Monday, September 01, 2008

Obama has proven to be a superior executive to McCain

Pundits have, at last, decided that something called "executive experience" might be important in deciding who should be the next President of the US. I wonder what their first clue [cough**the George Bush disaster**cough] might have been? The right-wing noise machine has suddenly started talking up the beauty queen Sarah Palin's experience as mayor of a village of 5,000 to 6,000 people (staff of what? 25 or so?) and comparing it to the resumes of the two different Senators. Gimme a break. She left the village with a money losing sports complex, a massive debt and unnecessary legal bills caused by the poorly managed project.

But wait! If we want to look at management abilities, both Obama and McCain have created and operated sizable organizations to obtain the Presidential nominations of their respective parties. They both have a recent and very relevant history of executive experience that we can look at.

Hilzoy has a post on the CBS site that describes Obama's executive experience. Of the various candidates for President who started out about a year and a half ago, Obama has built and run an amazing organization almost from scratch, outlasting most of the Democrats and Republicans running for the office and effectively defeating the Democratic front-runner, Hillary Clinton.
When this campaign started, one of my biggest questions about Barack Obama was whether he would be any good at managing things. The President is, after all, the head of a very large organization, and he had better either have good management skills or hire a chief of staff who does. The fact that I didn't know whether Obama had them didn't prevent me from voting for him -- none of the other candidates I might have supported had a track record in management either -- but I would have been happier had I known whether Obama was any good at running things.

I don't have that problem any more. Obama has spent the past year and a half running a large organization -- as of last December, it had "about 500 employees and a budget of $100 million" -- and running it very well. It's not just that he and his team beat the Clinton campaign, which started out with enormous advantages. It's not even that he often did so by building effective political machines from scratch in states in which Clinton had locked down the political establishment. It's that every account of the Obama campaign that I've read makes it clear that he has done an outstanding job of constructing and running a political organization. For instance, this account of Obama's campaign is very much worth reading, if you want to get a sense of how he runs things:
"The story of how Obama assembled his top advisers — and how he got them to work together as a team — offers a glimpse into his approach as a chief executive who manages an organization of nearly 1,000 employees. Obama has built "an amazingly strong machine," says Jeffrey Sonnenfeld, president of the Chief Executive Leadership Institute at the Yale School of Management. "People expected a more ad hoc, impromptu, entrepreneurial feel to it. It has been more of a well-orchestrated symphony than the jazz combo we expected."

Indeed, in merging the talents of powerful Washington insiders and outside-the-Beltway insurgents, Obama has succeeded at a task that has traditionally eluded Democratic candidates: forging an experienced inner circle who set aside their differences and put the candidate first. "The whole point is that it's not about any of these guys," says longtime GOP strategist Frank Luntz. "They feel blessed. They see it as how lucky they are to be working for this man, at this time, in this election. This is the dream team for the dream candidate. I waited all my life for a Republican Barack Obama. Now he shows up, and he's a Democrat."
You can find more good descriptions of the Obama campaign here and here.
I recognized the well-managed organization that Obama has put together last May. Obama is clearly a much superior manager than his opponent, the highly erratic John McCain. I'm glad to see Hilzoy confirm my observation.

Anyone who thinks that Obama has not demonstrated executive experience is overlooking the superb job he has already done as he captured the Democratic nomination for President. Compare that to McCain who went bankrupt in the Summer of 2007 and had to have his campaign bailed out and restructured. Obama is clearly the much better executive of the two running for President.

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