Tuesday, July 08, 2008
A Pundit At Last...
If you missed my appearance on the MSNBC, Chris Matthews' show, “Hardball” you missed an unusual occurrence. I was intentionally funny. Not that I didn’t make good political sense – which of course, I always do – but I decided to make sense with humor. I don’t remember exactly what I said, but I got lots of calls from fans saying that they wish I had been asked more questions, because I was so much more entertaining than the two other panelists. Needless to say, I was thrilled and flattered to hear that I was good and relieved not to have been ridiculous. There is a difference between funny and ridiculous. Funny is crafting what you say to appeal to anyone who has a sense of humor and will listen—Pat Buchanan laughed and I’m not sure he knows what a “free baser” is. (You’ll have to figure out exactly what I said in order to be in the loop. We’re trying to get a DVD so we can put it on Youtube, we’ll see – or you’ll see). Anyway, being cleverly funny is an art. Being ridiculous is a mistake made by someone who doesn’t know that there is a difference.
Michael Schoenfield (subbing for Chris M), Michelle B, Pat and me
You probably think I am going to say something terrible about George Bush, but I’m not. He’s the past and I’m all about the future. (If only that were true and he was unable to do any more damage—but alas we still have about seven months before that happens.) No, I am not going to talk about George Bush being ridiculous, I am going to blog about how campaign staff people make decisions. Now that sounds ridiculous, right? But the people who are making decisions as campaign staff now, will likely make decisions that impact on your life after the election. So, I will share a political reality.. Everyone working on a campaign, with maybe the exception of the 4 or five most Senior people, are afraid to make any decisions at all. Because they are afraid to get yelled at.
Talk about ridiculous. But I’m afraid it’s true. As a consequence decision making is passed up the chain of command until it reaches a place where the person who makes the decision can only get yelled at by the Candidate, who doesn’t have the time to yell at anyone—except in an crowded auditorium when they’re saying “hey” to some local folks. It’s why you see these earnest, mostly youthful dedicated staffers on their Blackberry’s 24/7. They are asking someone else to make a decision – even simple decisions. It is also why whenever a campaign request is made (say, by a media person) they say No. Saying No is always easier than saying Yes and risk making a mistake and getting yelled at. This isn't an issue specific to one Party —it's most campaigns if you work your way past Presidential politics.
I’m not sure when this happened, when technology took away the self reliance which made for great staff people, but it is too bad for everyone, for any number of reasons. First, when you had to make your own decisions it tested your ability to make reasonable judgments, but more importantly you developed a sense of self worth which you could find in no other job. There were people in very Senior positions who depended on you to help craft a message and a campaign which was not only credible but unbearable. It didn’t matter whether you won or lost (that is not actually the truth, it mattered), but it was important for you to participate. Like the Advance people who traveled before the candidate—they were on the ground so they made not only logistical decisions, they made political decisions. It was their job to make decisions and they would no more have passed it up the chain to someone 900 miles away in a cushy office, than they would have called the Candidate personally to get some inside dope.
a brief push for "So You Think..."
Ok, so what does all this mean in terms of your life and the campaigns? It means that all the campaign decisions are made by the people who surround each candidate. In most cases they are what activist women call, “smart ass white boys”—and that is Democrats as well as Republicans. Yes, it is a bit disheartening that the same people are making the same decisions despite the outcry for change. We knew it would happen with McCain and we expected more from Obama—but such is life. It seems that all the senior women in each campaign still have to be accountable to some male. We have come so far and progressed so little—but I guess we need to be grateful that it appears we are in charge.
Anyway, it is a bit discouraging that the campaigns don’t actually invest any confidence in the people they have selected to be in charge. But it is even more disheartening that the people in charge have such limited confidence in the people they expect to run a country—a government—which will need not only new direction but a confidence in the ability to make decisions which will move us forward and in a direction that will help to make all our lives better. That’s not ridiculous! We're just sayin'..... Iris