May 8, 2008

Let's judge Hillary Clinton's executive aptitude by the campaign she managed.

Karen Tumulty at Time has a great list of 5 mistakes Clinton made. Let me focus on #2:
Clinton picked people for her team primarily for their loyalty to her, instead of their mastery of the game. That became abundantly clear in a strategy session last year, according to two people who were there. As aides looked over the campaign calendar, chief strategist Mark Penn confidently predicted that an early win in California would put her over the top because she would pick up all the state's 370 delegates.
Wow! Mark Penn's awfulness continues to amaze me. And, of course, it's not really Mark Penn that is so awful, but Hillary for choosing and sticking with Mark Penn.
It sounded smart, but as every high school civics student now knows, Penn was wrong: Democrats, unlike the Republicans, apportion their delegates according to vote totals, rather than allowing any state to award them winner-take-all. Sitting nearby, veteran Democratic insider Harold M. Ickes, who had helped write those rules, was horrified — and let Penn know it. "How can it possibly be," Ickes asked, "that the much vaunted chief strategist doesn't understand proportional allocation?" And yet the strategy remained the same, with the campaign making its bet on big-state victories. Even now, it can seem as if they don't get it. Both Bill and Hillary have noted plaintively that if Democrats had the same winner-take-all rules as Republicans, she'd be the nominee.
Pathetic.

Read the whole list of 5. As I said to Jeralyn Merritt in the new Bloggingheads episode, we should judge the candidates' executive aptitude by the campaigns they managed. Seen that way, Hillary Clinton would be an abysmal President.

UPDATE: Penn denies that he lacked understanding of the proportional approach to delegates.

30 comments:

Sloanasaurus said...

Cinton's biggest mistake was going fo the compressed primary schedule. If no change would ahve been made, states like Florida and Michigan would have held primaries in March and April, giving Clinton much greater popular vote victories.

The compressed primary states gave Obama victories before the public knew Obama. IN the end the media destroyed Clinton by not vetting Obama.

George said...

It's not that she's done so badly, it's that she's done so well, considering that a) she has no management experience, really; b) next to no experience running for office; and c) lacks her husband's utter ruthlessness.

Her problem is that she is not her husband, a master charmer who in 1992 had been hardened by long-service as a governor. For all we know, he is making all the big decisions behind the scenes, and his skills and instincts have kept her alive this long.

Considering the herd-like dopiness of the wizard pundits, I would not be surprised if they're all wrong about her losing the nomination, if for no other reason there's still time for the dour authoritarian Obama to implode.

Roger J. said...

Ms Tumulty is not telling us anything that Brad deLong had not already told us several years ago re Ms. Clinton's managment ability. (As I read that list it sounds almost like many of the mistakes the Japanese made when they attacked Pearl Harbor and started the Pacific Phase of WWII.)

MadisonMan said...

Both Bill and Hillary have noted plaintively that if Democrats had the same winner-take-all rules as Republicans, she'd be the nominee.

Maybe she should run as a Republican next time then.

rhhardin said...

Actually the structure is that every state produces a tie in delegates, and the superdelegates decide ties.

Bob said...

Clinton did better in the primaries where there was a vote. Obama got those early states with caucases - where his supporters enthusiasm carried the day. Once he got a few wins then her inevitibility was punctured.

His campaign as a marker for executive aptitude hasn't been stellar either. Still he looks to be a winner if an ugly one.

Balfegor said...

As I said to Jeralyn Merritt in the new Bloggingheads episode, we should judge the candidates' executive aptitude by the campaigns they managed. Seen that way, Hillary Clinton would be an abysmal President.

Clearly, we lucked out in 2000 then.

George said...

Also, the fact that she's fired people who weren't performing or giving bad advice can also be viewed as an executive strength.

Rapid change in the face of adversity, whether you're managing used car salesmen, battlefield generals, or campaign aides, can signify nimbleness and a laser-like focus on the organization's bottom-line goals—selling cars, killing the enemy, or winning an election.

Screw loyalty.

Ask yourself: What crises (of any kind!) has Obama faced? He dumped Wright. Anything else? Look how long that took him and how much it cost him in political/pundit capital. He did not understand that black voters would never leave him and that he has permanently lost significant white voter/pundit support.

Balfegor said...

He did not understand that black voters would never leave him and that he has permanently lost significant white voter/pundit support.

I thought the pundits were falling over themselves to proclaim that Oceania has always been at war with Eastasia. Voters, though . . . maybe. I think a fair number of those who were offended will hold their nose and vote for the rotter all the same.

