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Obama: I'm no bureaucrat

January 15, 2008 | 12:04 pm

Lest there be any doubt, if Barack Obama emerges victorious in the Democratic presidential race, his message will bear no resemblance to the one pushed by the man his party picked as its nominee 20 years ago, Michael Dukakis.

In the 1988 campaign, Dukakis pitched himself as the consummate manager; the orchestrator -- as the state's governor -- of an economic recovery tagged the "Massachusetts Miracle"; a politician who was about competence, not vision. Come that November, Republican George H.W. Bush easily beat him.

In a surprisingly frank interview Monday with the Reno Gazette-Journal, Obama laid no claim to bureaucratic skills. Indeed, the headline for the article generated by the interview summed it up thusly: "Obama says voters don't want bureaucrat."

Meeting with the newspaper's editorial board, Obama said, "I have a pretty good sense of my strengths and my weaknesses. I am very good at teasing out from people who are smarter than me what the issues are and how we resolve them. I don’t think there is anybody in this race ...

... who can inspire the American people better than I can.... But I'm not an operating officer. Some in this debate around experience seem to think the job of the president is to go in and run some bureaucracy. Well, that's not my job. My job is to set a vision of "here's where the bureaucracy needs to go.' "

Take that, Michael Dukakis. And a certain senator from New York also might want to take notice. (We imagine, in fact, that this interview already is in the "clip and save" file at Hillary Clinton's campaign headquarters.)

-- Don Frederick