robertogreco + implementation + hillaryclinton   1

Understanding Hillary: The Clinton America sees isn’t the Clinton colleagues know. Why are they so different?
"I don’t buy it. Other politicians find themselves under continuous assault, but their poll numbers strengthen amid campaigns. Barack Obama’s approval rating rose in the year of his reelection. So too did George W. Bush’s. And Bill Clinton’s. All three sustained attacks. All three endured opponents lobbing a mix of true and false accusations. But all three seemed boosted by running for the job — if anything, people preferred watching them campaign to watching them govern.

Hillary Clinton is just the opposite. There is something about her persona that seems uniquely vulnerable to campaigning; something is getting lost in the Gap. So as I interviewed Clinton's staffers, colleagues, friends, and foes, I began every discussion with some form of the same question: What is true about the Hillary Clinton you’ve worked with that doesn’t come through on the campaign trail?

The answers startled me in their consistency. Every single person brought up, in some way or another, the exact same quality they feel leads Clinton to excel in governance and struggle in campaigns. On the one hand, that makes my job as a reporter easy. There actually is an answer to the question. On the other hand, it makes my job as a writer harder: It isn’t a very satisfying answer to the question, at least not when you first hear it.

Hillary Clinton, they said over and over again, listens.

How a listener campaigns

“I love Bill Clinton,” says Tom Harkin, who served as senator from Iowa from 1985 to 2015. “But every time you talk to Bill, you’re just trying to get a word in edgewise. With Hillary, you’re in a meeting with her, and she really listens to you.”

The first few times I heard someone praise Clinton’s listening, I discounted it. After hearing it five, six, seven times, I got annoyed by it. What a gendered compliment: “She listens.” It sounds like a caricature of what we would say about a female politician.

But after hearing it 11, 12, 15 times, I began to take it seriously, ask more questions about it. And as I did, the Gap began to make more sense.

Modern presidential campaigns are built to reward people who are really, really good at talking. So imagine what a campaign feels like if you’re not entirely natural in front of big crowds. Imagine that you are constantly compared to your husband, one of the greatest campaign orators of all time; that you’ve been burned again and again after saying the wrong thing in public; that you’ve been told, for decades, that you come across as calculated and inauthentic on the stump. What would you do?"



"Laurie Rubiner, who served as Clinton’s legislative director from 2005 to 2008, recalls being asked to block out two hours on the calendar for “card-table time.” Rubiner had just started in Clinton’s office six weeks before, and she had no idea what card-table time was, but when the boss wants something put on the calendar, you do it.

When the appointed day arrived, Clinton had laid out two card tables alongside two huge suitcases. She opened the suitcases, and they were stuffed with newspaper clippings, position papers, random scraps of paper. Seeing the befuddled look on Rubiner’s face, Clinton asked, “Did anyone tell you what we’re doing here?”

It turned out that Clinton, in her travels, stuffed notes from her conversations and her reading into suitcases, and every few months she dumped the stray paper on the floor of her Senate office and picked through it with her staff. The card tables were for categorization: scraps of paper related to the environment went here, crumpled clippings related to military families there. These notes, Rubiner recalls, really did lead to legislation. Clinton took seriously the things she was told, the things she read, the things she saw. She made her team follow up.

Her process works the same way today. Multiple Clinton aides told me that the campaign’s plan to fight opiate addiction, the first and most comprehensive offered by any of the major candidates, was the direct result of Clinton hearing about the issue on her tour. “Her way of dealing with the stories she hears is not just to repeat the story but to do something about the story,” says John Podesta, the chair of Clinton’s campaign."



"One way of reading the Democratic primary is that it pitted an unusually pure male leadership style against an unusually pure female leadership style. Sanders is a great talker and a poor relationship builder. Clinton is a great relationship builder and a poor talker. In this case — the first time at the presidential level — the female leadership style won.

But that wasn’t how the primary was understood. Clinton’s endorsements left her excoriated as a tool of the establishment while Sanders's speeches left people marveling at his political skills. Thus was her core political strength reframed as a weakness.

