The further to the left or the right you move, the more your lens on life distorts.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008


Vaporware is a phrase that been used in the IT world for decades. It refers to a software company’s promises about spectacular features and functions that will “soon” be delivered by a new software product. Problem is, vaporware isn’t the software, it’s just words. It's nothing more than vapor, existing only in marketing copy and in empty promises of the company’s salespeople. Any customer who commits to buy vaporware will be sorely disappointed.

In watching the implosion of Hillary Clinton’s campaign for the presidency (it’s important to note that it’s not over just yet, but it’s undeniable that her campaign is in deep trouble) and the rocket-like ascendancy of Barack Obama, I can’t help thinking about vaporware.

Obama’s speeches energize democratic and independent audiences with their promises of “change” and a new bipartisan era. A new Washington—these speeches implicitly claim—is in the offing.

Just like customers who want to believe the features and functions that are hyped for vaporware, the voters who are now flocking to Obama in large numbers want to believe what he says. In fact, they readily fill in the blanks so that any ambiguity (and there is significant ambiguity), any lack of specifics (there is an almost complete lack of specifics), any waffling on positions (there are few stated positions to address) all become a fill-in-the-blanks exercise. The Obama voters simply fill in the blanks and hear what they want to hear. Amazingly, it works very well.

Leadership is about making hard decisions, taking concrete positions, recognizing that some problems can only be managed, but cannot be easily solved. Leadership is about adaptation, recognizing when a policy is not working and making changes, even if those changes conflict with your personal ideology. Leadership is about experience, something that despite the current political discourse, is not a dirty word. Being charismatic and articulate are certainly important attributes that will serve a leader well, but they are not enough.

Does Barack Obama exhibit “leadership” qualities or is he just vaporware? I suppose time will tell.