Throwback Thursday: An Outlook for the 1990s

In digging through our archives, I discovered the June/July 1990 edition of Outlook — the bimonthly Indiana Chamber publication that preceded BizVoice magazine. The edition featured some predictions for the future with its segment, “Human Resources: What the 1990s Will Bring?”

The article outlines expectations in areas like employee rights, education and training, changing demographics, work relationships and productivity issues. That’s all nice and good, but here’s what it didn’t predict about the 1990s:

Clear Pepsi: People bag on it, but it wasn’t the worst thing. And it challenged everything you thought you knew about soda technology.
Epic Boyz II Men ballads: In all my a cappella groups, I generally call All-Time Bass Voice Guy Who Talks Over the Other Guys Who Are Singing … “Girl, you know I love you. But I saw you behind the bleachers with my friend, Jeremy. Yeah, that’s right. Shoot. That’s ok, I’ll still take you back…”
Hypercolor shirts: Hormonal teenagers just begging for someone to touch them.
JNCO jeans: I wore these. It looked like I was “busting a sag,” but they were actually secured around my waste line; they just had low pockets. So I could be cool, but also a respectable future young professional with dreams and goals.
The rise of Bill Clinton: We all know the story.
The corresponding rise of Newt Gingrich: Clinton’s arch-nemesis — we all know that story too. No shortage of egos in this feud.
Grunge music: RIP Kurt Cobain. A fellow southpaw, he inspired me to start playing a right-handed guitar upside down — so I sounded extra angsty/awful.
My senior dinner party: I moonwalked in front of my fellow seniors at Lebanon High School. For reference, I tried moonwalking again just last week and tweaked my meniscus.

It’s Work, But It’s Really Cool Work at Times

November 1 marks the 23rd year of the Indiana Chamber’s Annual Awards Dinner and my 15th year of involvement. BizVoice magazine profiles of the winners, planning and compiling videos for the event; scripting some of the proceedings and working with the media interested in talking with the guest speakers are among some of my responsibilities.

It’s a great deal of work, but it’s also very enjoyable. Getting to know the award winners and helping tell their stories is about as good as it gets in the world of journalism. And interacting with the keynote presenters is something special.

Here are some of the names from the past 14 years: Steve Forbes, Alvin Toffler, the late Tim Russert, Bob Costas, Mary Matlin and James Carville, Martin Luther King III, Newt Gingrich, Tom Brokaw and Terry Bradshaw. On the entertainment side, the satirical group The Capitol Steps has appeared twice and there was another Washington favorite in Mark Russell.

There are a few stories regarding those speakers that I can’t share. But it is fair to say most (nearly all) have been interesting and accommodating in brief one-on-one discussions and in their interactions with the media.

Speaking of media, we’re hearing from more than a few journalists who are especially excited about this year’s speakers — the Watergate duo of Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein. Although a youngster at the time of Richard Nixon’s escapades and their investigative reporting, I have to admit I’m looking forward to meeting them and hearing their stories about the lessons learned in the ensuing 40 years.

Yeah, it’s work, but I’m not complaining.

Candidates, Tell Us How You Lead

What’s missing in political debates? OK, that might be a dangerous way to phrase it. But a Governing magazine columnist offers one strong suggestion – that questions about executive leadership and decision-making style would be helpful additions for learning more about the candidates.

If I had my way, every presidential or gubernatorial or mayoral debate would include a required question designed to illuminate the candidates’ executive leadership and decision-making style. Of course, there still could be the usual questions concerning the tax returns of the candidates, or their stand on marriage, or whether they think that food stamps make people overly dependent on government. Above and beyond those questions, however, here are some (by no means an exhaustive list) that I would argue are more important. These suggestions focus on skills and behaviors relevant to governing (as opposed to politicking):

  • What qualities do you look for in members of your executive team? Are there particular qualities that you are seeking for all positions? How important is it that those selected for positions have deep knowledge or expertise in the relevant area? (Does the secretary of the Treasury, for example, have to have Wall Street experience—or would a track record of sound economic judgment, compliance with tax laws and demonstrated management skills be sufficient?)
  • Are you tolerant, even encouraging, of dissenting views? Or are you unable to manage yourself in the face of pushback, and therefore discourage it in those who serve you?
  • More generally, how do you use evidence when you make decisions? When pursuing a particular policy course, will you consult with stakeholders and available data and analysis, both inside and outside of government, prior to making a decision? Which factor matters more: whether an approach has proven effective or whether it keeps a political constituency happy?

There is frequently a tremendous disconnect between what it takes to be elected and what it takes to govern. Sometimes candidates’ campaigns do provide glimpses of executive style, but usually unwittingly. When Newt Gingrich’s entire campaign staff quit in June of 2011, they cited his lack of discipline as a reason for their mass resignation. But we need more than these rare, chance indicators to go on when we are choosing the people who will run our governments.

The fact that leadership, and executive style, are not discussed in political campaigns is just further evidence of the inadequacy of our prevailing political discourse. As a constituency, we fail to take responsibility for the reality that when we elect a president, a governor, a mayor or a county executive we are electing a leader-in-chief and a decision maker-in-chief. Trying to gain insight into how that leadership would be exercised—and the extent to which data, analysis, and reasoned debate would influence decision-making—seems a topic worthy of at least one question in a campaign debate.

Indiana Could be Factor in GOP Primary

Whether in support of Romney, Gingrich, or even Paul, Indiana Republicans and primary crossovers could play a key role in deciding who the 2012 GOP presidential nominee will be. The Times of Northwest Indiana reports how:

The early presidential caucus and primary states of Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina will be the center of the Republican Party’s world next month, but Indiana’s May 8 primary could prove more important.

