Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Coffee, Tea, And Free WiFi

In its latest on-line story about yesterday's NY GOP debacle, the New York Times juxtaposes the Nixonian players without quite closing in on the glaring Nixonian irony:

The victory [by Tea Party conservative Carl Paladino] capped a topsy-turvy race in which the Republican state chairman, Edward F. Cox, doubting [Rick] Lazio’s chances, tried to recruit a Democrat to carry the party’s banner, but then found himself outflanked by an insurgent whom he and much of the party’s leadership had denounced.

A businessman who made millions in real estate in the Buffalo area, Mr. Paladino entered the race in April and mustered only 8 percent of the party’s support at its convention in May, after reports of his e-mails drew condemnation from Republican and Democratic leaders alike.

But with Roger J. Stone Jr., the flamboyant former Nixon operative, advising him, he circumvented the party leadership, petitioned his way onto the primary ballot by collecting 30,000 signatures and quietly cobbled together a coalition of disaffected groups.

The third piece of the Nixon jigsaw is in a separate Times story:

Christopher Cox, the wealthy son of the state Republican chairman and a grandson of President Richard M. Nixon, was crushed Tuesday night in his bid for the Republican nomination to represent Suffolk County in Congress.

Mr. Cox, 31, who runs a consulting business, lost badly despite spending $1.3 million of his own money, and having the ardent support of Tea Party groups. But he ended up a distant third in a three-way contest, losing to Randy Altschuler, a self-made businessman with the backing of the Conservative Party.

With most precincts reporting, Mr. Altschuler had 45 percent. George Demos, a former prosecutor, had 31 percent, and Mr. Cox 24 percent.

Looming over the state's politics all year has been the complex Nixon political settlement. Gut-fighter Stone, Nixon's post-presidential confidante and a junior member of the Dwight Chapin-launched dirty tricks apparatus in 37's 1972 reelection campaign, and his angry man Paladino did way better reading 2010's Tea Party leaves than Nixon son-in-law and former Nader's Raider Ed Cox. Cox's move last spring was a Byzantine, failed bid to line up an ex-Democrat to challenge Lazio from the left. (As for Cox's "secret maneuvers," I know them well.) He was thinking about winning the general election against Andrew Cuomo. Stone was thinking about winning the nomination, which he did by grasping that this is not the year in the GOP for newly converted Democrats.

New York political insiders will have to explain why the Tea Party endorsement that powered Paladino to a massive victory did absolutely nothing for young Christopher in Suffolk County. It's a good day for me to be headed to Washington for some good political and musical talk with an wise old friend over dinner before attending an Episcopal schools board meeting in Alexandria.

4 comments:

MK said...

I really don't want to say much about Stone, specifically, except that one phrase attributed to him sounds very old fashioned in this day and age: "Admit nothing, deny everything, launch counterattack."

I’ve been in situations where executives gave off a strong “shoot the messenger” and “my way or the highway” vibe. In some instances, being regarded as right or saving face seemed to play too big a role. Yet those are just the types of executives who may end up being blindsided, badly. As a boss, you want candor and even unpleasant truths from your subodinates.

I’ve also been in situations where brainstorming and knowledge sharing and teamwork were welcomed. This is something that federal managers started to focus on more in the early 1990s, when Peter Drucker’s work and Total Quality Management had some impact. Some mangerial humility helps bring that about. (Hastings understood that intuitively, as my comment under the other Stone thread this evening mentioned.)

Many members of the younger generation of American workers are accustomed to different workplace cultures, with less chest thumping and status based posturing, than the older baby boomers encountered in the workplace. I've seen the workplace culture within the U.S. federal government change in rhetoric and in some ways of doing things over the last 37 years. Where hierachies and process once ruled, solutions and outcomes receive more attention now.

Laughing and telling your peeps, "dude, I could have handled that better, live and learn, man," isn't seen as the weakness it once might have been. You actually get props for that these days. Getting into a defensive crouch and swinging away, as Stone suggests, isn't the only option. In fact, I'm not convinced it works as well with younger voters as it does with older ones (especially older men). Younger workers may view it as signalling lack of confidence.

Often there is a huge disconnect between how a candidate is perceived to be running and how people want or expect to be treated in their workplaces. A good video clip I saw last year on the WaPo site captured the vibe very well. A manager explained that it's better for an executive to own his (or her) weaknesses. He added, "It's not as if people aren't already aware of them."

