Sunday, September 26


ADAM NAGOURNEY and JODI WILGOREN compare Kerry's management style to Bush's, and you won't believe it:

Unlike Mr. Bush, who was a governor and a business executive before he ran for president, Mr. Kerry - who has spent the past 20 years as a legislator, with a staff of perhaps 60 - has little experience in managing any kind of large operation. Several Democrats suggested that this presidential campaign was in many ways a learning experience for him. [emphasis mine]

Excuse me? As governor of Texas (largely a ceremonial office) Bush didn't have to manage anything -- Lt. Gov. Bob Bullock did it all. And as for his "business executive" experience, he ran every business he ever attempted into the ground. Certainly no-one in Dallas/Fort Worth consider that he "managed" the Texas Rangers ball club -- GWB played more of a Tom Hanks-in-A League of Their Own role, "waving his little hat" for the crowd at the beginning of games.

Mr. Kerry was described by his associates as more interested in the finer points of public policy than the mechanics of politics. Scott Maddox, the chairman of the Florida Democratic Party, said he could not recall getting a call from Mr. Kerry checking in with what was going on in that critical state.

If Mr. Bush were a little more interested in "the finer points of public policy," maybe the country wouldn't be in such a mess today.

This month - as Mr. Kerry made staff changes, as he was shaken into focusing on his campaign's problems, as he reached out yet again to friends and advisers - he displayed a management style that could hardly be more different from Mr. Bush's.

For better and for worse, Mr. Bush takes his counsel from a small, unchanging group of strategists. His senior campaign staff has not changed in 18 months. Mr. Bush's hunger for information and conflicting opinions is limited. His management style is crisp and insular, and it does not change between easy days and tough ones.

Mr. Kerry's circle is as wide and changing as Mr. Bush's is constricted and consistent. He is always calling one more friend, and the campaign lineup has shifted so often that rumors of staff changes have become part of the daily gallows humor at Kerry headquarters on McPherson Square in downtown Washington.

Instead of delegating authority to a single adviser, Mr. Kerry relies on different people for different advice. And, he made a point of saying in the interview, none of them have too much authority. "I am always in charge," he said.

Mr. Kerry's willingness to upend his staff has brought him some come-from-behind political triumphs, and was invoked by several associates in describing him as a decisive executive ready to make difficult decisions under fire.

"John believes that you have to be willing to take on talent even if it is provided by people you don't know," said Dan Payne, a Boston political consultant, who was pushed off Mr. Kerry's 1996 campaign for senator in favor of the strategist Bob Shrum when things were looking bad.

Representative Ted Strickland of Ohio said that during a recent bus trip through the small towns of the Appalachian region that make up his district, Mr. Kerry peppered him with questions about the way the reduction of import tariffs had affected the pottery industry - not about the voting patterns in a state he is struggling to win.

I just love that about Big John: that what's happening to jobs and workers is more important to him. In contrast, Shrub cares about votes, not people.


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