Bender said...

Hillary's campaign staff is not any less competent than Hillary herself.

And her own number one argument for voting for her has been little more than loyalty toward the Clintons.

The fact is that the only brilliance Hillary has ever exhibited in anything is her ability to bluster and spin and dissemble. Hardly the "smartest women alive," Hillary has again and again shown herself to be grossly lacking in competence when it comes to real substantive matters (same with "her husband").

SteveR said...

The whole experience angle was laughable and it didn't help in practice, or as a qualifier, since it was really experience managing her husband. And she didn't do any better at that then she has as the inevitable one.

Embedded in there also is the reality that most Americans aren't living in the 60's anymore.

madawaskan said...

Given Hillary's high negatives and her supposedly inept campaign strategy/management what does that tell you about Obama?

Obama has not been able to win it-even after a historically long campaign...

Zeb Quinn said...

Some of us didn't need this campaign to see that Hillary can't manage. The 1993 health care task force gave us that insight in spades. This campaign was just more of that, showing that she doesn't learn either.

P. Rich said...

...we should judge the candidates' executive aptitude by the campaigns they managed.

Balderdash. And how would you propose to do that? By the present standings? Is Obama's success to date - and Clinton (v)'s failing - somehow a consequence of his "executive aptitude" rather that his consistently receiving 90+% of the black and ultra-liberal vote regardless of what he says, or does, or has done? Do you believe McCain is the Rep candidate because of his superior "executive aptitude"? That is demonstrably false.

There are reasons why congress is a poor source of presidential material, and in this election cycle we are all well and truly screwed.

Bob said...

Maybe we should ask the opposite question which is "Let's judge the effectiveness of the current primary process by the nominees it has produced and the campaigns they managed." I walk away convinced the current system produces the polar opposite of what it should.

reader_iam said...

I'm with Bob.

garage mahal said...

Given Hillary's high negatives and her supposedly inept campaign strategy/management what does that tell you about Obama?

Not to mention the highly orchestrated media misinformation campaign he's wagered with help of TPM, HuffPo and just about every pundit that the Clinton's are racists, and that she couldn't win for going on 2 months now. Neither candidate "agreed" that FL and MI wouldn't count, only that they wouldn't campaign there, which Obama did. So he blocked revotes that the DNC and Hillary's camp agreed to to stall this out and push the narrative that she was much farther behind than she is.

We seen again last Tues when the votes that were already counted in Gary weren't relayed until 11:00 to give the effect that he might win, and have the pundits say the race was over. Russert went so far as to proclaim him the nominee. Now on May 20th he is going to declare himself the nominee based on a metric they pulled completely out of their ass. And they call Bush and Republicans arrogant and guilty of media manipulation?

tomb1 said...

Karen Tumulty (Time) buried the lede and missed the whole point with #2. She said the problem was that Hillary's team didn't understand the rules, then offers a comment that "Clinton picked people for her team primarily for their loyalty to her, instead of their mastery of the game."

THAT IS the problem -- picking people for their loyalty instead of their competence. She picked yes-men (and a few women). She seldom allows disagreement and sees it as disloyalty. This is a frequent and typical symptom of executive failure.

Roger J. said...

Garage: you go, guy. We are going to make you an honorary wingnut! We winguts have been telling you this since 1993!

And I do believe HRC needs to stay in the race until the convention--Why? its the only way Senator Obama will continue to get critical scrutiny.

wgh said...

Questions regarding the process itself, or perceived flaws in the system (compressed primary schedule, we rely too much on caucuses, we should use winner-take-all, etc) are inconsequential. An effective administrator understands the framework in which she or he must operate. An effective administrator uses this knowledge to guide action planning, particularly in how to use the rules to his or her advantage.

Hillary and her team had every opportunity to NOT be in the position they're in today. She could have fixed this even after the collapse of her campaign's central operating principle--the Super Tuesday wrap-up. Instead she allowed Obama's team to out-message, out-organize and out-caucus her.

George said...

wgh--

But she's still in a position.

The other candidates failed and are in no position.

Yes, she losing, but she (and her hubby) have proven themselves to be flexible, resilient, and tough in the face of adversity. She's the dog hanging on to Obama's pants leg, and she may yet bring him down.

It would be the height of amusement to see all the pundits, poobahs, pollsters, and prognosticators proved wrong.

Saul said...