I want to be very clear here. I’m not saying that anyone who opposed Clinton was sexist. Nor am I saying Clinton should have won. What I’m saying is that presidential campaigns are built to showcase the stereotypically male trait of standing in front of a room speaking confidently — and in ways that are pretty deep, that’s what we expect out of our presidential candidates. Campaigns built on charismatic oration feel legitimate in a way that campaigns built on deep relationships do not.

But here’s the thing about the particular skills Clinton used to capture the Democratic nomination: They are very, very relevant to the work of governing. And they are particularly relevant to the way Clinton governs.

In her book Why Presidents Fail, Brookings scholar Elaine Kamarck argues that "successful presidential leadership occurs when the president is able to put together and balance three sets of skills: policy, communication, and implementation."

The problem, Kamarck says, is that campaigns are built to test only one of those skills. “The obsession with communication — presidential talking and messaging — is a dangerous mirage of the media age, a delusion that inevitably comes crashing down in the face of government failure.”

Part of Kamarck’s argument is that presidential primaries used to be decided in the proverbial smoke-filled room — a room filled with political elites who knew the candidates personally, who had worked with them professionally, who had some sense of how they governed. It tested “the ability of one politician to form a coalition of equals in power.”

Hillary Clinton won the Democratic nomination by forming a coalition. And part of how she forms coalitions is by listening to her potential partners — both to figure out what they need and to build her relationships with them. This is not a skill all politicians possess.

As I began to press the people I talked to about why they brought up Clinton’s listening skills, a torrent of complaints about other politicians emerged. “The reason so many people comment on this is most of us have experienced working with people who are awful listeners,” says Sara Rosenbaum, who worked with Clinton on the 1994 health reform bill and is now at George Washington University. “Because they don’t listen, they can’t ask good questions. They can’t absorb the information you’ve given them.”"



"The danger of leading by listening

There is a downside to listening to everyone, to seeking rapport, to being inclusive, to obsessing over common ground. Clinton’s effort to find broad consensus can turn her speeches and policies into mush. Her interest in hearing diverse voices can end with her chasing down the leads of cranks and hacks. Her belief that the highest good in politics is getting something — at times, anything — done means she takes few lonely stands and occasionally cuts deals many of her supporters regret.

Clinton spent much of the primary defending herself against criticisms of deals her husband made and she supported — welfare reform and the crime bill, specifically. Her great failure, the 1994 health reform effort, unwound in part because she created a sprawling, unruly process in which hundreds of experts came together to write a bill no one understood and no one could explain."



"This is, in general, one of the frustrations you hear from Clintonites: Her network is massive, and particularly when her poll numbers flag, or she feels under attack, she reaches out into that vast, strange ecosystem. The stories of Clinton receiving a midnight email from an old friend and throwing her campaign into chaos are legion, and it was all the worse because she often wouldn’t admit that’s what was happening, and so her staff ended up arguing against a ghost.

In an exhaustive review of private communications from her 2008 campaign, Joshua Green wrote that “her advisers couldn’t execute strategy; they routinely attacked and undermined each other, and Clinton never forced a resolution.” Under duress, Clinton’s process broke down, and her management proved cumbersome, ineffective, and conducive to staff infighting.

“What is clear from the internal documents is that Clinton’s loss derived not from any specific decision she made but rather from the preponderance of the many she did not make,” Green concluded. “Her hesitancy and habit of avoiding hard choices exacted a price that eventually sank her chances at the presidency.”"



"Clinton laments how polarizing she is, but the fault lies at least partly with her. Asked at a Democratic debate to name the enemies she’s most proud of making, she replied, “The Republicans.” For all her talk of finding common ground, of reaching out, of respecting each other, she stood up, on national television, and said she’s proud of the enmity she inspires in roughly half the country.

I asked her if she regretted that statement, whether she thinks she’s feeding the negativity, becoming part of the problem. “Not very much,” she said. “I mean, you can go back and look at how I’ve worked with Republicans, and I … [more]
2016  hillaryclinton  politics  elections  listening  consensus  policy  billclinton  barackobama  governance  berniesanders  gender  coalitions  media  journalism  press  communication  networking  decisionmaking  relationships  implementation 
july 2016 by robertogreco

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