By Damion LeeNatali
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Tuesday, March 8, 2005
Say what you will about the UA's student government, but you most certainly couldn't call this year's presidential election boring.
It's the classic case of polar opposites, with the implausibly polished Jacob Reuben squaring off against the colorful Cade Bernsen, and it seems as though the candidates' leadership styles couldn't be further apart.
Both Reuben and Bernsen sat down with the Wildcat opinions board Sunday night to discuss their platforms as well as their own philosophy about the position of student body president. The following is this columnist's impression of their leadership styles as well as their potential for success.
Jacob Reuben: With a lanky frame and boyish looks, Reuben, tonight, almost resembles a boy dressed up in his father's suit. He speaks in measured tones, carefully considering his answers before speaking, and he has a way of placing his hands tentatively on the conference table in front of him that makes him look somehow smaller than he really is.
At first, Reuben seems overly cautious, but when the subject of his fall break proposal is raised, he hits his rhetorical stride. Suddenly more animated, he leans forward in his chair as he explains that excusing the students from class on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving is "something that applies to all students and that all students want."
The former Associated Students of the University of Arizona senator also enumerates specific measures that he hopes to take in an effort to implement a new Security Director position, as well as a WebReg class waiting list, often supporting his arguments with feedback from meetings that he's held with various campus officials.
Throughout the interview, it is obvious that Reuben has assembled a vast network of connections in his three years of student government work, and his intimate knowledge of the UA's political power structure emerges as his most valuable asset.
Perhaps most importantly, though, Reuben has the easygoing nature of a born diplomat, disarming contentious questions with a demeanor that says, "We're all students, we're all in this together, and I can help you out."
Cade Bernsen: You generally hear Cade Bernsen before you see him. As he strolls into the conference room tonight, he brushes off formal introductions and shakes everyone's hand with a matter-of-fact "I'm Cade Bernsen." Dressed casually in slacks and a short-sleeved button-down shirt, Bernsen takes his seat and leans forward on the table, hungrily awaiting the panel's questions.
Early in the interview, it becomes obvious that Bernsen has a propensity for expansive rhetoric, and he is at his best when he's sounding a populist note. Prefacing almost every sentence with the words "I believe," his passion is quickly aroused.
"I care about issues that hit people's pocketbooks," he says in reference to tuition increases, "and instead of building hills and benches (after wealthy donors), let's name grants after 'em."
As he repeatedly hits on the themes of aggressiveness, persistence and diligence, one cannot help but to be impressed by Bernsen's drive. Asked what improvements could be made to ASUA, Bernsen replies in a heated Texan drawl, "We can be more aggressive, a proactive presidency rather than a reactive one," and there's little doubt that he meant what he said and said what he meant.
Perhaps what most distinguishes Bernsen from Reuben is his confrontational, shoot-from-the-hip candor. Where Reuben was measured and cautious, Bernsen is expressive and forthright; where Reuben's answers were often methodical and logical, Bernsen's are passionate and rousing.
Not surprisingly, the differences in personality speak to the differences in their leadership styles. Whereas Reuben's research and networking are indicative of a pragmatic and prudent approach, Bernsen's zeal reflects a driven, albeit less focused, tack. Indeed, if Bernsen were elected, his success would be based less on the specificity of his platform than on the considerable strength of his convictions.
Regardless of whether or not you agree with either of the candidates, or even if you find one better qualified than the other, the student body can't say it didn't have two distinctly interesting choices.
Damion LeeNatali is a political science and history sophomore. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.