September 15, 2004
Kerry, the executiveBy Thomas Lifson
John F. Kerry has already demonstrated a frightening level of incompetence as an executive. Regardless of any agreement or disagreement American voters may have with him on the issues, his demonstrated inability to handle the complexities of a presidential campaign ought to preclude voting for him. For those of a leftist bent, Ralph Nader at least has a track record of managing a complex network of non—profit organizations, while also building a substantial personal investment portfolio, without benefit of marriage to even a single heiress.
Unlike George W. Bush, John F. Kerry never ran any organization bigger than a Senatorial staff. While Bush received high—level postgraduate training in management at Harvard Business School, Kerry attended Boston College Law School, where executive skills are not prominently on the curriculum. While Bush was running a Major League Baseball team, and then the Great State of Texas, Kerry was skipping most of his committee meetings, and taking a leading role in the Senate on precisely no significant legislation. Kerry doesn't even have to take a role in managing his household: Teresa pays for a butler to do that.
A presidential campaign, however, is a major enterprise, with a nine figure budget. Supplemented by the efforts of vast number of unpaid volunteers, sympathizers and collateral allied organizations ranging form a party structure to unions to the ostensibly 'uncoordinated' 527 groups, a campaign must deal with a vast array of competing interests, and focus diverse people on a single goal. It is a formidable task, albeit much simpler than running the behemoth of the federal government in a time of war.
Kerry has done a spectacularly bad job of running his campaign. After his defeat, we can look forward to a spate of books by insiders blaming the chaos on others, so we will eventually have first hand accounts. It will become a classic case study. But in the interim, we have only thinly—sourced press accounts to rely upon. Nevertheless, certain errors are glaring enough that we can already see them clearly.
Kerry has made several fundamental mistakes that a well—trained or experienced manager would avoid:
He has created no consistent vision
Fundamentally, why does he want to be President? The fact that there is no one—sentence answer to this basic question leaves his vast army of paid and volunteer staff rudderless.
He has avoided hard personnel decisions
Ms. Cahill is now all but universally acknowledged to be effectively fired. Except that she hasn't been fired. Perhaps because she has two x chromosomes, and Kerry fears criticism from the feminist camp. So, she is among the walking dead. And as any horror movie fan can tell you, the walking dead are capable of creating lots of trouble, especially as the midnight hour (November 2nd) nears.
He has not established clear lines of authority and communications
He has allowed factionalism to emerge and solidify
He has made poor use of his allies
Evan Thomas of Newsweek famously predicted that the MSM's support for Kerry was worth 15 percentage points of the vote. Yet Kerry has begun to alienate the press. He promised monthly press conferences, but has not had one since July. He rarely mixes with the press corps on his campaign plane. The MSMers may still hate Bush, but they are having a hard time warming up to Kerry.
He has displayed obvious, potentially fatal naivete
A President is called—upon to navigate the difficult waters of international diplomacy. Duplicity and treachery are the expected and normal mode of statecraft. Installing allies with dual loyalties into roles critical to success is a fundamental error, usually made only by beginners. In time of war, such obvious indifference to the risks of betrayal could be fatal.
The American people are necessarily coming to the inevitable conclusion that John F. Kerry is unqualified to run an organization as complex as the federal government in a time of national peril.
Thomas Lifson, the editor and publisher of The American Thinker, formerly taught at Harvard Business School, from which he received an MBA degree, awarded "with high distinction"