It’s always good to feel like you have the upper hand, especially when you have the upper hand. Garrett Graff, author of The First Campaign, argues convincingly that the Democrats are ahead of the Republicans by more than a nose when it comes to the Web 2.0. Why? I couldn’t do justice to Graff’s work if I tried to recite the many reasons here – you should read the book – but it highlights one of the core difference between the two parties: some versus many.

The Democrats have made a choice to define the party in terms of a greater audience. Graff makes the point at the end the book, noting that leadership is critical as we find ourselves, as a group, poised to make a choice between the ordinary and the extraordinary.

Graff is right that we need leaders who are willing to drive the discussion of the future of America. Yes, we need it now! But, can politicians really change the game?

I recently had lunch with a senior Republican Senator who was talking about how hard it is today to be in the U.S. Senate. He talked a lot about raising money “from the same pool, over and over,” but he couldn’t avoid questions about how his schedule has changed over the past 12 years.

Does he wake up at the same time? No. Earlier. Does he have the same number of meetings per day? No. Four times as many. Does he travel home as much? No. He travels to other States to try and help colleagues keep their Senate seats. Does he have a bigger staff? No. Pretty much the same size, yet very “potent.” Spend the same amount of time on policy? What’s that? No. In all seriousness, he said no. His attention is drawn to other things. Is he trying to change any of this? No. Not at all.

I give him credit for being honest, particularly because I don’t think there is anything unique about his view. If you could poll the U.S. Senate, many would agree that things have changed regardless of party affiliation.

But, as Graff points out, sometimes one group can harness energy and force change better than the other because they have both the skill and the will to do so. If he’s right, the Democrats are poised to lead the charge to change the country.

I can’t tell from our class how many people “experienced” Howard Dean’s run for President and how many people view our conversation about his successful Internet strategy as a case study. Again, I show my age, but I remember first hand how news of the Dean campaign’s approach to Internet outreach flooded Washington circles over night.

What had they figured out that no one else figured out? And, was there any possible end to what they could do? My old boss worked for former Speaker of the House Tom Foley and was completely engrossed in Democratic politics at the federal level. He read every article he could find about the Dean campaign and told us his children were helping him to see the success for himself on the Internet. He didn’t care much about the work going on in our office. He trusted us to get it done and kept his sights on what he thought was the most important technological advance Washington had seen in years.

Was it a technological advance or did emotional intelligence prevail over cautious thinking? Years ago, when we talked about the success of the Dean campaign, we talked about the team’s ability to control the message. But, maybe it was the opposite. Maybe the success of the team lies in the fact that there were willing to take risks and allow people from outside the campaign into the campaign in a significant way. “Control,” as we think of it in politics had, for the most part, left the room.

Now, with a better understanding of how things developed behind the closed doors of the Dean campaign, I am even more impressed and encouraged by the power of the Web 2.0 and the people who see its strength. However, I am curious as to how long it will take MOST people, particularly business people, to truly embrace it.

Control plays a large role in corporate America. I had a friend who lost a job once because she sat her CEO next to a liberal member of Congress when he was a staunch Republican. Her boss told her the CEO complained about “not being able to control the conversation” and that was with just one person, albeit an important person. But, how could that same company embrace Social Media in this type of corporate culture?

I plan to spend some time this summer delving in to the corporate sites we have discussed to learn more about how they strike the right balance or if they attempt to go beyond balance in search of conversation. I still believe Social Media will distinguish the good, the bad and the ugly in years to come. And, with the Dean Team as an example, I hope to identify the enormous upside potential for those that are willing to take a deep breadth and welcome people in …

Would anyone ever admit that they are in love with War? Hard to imagine. Both of my parents lived through a World War and my upbringing was largely focused by their experiences. But, I have to give credit where credit is due. Maybe there is something to be said for the glamorization of toughness, determination, perseverance, and commitment.

I don’t think there is anything glamorous about War. But, I do believe people gravitate towards symbols of strength. So, even if we don’t understand the realities associated with a 20-year old solider in Afghanistan, we applaud her strength and courage for being there, representing our country and our beliefs.

When we talked about War last week, we talked about the fact that many of the soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan today grew up with images of military engagement in their minds due because of Hollywood. This had never occurred to me before because I personally discount images that are – in my mind – entertainment.

But, perhaps I am in the minority. And, if so, the War in Iraq is even more provocative today than it was yesterday, which, is hard to believe.

During any given day, we here multiple comments about the War in Irag.  You can’t avoid.  If you are trying to just “tune out” because it’s too depressing, too overwhelming or to infinite, your plans are soon foiled by the person in front (or behind) you at Starbucks.

“I can’t believe Clinton claims she was opposed to the War.”  That was the unsolicited comment I heard today when picking up coffee.

Fusose Talks makes some very important observations about the difficult aspects of this War and how the U.S. soilders are expressing themselves.  A few months ago I met a solider that had recently returned from Iraq.  We were in mixed company and another person made a comment about losing weight.  She went on and on about how it’s hard: temptation is everywhere, blah, blah, blah.  After 15 minutes of being polite, he told her that if she wanted to lose weight she should enlist in the U.S Army.  The room was dead silent.

