Thursday, February 14, 2008

Presidential Leadership and Campaign Financing

The New York Times Caucus Blog carries a posting by Katharine Q. Seelye that Bill Clinton's successful Presidential campaign manager of 1992, David Wilhelm, has endorsed Barack Obama rather than Hillary Clinton. That alone is news, but what really hits the spot is WHAT he said:

"He said in a conference call today that Mr. Obama was more electable than Senator Hillary Clinton. Mr. Obama’s campaign is evidence of his leadership, he said, calling it “masterful.”

“He has out-worked her, out-organized her and out-raised her,” Mr. Wilhelm said. “I know organizational excellence when I see it, and the Obama campaign, win or lose, will serve as a model” of execution of strategy, message discipline, application of new technology and small-donor fund raising."

"Leadership" - or what some call "charisma" to draw attention away from the more banal term - does not start on the day after a candidate is sworn in as the Chief Executive, which is the focus of McCain's slogan, "Ready to Lead", but has to be demonstrated on the way to get there, so that all-around executive qualities, based on professional AND life experience, should be surfacing now already, if they are at all present.

In fact, as Wilhelm's comments above verify, the reason that Obama has moved to a frontrunning position is exactly because of the positive manifestation of leadership qualities that he has. He has put together a formidable campaign machine and it is working. That indicates what he will be able to do in the future at other tasks.

Indeed, an important member of McCain's own advertising staff, Mark McKinnon, has stated that he will not campaign against Obama. Who is then the leader?

While Obama's leadership in raising funding for his campaign has been exemplary, McCain's own leadership in raising funds for himself has been less than optimal, early leading to a desperate financial situation and forcing a $3 million loan. Since then his funding has improved, but still does not show the leadership credentials that he the candidate espouses for himself. Indeed, the McCain campaign may have sources of funding in special interests, whereas Obama's funding has come principally from the nation's people as individuals.

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