The race for the White House, still in its infancy, has already produced many occasions for head-shaking wonderment.
Here’s one: Two candidates who emerged from the first CNN debates with a bounce in their steps routinely tout their business acumen as a prime credential.
Yet in each case, an apt image for their careers in business would be: raging Dumpster fire.
First, the Donald. Mr. Trump’s company has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy four times. To be clear, he’s never been in personal bankruptcy. Which is to say, he takes risks with other people’s money, not his own.
Then to a person who is a flavor of the month in the GOP primary field, Carly Fiorina. Yes, she has a tale to tell of starting out as a secretary and rising to the top spot of Hewlett-Packard.
Except, once she got to the corner office at H-P, she nearly burned that venerable brand to the ground. Andrew Ross Sorkin chronicled the sad details recently in the New York Times: 30,000 jobs lost, stock price cut in half, fired by the board. Before that, she was at another tech company: Lucent. You know Lucent, right? Oh, maybe not; it has disappeared altogether.
Now, I totally agree with the idea of fishing in new waters for presidential hopefuls. The usual suspects, lawmakers, nwo seem more attuned to preening, posturing and positioning than to actually getting anything done.
And successful business executives would be a logical source. (This is not to uphold the canard that government should be run more like a business; government is emphatically not a business, as I’ve said in several previous rants.)
But a talented business executive knows how to set priorities, message clearly, inspire the troops, drive change, ensure execution and maintain focus on the customer. All things that the person I the Oval Office should be able to do.
So, yes, I wish more experienced CEOs would try politics — and maybe elbow the likes of Trump and Fiorina off the stage.
Four to consider
Here’s a couple of names to consider, people who strike me as more attractive POTUS material than many now on the stage. One factor for me is how they combine managerial acumen with the kind of civic or philanthropic service Trump has never touched.
Let’s start with one person with ties to Philly: Judith Rodin. While president at Penn, she pushed the university to the upper echelon of the Ivy League while launching the still ongoing transformation of University of the city. Yes, Penn is technically a nonprofit, but with its health system and massive employee roster, it’s really a very big, very complicated business — and Rodin ran it in a transformational way. Now she heads the Rockefeller Foundation.
Next, to cite an obvious name, Michael Bloomberg. Nobody’s going to like everything the media mogul did while running New York City, partly because he did so many things with such brusque self-confidence, but it’s impossible to contend the city declined on his watch. Ironically, Bloomberg seems to be struggling a bit back at the helm of his company, partly because younger entrepreneurs are doing to him what he once did to newspapers. Maybe he’d like to get back into that government racket.
Or how about a man who is everywhere you want to be, Kenneth Chenault, the long-time, widely respected head of American Express. He steered his company through the fiscal meltdown without either disaster or scandal. He’s oriented to civic service and has been an adviser to presidents.
Finally, here’s someone who’s name actually has been tossed about by some Democrats worried that Hillary Clinton is poised for a fall: Howard Schultz of Starbucks. He’s reputedly an inspiring leader and he clearly get the economic inequality issue that will be at the core of next year’s campaign. And anyone who could turn such mediocre coffee into an iconic, ubiquitous brand should be able to sell, say, immigration reform.
This is just my quick, starter list. I’m sure there are so many other good names out there who would bring far more to the table than Trump or Fiorina. If you’ve got a name to add, please feel invited to do so in the comments below.
Prayers for the City
As part of WHYY/NewsWorks’ coverage of the papal visit, we’re asking folks who are so inclined to let us know what their “prayer for the city” would be, as Pope Francis comes to town.
The phrase intentionally recalls the title of Buzz Bissinger’s remarkable book about Ed Rendell’s first term as mayor of Philadelphia.
But we invite you take the terms “prayer” and “city” as loosely as you like. In other words, if you’re of secular cast, make it a “hope.” If you live outside city limits, take “city” to mean “region.”
We want to know what stirs the heart (or soul) of Philadelphia. What is your deepest, most altruistic wishes for the community where we live? Of your whimsical ones that still speak to our collective spirit? (Surely, there will be some about the Phils and Iggles.)
Submit your #prayersforthecity to us via Twitter, Facebook or NewsWorks, and see what other folks are praying for.
We’ve asked some notable residents and leaders of the city to get the project started with their prayers, so look for those in coming days.
We’ll take the “prayers” people give us pair them with an image and create “shareables” for social media platforms, so you can share what you came up with your social networks.
(Here’s mine: That we build and support a school system that treats all children as though they were our own.)