“Just spend 18 months in 140 degree heat with a 50-pound back-pack eating meals out of a zip-lock bag and you’ll lose more weight than you could ever imagine.”

Fusose Talks blogged about how soilders are, indeed, human and the War in Iraq is very real for the people that live it every day.  I believe the U.S. citizens think about it more often than anyone gives them credit for, but they feel powerless when it comes to voicing their opinion and getting a response from the people who are making the decisions.  And age-old problem indeed, but difficult nonetheless.

I’m still thinking through the Wall Street Journal article on Katie Couric’s likely departure from CBS.  Very interesting stuff.  I’ll admit, I never thought it was a good fit, but was convinced by the press coverage that something new and exciting was about to happen at CBS.  And, that’s not to say that Katie was the exciting thing, but it seemed to me that there was energy at the network because they were talking about change – period.

Based on the WSJ’s report, the situation with Couric is instructive for anyone who is lured to an organization because of one visionary: be careful, people have vision but organizations have history.  I imagine that Les Moonves is a very well respected and powerful executive as well as a visionary.  But is one person ever able to move a mountain?

I have a good friend that recently moved across the country for a “Katie Couric opportunity.”   She met her new boss at a conference, exchanged some great ideas about developing a corporate responsibility program and he called two days later for lunch.  Next thing I know, she’s subletting her apartment and moving to the West Coast feeling confident that he can provide her with the opportunity to be creative and “impactful” ( I hate that term).

When I asked her if he can deliver, she looked at me dumb founded.  “Why would he uproot me, if he couldn’t?”  I was quiet at first, but told her that while he may have ever intention of making good on his promise, it might be out of his control.  People in a position to hire often have good intentions – as did Les Moonves.  But, in the end, the organizations have a will of their own.

This is not to say that it can’t be done, but, particularly after reading the latest with Katie, it’s clear this it’s something to consider before you start packing you bags.

The United States military continues to impress me – time after time. In 2007, Thomas L. Day, a U.S. Army public affairs officer, published the book entitled “Along the Tigris.” It’s a fascinating look at the War in Iraq during its early stages.

Five years ago, to the day, there were no less than three divisions of Army officers sitting on the Kuwait boarder waiting to enter Iraq in search of weapons of mass destruction — and they were joined by reporters.

As we all watched the war unfold, I often wondered about the reltationship between the battalion commanders and the reporters that were imbeded in their units. Is it smart and appropriate to allow the news to witness first hand the military at work? Well, in short, most of the commanders thought it was a good thing. They had nothing to hide and they were 100 % comfortable with letting the American public witness their efforts in Iraq – provided, of course, that the reporter was smart enough not to relay tactical information to the world. (Jeraldo, are you listening?)

I was surprised. With so much to worry about, including the lives of each and every soilder in the battalion, why would a commander welcome the presence of a reporter who had his or her own reasons for being in Iraq?

Well, most commanders see this as a simple equation: our country is great because of its openness and transparency and that applies to the U.S. military as much as it applies to everyone else. Talk about being consistent….

I was also surprised to learn that so many reporters joined forces with the battalions they covered and fought when necessary. In one case, the reporter shaved his head, military style, in order to show solidarity.

The Iraq war will live with us forever. And, hopefully, we will remember just how exceptional our U.S. military is and we will continue to support them, period.

It’s safe to say that this blog post lead me down a path of extremes. My first name lead me to the list of “L” countries, which, for me, began with Luxembourg. As a student of the financial services industry, Luxembourg is a well-known country which might as well be referred to as Candy Land. For years, Europeans took advantage of Luxemburg’s privacy laws, which ultimately, may have caused many people to set money aside, quietly.

But, no one in Luxembourg is talking, so I moved on to my family name, which begins with “M.” Mexico was tempting (I love the country) but, instead, I chose Myanmar, also known as Burma. Quite a shift – I have read many stories about the struggles in Burma. In my last job, I was also repsonsible for guiding my companies position regarding countries that were facing significant politcal and social strife. Burma was always at the top of the list. We received mail from all four corners of the earth asking us to leave the country in a form of protest of the human rights violations that have been taking place there. It was a constant source of conversation with senior management and our Board.

And, this was our position: we can not leave Burma nor can we implement business decisions that would prevent development in Burma because doing so would prevent the rest of the world from traveling to Burma and seeing what is going on.

In general, people hated this position. Why not use our clout to promote change with the government? Well, clout is a funny thing. You can only use it if you really have it. And often, American companies doing business outside the United States see themselves differently than other countries see them.

I went through a stage when I was continuously disappointed by companies that seemed to turn a blind eye to important topics. But, then I realized that, despite the shareholder value, most companies are limited in what they can achieve with governments with whom they have interaction. It’s not their fault, it’s just the truth. And while I always hope for more versus less, I do see now that sometimes, you just can’t get there from here…..