Doogie Howser and Stump

Great morning for a run here in NE Ohio. Temperature in the low 30s. Light breeze. Not a single garbage truck on the prowl. And I was thinking about John McCain. Wonder if deep in his soul he regrets picking Sarah Palin as his running mate. Hey, I know. She “energized the base.” And she’ll look great in the inevitable Playboy spread. But selecting Palin cost McCain his only credible argument: experienced leadership. He had it. Obama — well, we hope.

I wrote previously that the election of Obama represented the second generational shift in national political leadership in my lifetime. And I really do believe in the long run that’s a good thing. Yet there is something to be said for experience — and by the management and leadership qualities you gain throughout a career. Don’t know about you. But next time I step on an airplane I’ll feel better if someone like Sully is sitting in the cockpit.

Anyone in business or elsewhere who has taken on new or expanded management responsibilities knows it’s difficult. And it’s true: There is a learning curve. That’s where Obama and team are now. Even though many in the administration are retreads from the Clinton years. It’s still a new ballgame, with different pressures and a shorter timetable because of the host of problems facing our country. Richardson and Gregg out at Commerce. Daschle back to his K Street lobbying (oops, adviser) gig. The Prez almost losing the stimulus package by letting the House Democrats take control. And so on.

And then there is the Boy Wizard, Timothy Geithner. Pretty lackluster debut this week on the national stage. He unveiled TARP II and the markets crashed. And admittedly, it’s hard to have all that much confidence in someone who came off looking like a high school freshman getting up the nerve to ask the homecoming queen for a date to the senior prom. Was the audience groaning — or giggling? A little of both, I guess. Note to Tim: Here’s what we used to talk about in my PRTactics class at Kent State. Relax. Smile. Be likable. The audience really does want you to succeed. And most importantly — say something specific and memorable. And say it clearly and concisely. The days of the Alan Greenspan doublespeak are over.

And saying all that, I think Geithner will improve — with experience. Yet as Eugene Robinson opines in The Washingto Post, the Treasury boss does right now have kind of the personna of “Doogie Howser, Cabinet secretary.” Robinson writes:

Reviews of Geithner’s performance in rolling out the Obama administration’s financial rescue plan were so uniformly negative that to add my own would be piling on. Too much of the criticism, in any event, focused on style rather than substance. Geithner will inevitably become more comfortable speaking from a witness chair on Capitol Hill, which means he will begin to sound more confident and authoritative. The fact that he looks so young — kind of like “Doogie Howser, Cabinet secretary” — is something that he’s going to have to learn to use to his benefit and that we’re just going to have to get used to.

What I hope he learned this week is how closely Americans are following the economic crisis and how angry they are. Geithner rose to prominence in the financial world at a time when it was assumed that brainiacs were running economic policy in Washington and major financial institutions on Wall Street. What did it matter that no one understood a word Alan Greenspan said? There was no need for regular folks to worry about the details.

To put it mildly: Wrong.

But it’s Friday. Be happy. And the Cleveland Indians are out in Arizona pitching and catching. Can spring be far away? Note to Tribe: The games played in the snow in Cleveland in April count just as much as the ones when the leaves start flying after Labor Day. Experienced teams get that. I digress.

And there is a great story to talk about. One that focuses on experience.

Stump, the 10-year-old spaniel, came out of retirement to become the oldest dog to ever win Best of Show at the prestigious Westminster Kennel Club this week.

Wow. Maybe there is hope for all us old dogs after all.

And maybe Obama should consider nominating Stump to head Commerce. Unless there is a pending tax issue.


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