Acknowledging flaws in front of your subordinates enables them to relax and start focusing on organizational missions and solutions. It can be a win win in ways that Stone's approach cannot be. The manager doesn't have to spend as much time posturing and "hiding" himself and employees don't spend as much time whispering in corners about him. The good and bad both are out in the open.

Stone's way, although often used in political campaigns, seems quaint and curiously defensive, perhaps even weak, in comparison to what has been going on in well-run private and public sector organizations in recent times. It might still work with people who don't correlate campaigns with how they are treated in their own workplaces, however.

I'm not saying I'm an expert on running campaigns, by any means. I know what makes a workplace work well -- and what doesn't. I do think George W. Bush would have won the electoral and the popular vote in 2000 if his pledge to bring integrity to Washington hadn't focused only on "the other side" (the Clinton administration) but had included his publicly calling out those who smeared John McCain in the 2000 South Carolina primary. There's enormous untapped potential for candidates in showing manliness and integrity in calling out egregious behavior on their own side. Sadly, most of them seem to not see that, or if they do, feel it won't be rewarded. So they act in ways that seems wimpish to me, although it is supposed to project bravado. I don't know about either party's base, as I'm not a part of either, but I do think that would go over well with Independents.

MK said...

I really don't want to say much about Stone, specifically, except that one phrase attributed to him sounds very old fashioned in this day and age: "Admit nothing, deny everything, launch counterattack."

I’ve been in situations where executives gave off a strong “shoot the messenger” and “my way or the highway” vibe. In some instances, being regarded as right or saving face seemed to play too big a role. Yet those are just the types of executives who may end up being blindsided, badly. As a boss, you want candor and even unpleasant truths from your subodinates.

I’ve also been in situations where brainstorming and knowledge sharing and teamwork were welcomed. This is something that federal managers started to focus on more in the early 1990s, when Peter Drucker’s work and Total Quality Management had some impact. Some mangerial humility helps bring that about. (Hastings understood that intuitively, as my comment under the other Stone thread this evening mentioned.)

Many members of the younger generation of American workers are accustomed to different workplace cultures, with less chest thumping and status based posturing, than the older baby boomers encountered in the workplace. I've seen the workplace culture within the U.S. federal government change in rhetoric and in some ways of doing things over the last 37 years. Where hierachies and process once ruled, solutions and outcomes receive more attention now.

Laughing and telling your peeps, "dude, I could have handled that better, live and learn, man," isn't seen as the weakness it once might have been. You actually get props for that these days. Getting into a defensive crouch and swinging away, as Stone suggests, isn't the only option. In fact, I'm not convinced it works as well with younger voters as it does with older ones (especially older men). Younger workers may view it as signalling lack of confidence.

Often there is a huge disconnect between how a candidate is perceived to be running and how people want or expect to be treated in their workplaces. A good video clip I saw last year on the WaPo site captured the vibe very well. A manager explained that it's better for an executive to own his (or her) weaknesses. He added, "It's not as if people aren't already aware of them."

Acknowledging flaws in front of your subordinates enables them to relax and start focusing on organizational missions and solutions. It can be a win win in ways that Stone's approach cannot be. The manager doesn't have to spend as much time posturing and "hiding" himself and employees don't spend as much time whispering in corners about him. The good and bad both are out in the open.

Stone's way, although often used in political campaigns, seems quaint and curiously defensive, perhaps even weak, in comparison to what has been going on in well-run private and public sector organizations in recent times. It might still work with people who don't correlate campaigns with how they are treated in their own workplaces, however.

I'm not saying I'm an expert on running campaigns, by any means. I know what makes a workplace work well -- and what doesn't. I do think George W. Bush would have won the electoral and the popular vote in 2000 if his pledge to bring integrity to Washington hadn't focused only on "the other side" (the Clinton administration) but had included his publicly calling out those who smeared John McCain in the 2000 South Carolina primary. There's enormous untapped potential for candidates in showing manliness and integrity in calling out egregious behavior on their own side. Sadly, most of them seem to not see that, or if they do, feel it won't be rewarded. So they act in ways that seems wimpish to me, although it is supposed to project bravado. I don't know about either party's base, as I'm not a part of either, but I do think that would go over well with Independents.

MK said...

Sorry for the double post, I must have done something wrong when I had the preview window up.

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