Why CEOs Are Not Presidential Material


After living through two years of bumbling attempts by a former CEO to run state government like a business, I had a flash of recognition when I heard Mitt Romney’s take on the Israeli/Palestinian problem.

Tea Party Republican and former HCA Columbia Chair Rick Scott, who spent $75 million of his own money on his campaign, took over the Florida governorship confident he would use his business skills to root out waste, slash the state payroll, get rid of regulations that hold back business, and create jobs. One of his first moves was to turn down millions in federal assistance to build a high-speed rail line that would have employed Floridians, taken cars off the eight-lane parking lots that serve as commuter roads, and made the state a leader in the transportation technology of the future.

When Romney says there is no hope for peace in the Middle East, he’s really telling us he doesn’t have what it takes to be president

From there, he rolled out a series of privatization proposals, such as turning over prisons to corporate managers and allowing developers to build golf courses in state parks. Within weeks of taking office, Scott’s approval ratings hit record lows, along with Florida’s employment numbers, which under Scott’s leadership have remained worse than the nation as a whole.

Scott’s solution has not been to try a new approach. Instead, like any entrenched CEO, he has subjected residents to a series of public relations initiatives intended to boost his popularity and let him get on with the business of robbing the public till.

Which brings us to Bain Capital CEO Mitt Romney. Former Reagan speechwriter Peggy Noonan was one of many Republicans who criticized the captain of industry’s reaction to the recent Libyan consulate violence as unstatesmanlike. Now Noonan is expanding on her belief that the businessman is in trouble.

The Romney campaign has to get turned around. This week I called it incompetent, but only because I was being polite. I really meant “rolling calamity.”

Noonan believes that Romney needs to find himself a new CEO because it’s impossible to both run your campaign and…campaign.

The candidate is out there every day standing for things, fighting for a hearing, trying to get the American people to listen, agree and follow. That’s where his energies go…The candidate cannot oversee strategy, statements, speechwriting, ads. He shouldn’t be debating what statistic to put on slide four of the Powerpoint presentation. He has to learn to trust others—many others.

Noonan seems to be saying that Romney is a micromanager. That could be one of his many problems but to me, like Rick Scott, his much touted business background is his very shortcoming. Let’s go back to Romney’s comments on Israel and Palestine.

[S]o what you do is, you say, you move things along the best way you can. You hope for some degree of stability, but you recognize that this is going to remain an unsolved problem.

Romney continued in this, “It’s too hard so screw it,” vein which, as most CEOs would recognize, is the same thing as saying you’ll take your business elsewhere.

But guess what? Presidents can’t do that. They don’t have the luxury of pulling out of unprofitable markets. They can’t decide who they’ll do business with. They deal with what comes along, bad and good. And they’re stuck with a lot of bad.

As Pres. Obama said, about a year into his term, only the hardest problems end up on his desk because if they were easy to solve, someone down the line would have already done so. Presidents only make one type of decision: hard, seemingly “unsolvable” ones.

So when Romney says there is no hope for peace in the Middle East, and you “recognize that this is going to remain an unsolved problem,” he’s really telling us he doesn’t have what it takes to be president. Thanks Mitt. That’s what I thought but you’re making it crystal clear. Or, as you might say, you’re sealing the deal.


  • September 24, 2012 - 1:22 am | Permalink

    I really really want reporters to explore the subject of Mitt’s tax amnesty!

  • September 24, 2012 - 3:35 am | Permalink

    More evidence that CEOs are not presidential material: George W. Bush was CEO of the Spectrum 7 oil company in the 1980s.

  • redford
    September 24, 2012 - 7:30 am | Permalink

    CEOs are concerned with “finance”, not “economics”. Their premise is wrong, therefore, everything else is mostly worthless.

  • September 24, 2012 - 7:47 am | Permalink

    We’ve been hearing this same line from Republicans for decades: we need someone to run the government like a business! You all may remember that this was part of Gordon Gekko’s “Greed is good” speech. As redford points out, these people are working from a false premises. Running a business is about taking a larger share of the market with a given size. Running a country is about increasing that market’s size. Other than general managerial skills, successful businessmen have no special skills that will make them good at governance. In fact, it is usually the opposite.

    As for Romney specifically, is it just me or does Romney show all the signs of wanting the job title but not the job? It just doesn’t seem like he wants to become president because he has some burning desire to implement his policy ideas. I don’t think we need another president who is just trying to out perform his father.

  • Deb
    September 24, 2012 - 9:49 am | Permalink

    I never thought that I would miss Eisenhower.

  • September 24, 2012 - 1:37 pm | Permalink

    I’ve been researching, in my copious & vast quantities of spare time , if there are any examples of CEOs or former CEOs or “Captains of Industry” who have done well in political posts. Warren G. Harding, of tea pot dome infamy, was the first US president with an extensive business background. Herbert Hoover was the next (we all know what he had to deal with, & how he didn’t). Jimmy Carter was ex-military & heavily involved with agribusiness (peanut farmer? more like distributor with a few personal acres.) A combination which some current philosophies declare should make an excellent president. & finally W. of whom Jon (above) references one of his more spectacular fiascoes.

    Heck, St. Ronnie was an Union Organizer fercrisakes.

    I am now starting to take my research off-shore to see if this is a spectacularly American phenomenon or if there is any universality to it. Anybody care to participate?

  • Sidney18511
    September 25, 2012 - 3:17 am | Permalink

    The average American would consider themselves conservatives in dealing with their own finances, and they don’t understand that running a government is not the same as balancing their checkbook. I am politically liberal, but personally conservative, I have heard a liberal with a family remark “I spent my entire paycheck on a new flat screen, IPad, and computer, and now I don’t know how,I’m gonna feed my family this week….oh well”

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