Advice for future aides

Written By: - Date published: 3:22 pm, June 3rd, 2008 - 3 comments
Categories: election 2008, International - Tags:

Those interested in the political situation in the States will be wanting to read the new book written by Scott McClellan (former White House press secretary), with potentially some lessons for operators in NZ.

This piece in the Washington Post suggests that the people who should read it the most are the people least likely to take the time to do so right now. They are the aides to Barack Obama, John McCain and Hillary Clinton — and perhaps the candidates themselves.

“Why should this book be required reading in the headquarters of the campaigns? The simple reason is that many of the people now staffing the candidates’ campaigns share the qualities and traits of a younger Scott McClellan — caught up in the excitement of a great cause (to elect their candidate president) and now fully knowing what will await if they end up in the next White House as aides to the 44th president of the United States.

McClellan’s subtext is how the permanent campaign continues to define and sometimes destroy the governing process. His warning is that, having gone through the experience of a hard-fought campaign (and he admits that he has no reservations about the way campaigns are waged), it is virtually impossible for a new administration to set aside those tactics in the White House.

This will be a particular challenge if either Obama or McCain becomes president. They have preached a new style of politics (albeit from different perspectives), but can either of them and their advisers break out of campaign mode if they end up in the White House?”

We have our own questions about action versus rhetoric in Godzone.

3 comments on “Advice for future aides”

  1. Rex Widerstrom 1

    The difficulty is that if the parties opposing the government aren’t in permanent campaign mode they’re portrayed by the media (in the US, here, or just about any liberal democracy) as weak and ineffectual. An opposition’s job is seen to be to attack, to oppose, to stymie (if, say, they have the numbers in an upper house). No points are awarded for compromise.

    Thus it’s hard for any government not to react in kind. To some extent we’re handling it better in NZ… there are clearly some MPs on both sides of the House whose primary function is to attack, while others keep their heads down, formulate policy and govern. Alas the attacking falls to the more senior MPs and by virtue of that fact (and often not by virtue of any particular ability) they’re also Ministers.

    Perhaps political parties need to start organising like basketball teams – some on defence (building and maintaining policy), some on attack (saying “nyah nyah nyah” to the other lot). It’s allow the “defenders” to retain a shred of dignity and credibility (and hopefully an open mind towards co-operation and positive suggestions from opponents) while allowing “politics as usual” to go on, thus keeping the media and those in the cheap seats entertained 😉

  2. r0b 2

    An opposition’s job is seen to be to attack, to oppose, to stymie

    Is it true that this is what we (the public) want from an opposition? If it is true, then I think we are selling ourselves short. We can just record all the opposition votes as “Noes” and send them home for three years.

    Can’t an opposition work productively for the good of the country – supporting what can be shown to be beneficial, opposing what cannot? The way minor parties participate in the MMP environment is a good model – often issue by issue.

    In a mature democracy I would like to see something a lot smarter and more productive than “blind opposition”.

    No points are awarded for compromise.

    I’m not so sure, I think Key got some milage out of supporting the repeal of s59.

  3. Dancer 3

    I think we can see some of the smaller parties in Parliament handling the challenges better. The Greens/ NZ First/ Maori party have all praised and criticised Labour about various policy directions. They have some clear turf to protect/promote.

    Where we are experiencing a vacuum is the alternative policy platform of the biggest opposition party – National. Absorbing Labour policies (interest free student loans, signing up to paid parental leave, Kiwisaver (??) etc) without showing us how they fit within the parties broader principles makes it difficult for us to see what the real arguments between the two dominant parties actually are.

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