The Leadership Gap

There’s another thing Bush needs to drive home tonight, and it’s a point he’s more comfortable making. Here’s something like what I’d like to hear:

You know, I’ve been listening in this campaign to Senator Kerry talk about foreign policy, domestic policy. And it’s clear that we have some fundamental differences in philosophy. But leadership matters too. You can’t tell people you’re going to get things done better if you can’t lead.
Dick Cheney and I know a few things about leadership. I’ve been the president through some tough times, I’ve been a governor, I’ve run companies, run a baseball team. Dick Cheney’s been Vice President, he was Secretary of Defense during the first Gulf War and Panama, White House Chief of Staff, CEO of a big company. He was elected to a leadership position in Congress when he’d only been there two years. And in the last four years, we’ve gotten an awful lot done – kept our promises to cut taxes, reform education, pass a Medicare prescription drug bill, lead coalitions in two wars.
When have Senator Kerry and Senator Edwards ever been leaders like that? They’ve never been executives, never been governors or run a significant business. Their own Senate Democrat colleagues have never elected either one of them to a leadership position, not even trusted them to chair an important committee. They’ve never led the fight on a major piece of legislation. How are they gonna work with Republicans in Congress?
I’ve worked with allies around the world. I’ve worked with Democrats in Texas and in Congress. I know how to get enough people on board to get the job done. That’s a proven record of leadership. Where’s Senator Kerry’s record? Where’s Senator Edwards’ record? Where’s the leadership? When have they ever put people together to follow them anywhere?
You’ll hear me talk tonight about my record. Like I said, I’ve got a record I’m proud of. I’ve been in Washington four years, and I’ve gotten a lot done. Senator Kerry’s been in Washington twenty years, and he hasn’t done a thing worth talking about. Any time he talks about an issue tonight, just ask yourself: where’s the record? When has anything ever happened in Washington because John Kerry made it happen?
It’s easy enough to criticize. My opponent looks at the wars we’ve had to fight and says, not enough troops, too many American troops, too many Afghan troops, too much money, not spending enough money to get the job done, not a big enough coalition. He says the coalition should be more like in 1991, but he voted against that war too, said it could still be bigger. Well, the president doesn’t have the luxury to wait and see what happens and say, “too little,” or “too much.” The president has to lead. I’ve led, and you can judge me by my record. My opponent can’t say the same.

There’s a common thread throughout Bush’s career, from his admittedly checkered business career, to his days as Texas Governor, to his presidential candidacy, to his domestic policy and his conduct of foreign affairs. Bush’s expertise is in finding out how many people he needs on board to get a particular job done, and putting together a coalition that will do the job. He has a practical politician’s understanding that you need to make concessions to win allies on any issue, so you don’t bring along more than you need. And sometimes, you sacrifice some long-term good will to do it, from inflaming Jim Jeffords during the tax cut flap in 2001 to enlisting allies in Iraq (namely, Spain’s Aznar government) who couldn’t survive the poilitical pressures caused by going along. But in each case, Bush got what he needed.
Kerry’s record couldn’t be more opposite. Kerry’s done nothing with respect to our allies this whole campaign – both the Iraqi allies and the countries that have sent troops – but scorn and insult them. There’s a reason his Senate Democrat colleagues have never followed him anywhere, let alone cobbling together enough help from Senate Republicans to pass a bill. There’s a reason the great majority of Kerry’s peers in Vietnam, as well as the guy who spent the most time in his command on his boat, are willing to drop everything to run around the country opposing him. There’s a reason almost nobody can find close Kerry friends among his peers anywhere he’s been. Even Kerry’s finest hours in the Senate were either lone-wolf investigations or tasks like the POW issue that nobody else wanted to get involved in. Kerry’s not a coalition-builder, not a leader, not a guy who gets things done. And Bush, who is all those things, needs to point that out.
UPDATE: Linked this post to this week’s Beltway Traffic Jam.

7 thoughts on “The Leadership Gap”

  1. the playoffs are going on and 13 of the last 14 posts are crappy partisan rhetoric. you should rename the site and stop talking about baseball completely.
    there’s no point in coming back.

