Tuesday, November 02, 2004

On your mark, get set, vote!

The early bird catches a break in the poll lines - get up, get out, and do your thing. Red state, blue state, battleground - I don't care where you live, just go vote.

Just on the off chance that you're one of those elusive undecideds and are just now scratching through the blogsphere for the last little item to make up your mind, let me throw my two cents in. I haven't bothered making any announcement before now because frankly, being as partisan as I am, I don't think it was a mystery to anyone which side of the ticket I'm standing behind. However, there is one non-partisan reason that my support is behind Bush rather than Kerry, and it isn't founded in something so subject to opinion as security, Iraq, or the larger War on Terror.

The issue is the difference in leadership qualities needed in different parts of a hierarchy. It's not an unusual issue to hear discussed during elections, and before this race I've considered it to be standard political discourse in races where it becomes appropriate. It's a difference found everywhere from Walmart to our government at every level; there is one set of skills that serves an executive, and another that serves a leader closer to the ground. Both are vital leaders, but they require different types of leadership to be effective.

A General needs to know and recall numerous relevent details, and to effectively coordinate the efforts of numerous subordinates with multiple objectives in mind. Someone farther down the chain needs to do this to a much lesser degree; more important to this person is the ability to accurately assess the resources at their disposal, to make good snap decisions based on their limited picture, and communicate an accurate picture of this up the chain. Both officers are vital to have, but for one it is most important that they have strategic capacity, and the other needs to be better able to act tactically.

The difference can perhaps more easily be understood when considering how they might function in response to a hypothetical attack. The Sergeant Major must be able to make an instant assessment, and immediately direct an effective response. He doesn't know or need to care about what's happening in the larger enterprise to lead effectively; that's the General's problem. The General on the other hand needs to rely on the Sergeant Major to be effective, and consider what bearing this attack has on the overall enterprise. Aside from perhaps arranging some assistance for his subordinate, his role requires that he not respond instantly. Effective leadership from him requires that he assemble what can be known about the threat first, while continuing to rely on those below him to handle decisions of the moment.

This issue screamed to be discussed when John Kerry famously declared that he would have jumped to his feet and gone and done something instead of reading My Pet Goat for seven minutes. If he genuinely meant that, and it was not simply a calculated swipe at Bush, then he was declaring that he did not understand what a Commander in Chief is, what he does, or what he should do. When I saw Kerry supporters (or, let's be honest, Bush haters) everywhere respond "Yeah! He shoud have been doing something!", I knew that they did not understand this difference in leadership either. I also suspected that I knew why.

When you consider the course of his career, Kerry's response to My Pet Goat is not necessarily surprising. The focal point of his campaign is four months that he spent in a position of tactical leadership; he was supposed to jump when we were attacked. Since a brief stint in the DA's office, he's been suckling the taxpayer teat while playing 100-way pattycake in undistinguished legislational subservience to Senate leaders like Ted Kennedy. When you consider the course of media coverage in this election, his supporters' response is not surprising either.

As I mentioned, this sort of qualitative difference exists across all types of hierarchical structures, and our media has taken opportunities to discuss it in the past. For example, when Senator Dole ran against President and former Governor Clinton, the difference between executive and legislative leadership was made much of. When General Wesley Clark first entered a wartime race, this aspect of leadership was explored again. When Senator Kerry was up against that frothing lunatic the favored Governor Dean in the primaries, executive experience vs. legislative was discussed again. In each case, it was made plain that the preferred candidate was better suited to presidency thanks to their executive experience.

As when Governor Bush ran against Senator Gore however, the media has been curiously silent on the issue in discussing the race between Senator Kerry and President/former Governor Bush. If we the people are to understand effective leadership - a critical part of selecting effective leadership - then clearly this is a discussion that we need to keep having. The Democrat shills media has failed us badly in this regard. If you really are an undecided looking for that one last issue to button down your vote for someone, this is it. Bush has that executive experience; he's been doing it for years.

(cross-posted at The Left Right Debate)


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