Republican Party rule changes, penalties for early primary states, and candidates with enough money and supporters to remain in the race may all combine to give Indiana Republicans a taste of the campaign fun Democrats enjoyed in 2008.

Gov. Mitch Daniels is among the Hoosier Republicans rooting for a drawn-out nominating process.

"One can conjure a scenario … that might lead to a situation that’s still in play when May gets here, and that’d be terrific," Daniels said. "I thought it was so great when it mattered on the Democratic side last time."

Republicans changed their rules for awarding convention delegates last year hoping to capture the excitement Democrats had as Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton battled for months to win the nomination in 2008.

As a result, most early primary states in 2012 will award convention delegates proportionately, based on a candidate’s share of the state’s primary vote, instead of winner-take-all.

In addition, five states that moved their primaries to before March 1 were penalized by the GOP and lost half their delegates.

That means the minimum 1,142 delegates needed for nomination won’t be selected until March 24 and no candidate is likely to win every one of them, putting later primary states with a lot of delegates, such as Indiana’s 46, in play.

Jesse Benton, campaign manager for Ron Paul, said the Texas congressman will strategically compete for delegates throughout the primary process.

"Our campaign has a comprehensive plan to win the delegates needed to either secure the nomination or enter into a brokered convention in Tampa," Benton told POLITICO.

The last time a Republican convention opened without the front-runner in control of enough delegates to win the nomination was 1976 when Ronald Reagan tried to wrest the GOP nomination from President Gerald Ford. Ford lost in the general election that year to Jimmy Carter.

Daniels, who briefly considered running for president earlier this year, believes a brokered convention might not be all bad, even though intra-party fights tend to turn off undecided general election voters.

"At a time when the country is facing just terribly consequential issues, if it led to a good healthy debate about not merely personalities but about what kind of program of change to bring to America, I could convince myself it’s not the worst outcome," Daniels said.

The term-limited governor said he won’t be throwing his hat in the ring at a brokered convention, but he’d enjoy watching it.

"I’ve always said the greatest spectator sport, forget the Super Bowl, if either party ever had a truly deliberative convention in the mini-camera world, it would be spectacular," Daniels said.

Not all Republicans believe the nomination will be up in the air when their convention begins Aug. 27.

Schererville Republican Dan Dumezich, who is leading Mitt Romney’s Indiana campaign, is confident the former Massachusetts governor will have the nomination locked up.

"I think we’re going to have an answer a lot sooner than most people think," Dumezich said. "I’m hoping we have one by January 31."

New Contract with America from GOP?

According to a recently e-mailed article from Congressional Quarterly, GOP leadership is currently pondering a resurrection of the 1994 Contract With America. It appears as though Republicans are looking to define themselves as the 2010 election approaches, and they’re hoping for a mid-term coup following Democratic successes in recent years. Spearheaded by Newt Gingrich & Co., the 1994 version offered specific ideas on how a Republican Congress would govern by lowering taxes, reducing government, promoting entrepreneurship and implementing tort and welfare reforms. CQ writes:

Minority Leader Boehner told the Republican Conference this morning that the idea would be patterned after the original 1994 Contract with America that is widely credited with helping the GOP win majority status for the first time in 40 years.

According to officials who heard this morning’s presentation, Boehner conceded to rank-and-file Republicans during the closed-door meeting that there is a need to define "what we’re for," in addition to opposing President Obama’s agenda.

Boehner pointed to several Republican alternatives to healthcare reform legislation being devised by congressional Democrats as a good example of what could go into such a document. According to an aide, Boehner said:

"The bottom line is, I believe we can beat this bill. The American people are with us."

Whether this document ends up actually being called a "contract" or an agenda, or something else, Boehner is described as saying that its development and promotion should involve House Republicans who are seeking re-election and candidates recruited to run for other House seats.

Twitter is the New Twitter: Grows 131% in March

Ok, I’m getting as sick of writing about Twitter as you are of reading about it, but this is interesting: illustrates the shocking pace at which Twitter use is growing. Also, you’ll be happy to know Oprah is now using the microblogging technology, so its existence is officially validated:

Twitter grew 131 percent in March 2009, according to research firm ComScore, which pegged the site’s visitors at 9.3 million, up from 4.3 million in February. Twitter drew increased attention recently over rumors of a possible Google acquisition. A ComScore analyst attributes a substantial portion of Twitter’s growth to increased media attention.

Twitter grew 131 percent in March 2009, with its total site visitors cresting at 9.3 million, up from 4.3 million in February.

The microblogging site, which lets its users post "tweets" of 140 characters or less on any particular topic, has been embraced by general users and the enterprise as a supple social networking tool. Twitter has been adding new features, and befitting its increased profile, has been rumored as a Google acquisition target. 

"One interesting theory alluded to by several people in last week’s discussion was that the mainstream media attention on Twitter is really helping fuel its growth," Andrew Lipsman, an analyst with ComScore, wrote in a corporate blog posting on April 15. "And there may certainly be some merit to that. It seems you can’t get through a typical newscast anymore without some mention of Twitter."

Lipsman cited Newt Gingrich’s use of Twitter to comment on President Obama’s handling of the Somali pirate crisis as an example of how far the site has penetrated into both daily life and the hourly mass-media stream. He suggested that Twitter is changing the way "our entire news ecosystem operates."

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Gingrich: U.S. Should Focus on World that Works

In a speech last summer at the American Enterprise Institute, Newt Gingrich offers anecdotes regarding what works and what doesn’t in a prosperous society. The former Speaker of the House recently penned the new bestseller, Real Change: From the World that Fails to the World that Works.

Gingrich will be the featured speaker at the Indiana Chamber’s upcoming 19th Annual Awards Dinner on November 6 in downtown Indianapolis, shortly after this year’s monumental presidential election.