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Maintaining Optimism in the Face of Reality. Occasional observations on the state of the world, society, business and politics. Usually anchored by facts, always augmented by opinion.


The Buck Stops Where?  | e-mail post

Getting away from polls, Jay's Horserace post also picks up on a Washington Post front-page story on Kerry's (lack of) management experience.

Jay is absolutely correct that Kerry's lack of an executive mindset (epitomized by Truman's "The Buck Stops Here") seems to be reflected in the aimless wandering of his campaign for many months. I have often asked people how one can have confidence that a guy running such a disorganized campaign could possibly run the world's largest organization.

Moreover, executive experience teaches you that you can't do everything and you can't optimize on every dimension at once; an imperfect world demands a willingness to accept imperfect solutions. I alluded to the problem in my reflections on the first debate:
John Kerry came off as a person who has no actual executive experience, which makes sense, because he doesn't. It's easy to pass a law, it is difficult to implement it. Things don't happen instantly, but John Kerry talked as if he has a magic wand for accomplishing these things.
Let's be honest: the Presidency is the ultimate executive position. The entire government is an enormous enterprise to manage and direct. Americans seem to intuitively grasp this. Since FDR, America has only once elected someone President who had not been a Governor, General (Ike) or Vice-President, and Bush I was the only Veep elected who didn't ascend to the Presidency before standing for his first election (think Truman and LBJ). Of course, Bush I had also run the RNC and the CIA, in addition to co-founding Zapata Oil, to which modern-day Pennzoil traces its roots. There's a big difference between that and "running" a 90-person prosecutor's office, which is far less demanding of executive or managerial skills, than running, for example, a 30-person manufacturing shop.

Bottom line: abstaining or skipping a vote is not an option for an executive. Even inaction in such a position is effectively an action.

John Forbes Kerry might be counting on his initials though; JFK was the only one to make it to the Presidency without having prior executive experience. However, although Teresa Heinz may have a whole lot of cash, she is no Joe Kennedy. (With apologies to Lloyd Bentsen.)

Also, Kennedy-Nixon in '60 was an open election. I don't think someone without the Governor, General or VP gig on their resume has won against an incumbent President in the past century, maybe more. (I'm not going to bother looking up the pre-WW I races, since I don't even think it would be relevant when assessing the modern role of a President.)

e-mail post | Link Cosmos | [Permalink]  |  | Wednesday, October 13, 2004
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