Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The business candidate, part 2 - 1/30/08

[Journalists still fail to see the things I'm talking about here; they simply don't know enough to look beyond the resume.]

TIME magazine once referred to President Bush as the first CEO president. After eight years of stasis in Washington (years that the most ardent Clinton supporters have forgotten), while the business community created prosperity for all, the 2000 campaign hinged on competence. Gore was a remnant of the political fighting, Bush offered the knowledge to keep the gravy train running. He had an MBA! He had run companies! He got the Texas Rangers a new stadium!

What no one seemed to understand was that Bush was a lousy CEO; it certainly wasn't reported by the docile press. His "successes" came from bailouts by friends of his father, and he had to go back to Dad's Rolodex when he put together the deal for a new stadium that enriched him at taxpayers' expense.

What he did have was the CEO mentality. If you say something, people jump to do it. If you believe something, everyone around you will support you, and call you brilliant for believing it. That his corner office came, not out of years of work and growth, but from the name he held never occurred to him.

It shouldn't need to be pointed out that these are not the skills needed by a president. Negotiation, subtlety, nuance, these are the tools of the effective president (and many successful CEOs - again, Bush was not successful).

Journalists seem to understand none of this. They see a CEO, commanding people, expressing a vision, and they assume that these surface qualities are useful in a president. They fail to see the disconnect between the appearance and the reality, and they don't see how even the best CEOs may not have the qualities needed to run the country.

Romney's experience may have nothing to suggest as to how well he would run the country. A CEO has tools unavailable to the president, and vice versa. CEOs can focus on competition, while presidents need to think about cooperation at least as oftem. I don't know how Romney would fare as chief executive of our country, but the pundits and columnists don't either.

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