Another Kind of CEO President

When George W. Bush was still a novelty around Washington, the MSM was full of stories about how W would be a CEO style president. At the time, I questioned the description. To the NPR crowd, anyone who has worked outside of politics or law, even for a day, can easily be tarred by association with the market. But to me GWB seemed to be pure politician, and his business resume was anything but impressive.

Now Fred Barnes of the Weekly Standard takes a shot at describing Mitt Romney as the next variety of "CEO president". There is more of a case here. Jim Cramer of Real Money has described Mitt as the "best businessman in America". Certainly Romney's record supports such an assertion. He built Bain Consulting into a market leading firm, formed and managed the startlingly successful Bain Capital Management, and he returned and rebuilt the Bain Consulting when it fell on hard times.

More interesting, though, is Barnes' comparison of the two men in their 1975 Harvard Business School class. It seems Bush was a bit of a quiet back row guy, not saying much in class and not impressing his professors much. (That said, he was elected "CEO" by his class in one exercise where the class was structured like a corporate staff, an event that Barnes fails to mention.) Romney, on the other hand, was honored by the students and faculty as the top performer of that class.

It should be apparent to most people that the skills required to be a successful politician are quite different from those needed to be successful businessman. The best example is FDR - a towering political figure who was a poor student, not much of a lawyer, and someone who would have left little mark on the business world. And history is littered with businessmen who have thought they could cap successful business careers with a run at something or another. