Friday, January 25, 2008

Teamwork in Politics - Why Not?

One of the things that puzzles me about presidential politics is that the candidates run as individuals rather than as the head of teams. Don't get me wrong about this, though. After being an executive for most of the past 43 years, I fully appreciate that someone has to be in charge. However, I also know very well that any job that involves being a manager of managers is a teamwork-intensive job. President of the United States is the most teamwork-intensive job I can contemplate, yet I'm puzzled by the fact that we know virtually nothing about who will be the key members of any of the candidates' teams.

We should be concerned about the incompleteness of our knowledge in this area. After all, we might have made a different choice about George Bush if we had known in advance about who the key members of his staff were to be. I don't want to dwell on individuals, but it's fair to say that his penchant for promoting cronies and rewarding loyalty over talent has been a major factor in his failure as a president. Then, there's Dick Cheney - I'll just leave it at that. Why, then, aren't we more concerned about knowing who the key players in potential future administrations might be?

The fact is that every person in a president's cabinet, and even many of those in sub-cabinet positions, have power exceeding the CEO's of most companies. Their backgrounds, their objectives, their management skills, and their integrity are critically important to the president and to each of us. Yet we know nothing about who these key people will be until we elect the president. This troubles me.

Let's take Obama, for instance. He's young but he's smart, he's a great communicator, and he has fewer "obligations" to vested interests than some other candidates. In some respects he's like Jack Kennedy - but Jack Kennedy got us the Bay of Pigs within months of being elected. He chose the wrong people, and they led him astray. Could Obama make a similar mistake? I'd like to know who will be giving him information and advice before I pull the lever for him.

I'm a long-time member of a volunteer ambulance corp that has about 100 members, and I was chief executive for three years. We elect our Director of Operations and the Deputy Director as a team, but everyone knows who the DO candidates have chosen as his/her staff members. It's comforting to know, before we vote, that we won't have an unqualified person mananging the medics, drivers, or dispatchers. How much more, then, would it be comforting to know that a president didn't have an Alberto Gonzales in mind as attorney general?

Perhaps it's too early for candidates to disclose their cabinet choices at this stage of the game. But, it seems to me that when the finalists head for the conventions they ought to bring their lists with them. The key people, of course, will be in the jobs where the candidates have weaker backgrounds and will put greater reliance on others. We should know who these people might be. A great team would have greater influence on my vote than a potentially-great president.


ThomasLB said...

I think we already do elect a team, but they just haven't admitted it.

With George W. Bush, we ended up with pretty much the same cabel of idiots that ran the show for George H. Bush, Ronald Reagan, and Richard Nixon. If the Republicans win again, these same idiots will be around, though probably shuffled into new positions.

If a Democrat wins, we will have the same cabel of idiots that served under Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter.

Dave said...

My different take on the "team" is that the candidates don't yet know who they have to pay off in return for votes and money. Competency?

Woozie said...

I agree almost wholeheartedly; my only concern is that having potential candidates and their cabinets out there aft the same time could be a new electoral dimension people can't handle. Too much information to absorb, and too many high level people for each campaign to keep from saying something stupid. And if the cabinets were announced early in the game, too many people pressuring possible secretaries to break off and form their own presidential campaigns.

1138 said...

If you play the politics game enough you can piece a lot of it out.
But as for getting a written commitment for it at the primary point of the game forget it, it's hard enough to get agreement on a person and maybe a spouse add the layers of cabinet etc. nope I think it's probably too much to hope for the public to absorb.