Regardless of what you think of Obama, the media has completely given HRC a pass in this election, more so than the media gave Bush I a pass on the Iran Contra affair in 1988.

Simply because HRC managed to escape numerous scandals in the past does not mean these scandals should not be discussed in the present election cycle.

While I agree Obama's experience mimics that of JFK, what has HRC done other than to orchestrate Whitewater and a failed health policy. Name once accomplishment of HRC in her political career?
Other than creating a program for children to get health insurance, I can't think of any.

Ralph said...

How did Kerry win so quickly in 2004, if the system is designed to drag things out?
Her staff may be loyal to her, but not to each other: witness Ickes already dumping on Penn.

Bob said...

"It would be the height of amusement to see all the pundits, poobahs, pollsters, and prognosticators proved wrong."

Actually the really amuzing thing is watching how quickly the rabid left, who so hate her now (this morning on an Air America talk show I heard her called a Republican), embrace her a the Progressive Savior should she grab the nomination. Now that would be fun to watch!

blake said...

Bob's your uncle!

vbspurs said...

Clinton picked people for her team primarily for their loyalty to her, instead of their mastery of the game.

WTF, loyalty as measure of ultimate vetting worked for Kennedy and both Bushes.

Of course, it helped that they had O'Donnell, Powers and the Boston political machine, and the Bushes had Rove.

1. She misjudged the mood

Stupid, but this can be overcome by strategy.

2. She didn't master the rules

Troubling. And worse that someone like Harold Ickes (who adores her) had less say than Mark Penn. This is assbackwards and either she or especially Bill should know it.

3. She underestimated the caucus states

Pathetic, but given today's climate understandable. She herself said that activists harangue caucus goers and her own people are "just folks" not activists.

Yeah, but you have to try, Hillary not cross your arms and sigh.

4. She relied on old money

The worst mistake. It goes to her sense of entitlement of the Office -- and disregard for the little guy she is said to champion.

5. She never counted on a long haul

In fairness, who did.

These are good reasons, and they can describe why she flailed. But it seems to me not one of them is the real knockdown punch.

She is the much better politician than Obama, or the rest of the field were, by far.

Which is not to say her instincts are better than her husband's were. But they're seasoned, and should've seen her through.

Cheers,
Victoria

Eli Blake said...

Considering that even as recently as October, Obama was over twenty points down in the polls, he managed a very effective campaign.

Also-- maybe she didn't organize in all those small red states but he had the foresight to realize that there are plenty of Democrats in red areas. In fact, one of the things that really grated on rural and western Democrats (like me) during the Clinton years is that they did write off and ignore entire regions of the country. The epitome of that was when Bill Clinton was on his way out of office, someone pointed out that he'd only visited 49 states. So a quickie speech at a high school in Nebraska was hurriedly arranged just so he could say it was fifty. In contrast, Howard Dean's 'fifty state' strategy was a welcome change of philosophy for us Democrats in 'flyover country' and Obama was smart enough to realize that this was where he could run up a sizeable delegate lead. Say what you will about proportionality, but when Obama takes the trouble to campaign in Idaho, is therefore rewarded with a 75% win and hence gets a margin of fourteen delegates out of it, that is huge when Clinton got less than that delegate margin by a 55% win in Pennsylvania.

Eli Blake said...

Also-- what does this say about John McCain, who's almost destroyed his campaign twice?

Once last year when he built a big, ungainly organization that outstripped his fundraising, and once this year when he used the promise of Federal matching funds as collateral on a bank loan, thereby putting himself under a spending cap through August (luckily for him the Federal Election Commission is down to two members so the only reason his campaign isn't shut down for the next four months is that for the moment they don't have a quorum and therefore can't enforce it.)

blake said...

Eli,

I think all three have the same basic temperament: I know who to bully to make things right.

McCain shot himself in the foot with campaign finance reform, but if he hadn't, who's to say he would have made it this far at all? I think Hillary and Obama are both getting a higher percentage of Dem votes than McCain got for any Rep campaign where he had competition.

Whether because they think they're smarter than everyone else (Hilary) or more righteous than everyone else (McCain) or both (Obama), none of them seem to have the proper respect for the beast they're trying to tame.

Bob said...

Eli, as you said McCain twice managed to almost self-destruct. So one might surmise he makes mistakes and then learns from those mistakes. As the FCC has only two members because the Democratic congress won't seat others he's gonna be "the Nominee" and maybe even "Mr President". I guess the other thing we thing we knew about McCain is resilence - but then we knew that from his stay in the Hanoi Hilton.