Kerry as the Boss: Always More QuestionsThe difference between Kerry and Bush isn't experience, it's temperament. I worked for a Kerry-like CEO -- always asking questions, probing answers, asking more questions, ad infinitum. He always postponed decisions as long as possible, not because he lacked the facts but because he had confused himself with the facts. He sought facts for their own sake, not because they would help him plot the best path toward a specific goal. He was almost purely inductive, hoping to find his principles in a morass of information.
By ADAM NAGOURNEY and JODI WILGOREN
Published: September 26, 2004
WASHINGTON, Sept. 25 - For 15 minutes in Milwaukee the other day, Senator John Kerry pummeled his staff with questions about an attack on President Bush, planned for later that morning, that accused the White House of hiding a huge Medicare premium increase.
Talking into a speakerphone in his hotel suite, sitting at a table scattered with the morning newspapers, Mr. Kerry instructed aides in Washington to track down the information he said he needed before he could appear on camera. What could have slowed down the premium increase? How much of it was caused by the addition of a prescription drug benefit? What would the increase cost the average Medicare recipient?
Mr. Kerry got the answers after aides said they spent the morning on the telephone and the Internet, but few of those facts found their way into his blistering attack.
The morning Medicare call was typical of the way Mr. Kerry, a four-term senator with comparatively little management experience, has run his campaign. And, his associates say, it offered a glimpse of an executive style he would almost surely bring to the White House.
Mr. Kerry is a meticulous, deliberative decision maker, always demanding more information, calling around for advice, reading another document - acting, in short, as if he were still the Massachusetts prosecutor boning up for a case. He stayed up late Sunday night with aides at his home in Beacon Hill, rewriting - and rearguing - major passages of his latest Iraq speech, a ritual that aides say occurs even with routine remarks....
In interviews, associates repeatedly described Mr. Kerry as uncommonly bright, informed and curious. But the downside to his deliberative executive style, they said, is a campaign that has often moved slowly against a swift opponent, and a candidate who has struggled to synthesize the information he sweeps up into a clear, concise case against Mr. Bush.
Even his aides concede that Mr. Kerry can be slow in taking action, bogged down in the very details he is so intent on collecting, as suggested by the fact that he never even used the Medicare information he sent his staff chasing....
Unlike Mr. Bush, who was a governor and a business executive before he ran for president, Mr. Kerry - who has spent the past 20 years as a legislator, with a staff of perhaps 60 - has little experience in managing any kind of large operation....
That's how Kerry, with his limitless flip-flopping, has struck me -- a man without principles who hopes to discover them in the next piece of information that he receives. The Times article confirms that view.
To change metaphors: You don't advance the ball down the field by counting the laces on it. You advance the ball down the field by knowing where the goal is and then choosing the plays that will help you reach it. Kerry knows how many laces there are. Bush figures out where to throw the ball, and all Kerry knows how to do is carp like an armchair quarterback when some of the passes aren't caught.