  2. Mike’s right, it’s all crappy partisan rhetoric! Well, that’s why I’m here, and here’s my crappy rhetoric response:
    1. That’s much too long and flowing for Bush. He could never pull it off. I’m not just trying to be a smart-ass — Bush really does better with a more chopped, almost lyric-like pentameter. Short and sweet.
    2. It’s crap. All of it. From Bush’s record to Kerry’s. But especially Bush’s own record. It’ll work as campaign rhetoric, and it will sound good, but it doesn’t hold up to examination:
    2a. President? Default. We know you’ve been President. The other guy next to you is making the case those very “tough times” are very much your doing, so this isn’t really worth much.
    2b. Governor? In a state where you’re the third-most powerful guy, and you have no real achievements other than executing people at a frantic pace. The education reform you ran on? A fallacy. Your environmental record? A tragedy. Working with Democrats? You didn’t have a choice.
    2c. Ran businesses? Into the ground. To think that a guy with his connections and capital would fail so spectacularly in every venture boggles the mind. Not to mention the SEC violations and general shadiness involved. He’s better off not going here.
    2d. Baseball team? Traded Sosa. Not a fair criticism, but one he himself likes to joke about. Used his connections to fleece the City of Arlington for a stadium, and turned his own $600,000 investment into millions.
    2e. Cheney? I won’t disparage Cheney’s record too much except to say I disagree with just about everything he ever did in Congress. As Defense Secretary he advocated for the very cuts (and more) he is now crucifying Kerry for. CEO? Halliburton hired him for his Roledex. Period. Accounting scandals abound, and scandal invovling overcharging the Army and no-bid contracts don’t reflect well on this period. Cheney made the disastrous acquisition of (Dresser?) a company that exposed Halliburton to gazillions in asbestos liability. Bad business decisions followed by even more questionable practices.
    3. First term acheievements? Cut taxes? Oo, tough one. Real leadership required there. You did it against the advice of your treasury Sec’y, and you fired him for his trouble. Education? Left unfunded, results are at best inconclusive. Drug Bill? Had to lie to the Congress you control to pass it, and it is widely heralded as a complete pork-laden crock.
    4. Kerry. Actually, I believe Kerry has run (and still owns) a profitable business. something businessman bush never could. Entered public service in way way or another right out of college. Volunteered for Vietnam. Actually led troops in battle there. Upon returning, led a national movement against the war. Just because there were no shareholders doesn’t mean it doesn’t count. Ran for Congress. Became a successful state prosecutor. Ran for Senate. Won. Using his expertise as a prosecutor to concentrate on the oversight/investigative capacities in the Senate. Led on important issues others were unwilling to touch. Helped expose S&L scandal. Helped expose Iran/Contra. (Are you one of those who like to pretend it never happened or was fine?) went across the aisle to work with McCain on the POW issue.
    5.Edwards. Like Cheney, came from modest means to rise up to tremendous success. A tremendously successful lawyer. Clearly an ambitious guy, clearly a short record. but he is running for Vice President with the same six years of politcal experience that was good enough for Bush to take a higher office. One could argue that his Senate experience is more relvant than Bush’s governorship. And he had actually done something with his life beforehand.
    It’s a nice speech, Crank. If he could do it, it would be good for him. But he wouldn’t deserve it, but when has he?

  3. I didn’t write it, but I wish I did. Since we’re pushing hypothetical responses on our candidates, heres what Kerry should do:
    The Short Answer
    Okay, we’ve seen both of our guys in a debate now and they still seem incapable of giving a concise answer to the $87 billion question. I find this especially frustrating because I don’t see this issue as a flip-flop at all. If I were in the debates, this would be my two-minute answer :
    MODERATOR : What the hell did you mean when you said you voted for the $87 billion before you voted against it?
    KERRY : Let’s put things in perspective here. In the run-up to the war, the Administration repeatedly rejected the notion that the Iraq war would be expensive, they gave us an low-ball estimate, and some were even bold enough to suggest that once we got there, all we’d have to do is turn on the oil wells and the war would start paying for itself.
    Then they came back to us and asked for another $78 billion dollars, which I voted for.
    After that, the President signed a bill giving huge tax cuts to millionaires. I can’t think of another time in our country’s history when a wartime President was rejecting the idea that the people make sacrifices during war. Then it was revealed that the Administration was giving away billions of dollars in no-bid contracts. There was no way I could sit idly by while the President shamelessly gave away money to his campaign contributors.
    So when the Administration came back to the Congress to ask for money for the third time in less than a year, I presented an alternative. My proposal supplied the full $87 billion the President was asking for on two conditions : that they pay for it by partially rolling back their most recent tax cuts for the rich, rather than pass the burden on to our children and that the Congress be given greater oversight into how the money was being spent, so we wouldn’t see billions thrown into the off-shore bank accounts of corporations.
    If Vietnam taught us anything, it’s that the best way we can support our troops is to make sure our leaders are responsible and trustworthy. My amendment was an effort to restore that credibility to the President, but it was killed when Bush threatened to veto my funding request. So here’s my question : Why does the President think keeping his millionaire tax cuts and no-bid contracts are more important than funding our troops?

  4. Actually, I was trying to write in something more like Bush’s style.
    The equivalency of Cheney and Kerry on weapons systems – you don’t seriously believe that, do you? For the most part, what Cheney was doing was scaling back the size of programs at the end of the Cold War. Very different from Kerry, who among other things ran in 1984 on a platform of entirely eliminating many weapons systems in the heat of that conflict and who, in the mid-1990s, introduced legislation – which thankfully even the Democrats rejected – slashing the intelligence budget.
    Yes, the attacks on a few of Kerry’s votes in that area are exaggerated, but the fact is, his overall record is of a very dovish guy who has – whenever there was serious controversy – always come down on the side of less defense and intelligence spending and a foreign policy less assertive in protecting American interests. The fact that he’s terrified of running as the guy he’s been for decades should tell you all you need to know.

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