THE BLOG

Who Do You Want Running the West Wing?

09/18/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

A recent NYT article has detailed the dysfunction of the McCain campaign, in what the authors referred to as a "loose style" of "infighting" and "colliding centers of power," providing a picture of a McCain campaign divided by competing interests and unclear leadership.

Mr. McCain is called the White Tornado by some people who have worked for him over the years. Throughout his presidential campaign, he has been the overseer of a kingdom of dissenting camps, unclear lines of command and an unsettled atmosphere that keeps aides constantly on edge.

Which leads to this question: Who do you want running the West Wing? Put another way: Who do you want administering the country? Because the candidate's management style and campaign staff's response to that style is an indicator of that future staff's competency in running the country.

His [McCain's] management of his campaign offers a glimpse of how he might run the White House. He would, it appears, be a president who is intensely interested in issues (particularly foreign affairs) and open to conflicting opinions, but also impetuous at times and tolerant of the kind of internal churning that can impede orderly decision-making and keep aides on edge.

By contrast, the Obama campaign has implemented a specific mandate within their power structure: "No Drama."

"One of the great strengths of this campaign from the very beginning has been the cohesion, the sense of camaraderie, and the lack of drama," said David Axelrod, a leader of the no-drama movement with his casual wardrobe and low-key demeanor.

One could make specific arguments as to which candidate meets a voter's specific policy requirements, but that does not address the question: Who do you want running the West Wing -- the administration of the country, the implementation of those policies, the day-to-day management of infrastructure and response to emergencies and future threats?

History is full of examples of leaders who allowed and even encouraged infighting within their power structure. Some did it because of incompetency, others out of insecurity, still more out of a need to maintain their own control though the lack of control they instilled in their staff.

Many functioned that way out of simple dysfunction. They were more comfortable with an environment of strife because it is what was familiar (familial) to them. We've all seen people like that, those who draw dramas to them that never seem to end.

The Obama no-drama campaign, with its accompanying lack of leaks, while it may "irk some Dems" (according to Ann Kornblut of the Washington Post), has, at the very least, proven that Senator Obama's staff can maintain discipline and quickly work through problems.

In other words, they're competent.

We've had evidence over the past seven-plus years of the consequences of an incompetent leadership style in the West Wing: Katrina, being lied into war, economic meltdowns...

The question that should be asked is not only which candidate's policies a voter favors but who does that voter want administering the day-to-day affairs of their lives, because the competency of the campaigns' staffs and the candidates' leadership style gives an indication of what the country as a whole can expect for the next four to eight critical years for both our country and the world.

It's not just the economy, stupid... (using the cliche).

It's the competency.

More on this topic at THE ENVIRONMENTALIST