo.

I'll have to track down the source, but I read somewhere about generosity and
noone was even a close second to the US when it comes to charitable donation in
money, food, and resources.

This is a really good topic and I enjoy a good debate. As long as we can still
friends after it's all over.
That's really painful to read, and looses credibility quicklyBy Andrew Pollack on 09/03/2008 at 11:49 PM EDT
I have to tell you, that reply reads like little other than jingoistic
repetition of right wing hardcore diatribe.

Do me a favor, have a real conversation with me instead of classifying
everything into giant groups of "The Liberal Press" and so on and so forth.
Lets be specific about these individuals. The rest is parroting.

Here's an example: Am I the irresponsible, unthinking, socialist danger you're
afraid of? I'd like to think my intelligence, honor, and willingness to do
what's needed for those around me are fairly well established. Nonetheless,
I'm in favor of all those things that seem to be most repugnant to you. I'm in
favor of allowing -- hell encouraging -- any adults who think they can stand to
be together forever to be married regardless of their individual genitalia. I
am in favor of a well regulated universal health care system (though I'd prefer
it to be privately run with choices in competitive vendors). I'm in favor of
food stamps, public education, and subsidized housing where necessary. In
short, I've become a liberal.

Can you reconcile this? I'm no more a part of a huge liberal bias than you are
part of a vast right wing conspiracy; so lets drop acerbic language and
sloganeering for the sake of a thoughtful discussion. k?
re: That's really painful to read, and looses credibility quicklyBy Ben Langhinrichs on 09/04/2008 at 08:59 AM EDT
Thank you!
re: That's really painful to read, and looses credibility quicklyBy Paul Gagnon on 09/04/2008 at 10:14 AM EDT
Andrew, I did not mean to direct this as a personal attack towards you. If
thats how it came across then I am truly sorry. Please accept my apologies.
Not read that way about me, just unreadableBy Andrew Pollack on 09/04/2008 at 10:22 AM EDT
The way I read your comments, the basis of so much of what you're saying was
overgeneralizing all Obama supports in one group, "The Media" in a big group,
and so on. To have a real discussion, we have to drop the generalizations like
that. Otherwise, we're just standing on opposite sides of the street waving
signs and shouting slogans. That's not getting anyone any closer to a useful
discourse.
re: Not read that way about me, just unreadableBy Paul Gagnon on 09/04/2008 at 11:24 AM EDT
You're right. It's easy to get caught up in all this, obviously I am. I've
reread and it does come across that way. The quote/reply quote/reply format
also really doesn't work that well at all. I need an editor! LOL

Now that the conventions from both parties are pretty much over, we can get on
to the debates and hear from the candidates themselves, instead of all the
talking-heads (ie "the media") talking about the candidates. There are so many
big problems that need to be addressed such as war and energy and healthcare
and jobs. I want to hear and see what kind of leadership will be brought to
bear on these issues to the table from both sides. I don't expect Washington
to solve all our problems, I think they rarely do, but I do hope that they can
show leadership this time around and get out of the way when they need to.

At the end of the day, I'm pretty much just an average Joe. I work hard, pay
my taxes, be a good husband, the best dad I can be to my daughter, mow the
lawn, fix the cars, run a mean grill, watch tv, and occasionally drink a beer.

I have some real concerns, such as how I am going afford heating oil this
winter, how expensive healthcare is, and why the roads leading home are in such
terrible disrepair, even though my taxes go up every year. I fear that high
energy costs will take a very negative toll on all of us in the northeast,
especially Maine. I just want capable and competent leadership in all levels
of government so that I can get on with my pusuit of happiness.
re: We interpret some things very differently.By Erik Brooks on 09/04/2008 at 06:53 AM EDT
I've got to agree with the media bit. Most of the media is digging into Palin
pretty hard. "You can't be a mom to 5 kids and VP."

But I'd bet money that if Palin was on the democratic ticket we'd be hearing
lots of "Wow! Look at all she does! She juggles 5 kids AND she's a governor...
Wow!" Sensationalizm sells, but (most) media does prefer to spin it one
direction over the other.

But she's the ONLY person on either of the 2 major parties' tickets that is
likely to try to *cut* government spending, and that has definitely got my ears
perked up.
re: Using the management of their campaigns to learn about the candidatesBy Ben Langhinrichs on 09/04/2008 at 08:59 AM EDT
Just one minor note about Barack Obama being the son of a teen mother himself.
The day the story came out about Bristol Palin, Barack Obama stated forcefully
and clearly that families were off limits, especially children. He then went
on to say, "My mother was only 18 when she had me" and reiterated that someone
should not be judged harshly based on that.
re: Using the management of their campaigns to learn about the candidatesBy Bruce Perry on 09/05/2008 at 01:22 AM EDT
Umm, Lieberman wasn't ousted. He lost the primary to Ned Lamont. He then left
the Democratic party. He jumped. He wasn't pushed.

Funny story. Lieberman ran as the "Connecticut for Lieberman" candidate, but
he forgot to formally establish this party (which he was, in theory, supposed
to do). Someone else did establish it and now uses it to tweak Joe.
re: Using the management of their campaigns to learn about the candidatesBy Jo Grant on 09/03/2008 at 07:27 PM EDT
"The man is famous for his temper."
Has he thrown chairs across his office? :-)


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