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Sunday, January 20, 2013

Why Corporate-Manager Types Need to STFU

This criminally stupid column at the NYT. Josh Marshall at TPM flagged this first, and I read it before reading his commentary, which is pretty close to my reaction as well. The idea that Obama is a "bad manager" because he came into the White House with no executive experience is just wrong. Two reasons: first, he's not a bad manager, and second, he actually does have "executive" experience, primarily as the architect of his own presidential campaigns, which are arguably the two best run in modern history. Of course, that means that all presidents will have at least some executive experience, although some certainly take more active roles than others. My impression is that Obama was always driving that train, much more so than, say, George W. Bush, who was largely a creature of Karl Rove and the GOP corporate-industrial complex. Clinton mostly ran his own campaign too, but that was a rambling wreck if ever there was one. Oh, and Obama also ran the car companies--better than the car companies.

This idea that Obama is "aloof" always leaves me scratching my head. Compared to what or whom? To Bush, who delegated pretty much everything to Rove and Cheney, gave strictly scripted press conferences to hide his cluelessness, and famously ignored PDBs on bin Laden and storm warnings from the Gulf? Or Reagan, he of the "light touch"? Holy cow! Talk about a guy who was disengaged most of the time, probably suffering from some degree of early Alzheimer's for much of his tenure. Sure, Clinton was more engaged, but to the point of frenzy and distraction. I loves me some Bill Clinton, but there's no real question about who runs the tighter and more disciplined ship here--and no question about who has had greater accomplishments in office. Where are the scandals? the grand feuds? the policy disasters?

It would be nice if the author actually had some, say . . . examples!!! Not including gossip, I mean. The whispered grievances about Valerie Jarrett sound like little more than insider sour grapes, the kind you usually hear a lot more about than we've heard to date under BHO. The idea that Obama's team lacks diversity is especially wacky. No modern president has ever had more cross-party nominees in high position, nor better records for women, minorities, etc. The only group I can think of that has a consistent gripe is corporate CEO types, but just a few years after the Bush-Wall Street meltdown, it's hard to say with a straight face that those guys are getting an unfair shake.

Here's my impression of this author: he's the proverbial hammer looking for his nail. His entire think tank shtick is about "management" and so he strings together a bunch of incoherent slams with a conspicuous lack of actual evidence or argument in order to channel the angst of our annoyed corporate class. We get columns like this on a frequent basis in the local paper, some consultant or exec bandying about his superior insight in the least self-aware way possible. It's Mitt Romney ad infinitum. If that guy's such a great manager, how come Bain had a worse investing record batting average than the stimulus? And how come his campaign had such bad message discipline and spent so much more money? And then LOST?


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