Echoes of the Leader vs. Manager Meme

Heh. I had an interesting spilling-of-the-beans last night. I was talking with a friend close to, but not with, the Kerry campaign looking for the link to an ancient post from last January, barely remembered. It was from 1/11/03:

Would You Really Follow a Manager into Battle?

…these are managers, not leaders. Leaders are people who know how to do what is done by the people they lead. Leaders expose themselves to the inconvenience of proceeding in front of the troops, Tom Hanks-style, rather than piloting a desk while others pilot less predictable craft.

<veteran’s_rant>The current manager-in-residence, George II, went through the motions of flying F-102s on training missions with the Texas Air National Guard during the Viet Nam unpleasantness, in a squadron noted for its population of the scions of the Texas elite. (He was admitted to pilot training ahead of a coupla hundred more qualified other rich kids, despite having flunked the entrance exam). As if that weren’t little enough, the record seems clear that he was too busy on a political campaign to show up for service when assigned to Alabama for his last year of duty. Can you imagine what Colin Powell, a real soldier, thinks of this guy?

My personal resentment may stem from the fact that I enlisted in the Air Force at the same New Haven office as George, about 3 years earlier. About a week before he enlisted, I was on the C-130 that evacuated the last Marines from Kham Duc Viet Nam (the one before us was shot down on takeoff, killing all 150 souls on board). A month after George started his USAF Adventure Camp, I got shot down at Katum, Viet Nam. The real world has real work to be done. Leaders do that work and teach others. Managers arrange the doing of real work.</veteran’s_rant>

Grabbing the Bullshit by the Horns

The reason my old post was of any interest is that John Kerry wants to take that meme public. He sees himself as a leader where Bush is a manager. Apparently, the idea is to take the tax cuts back from the wealthy and use the proceeds to fund the war as the generals said we should–the Powell doctrine of overwhelming force. In other words, Kerry would like to wind the clock back two years and wage a campaign for peace the right way. So maybe Kerry gets it that Americans hate to lose more than they love George Bush, and so he favors a no-holds-barred assault on the Bushies’ corporate-style management style.

At least that’s what I inferred from my friend’s sound bite, and it was no more than that, but the gist was unequivocal: rob the rich to win the peace. The closet speechwriter in me would like the announcement to go like this:

In February, 2005, I will order the prosecution of the Iraq War as it should have been fought in the first place: 300,000 troops in Iraq, supported by a repeal of the Bush tax cuts for people earning over $300,000. We would have sent that many troops if George Bush were a leader but he’s not. I’ve led in combat and learned that it takes a soldier to lead other soldiers. When his top military commander told him it would take 300,000 troops, he acted as a weak manager does: fired the messenger. A leader isn’t afraid of information. When the truth hurts, you accept its pain and then show the troops why we must take the courageous correct action. Sometimes you turn your boat toward the guns when you’re not supposed to.

The mission of these troops will be security, reconstruction and humanitarian aid. Their numbers and support will make them and Iraq safer than they are today. Our goal is to put Iraq back the way it was before we broke it, and give Iraqis what we expect in a civilized country: reliable electricity, fuel, water and sanitary conditions, proper health care and an independent media. I know we can do this with the active support of the American people, not just by government programs but also through grassroots programs like Spirit of America.

Now your choice is simple. Do the American people want to bear the sacrifice of doing the right thing in Iraq, especially our wealthy citizens? Or do we want to let things drift in Iraq as we did in Vietnam, a series of timid escalations until we are forced into a humiliating retreat once again? Are we prepared to admit that the mideast crisis is our greatest threat since World War II?

Have we got the guts and strength to do the right thing, or do we feel lucky?

If you agree with the soldiers’ rule that ‘hope is not a plan’ you will make sure that, on February 1, 2005, I lead this campaign from the only desk in the world where such boldness is possible.

The John Kerry we know will probably make the prose more tortured, but the message is so crystal clear–rich people “sacrificing” for peace–that it’s easy to get across.

Will he do it? my friend couldn’t say. But I got the sense that, unless the polls start looking better real soon, Kerry will take the bold stroke that makes his managers uncomfortable.

11:51:49 AM    

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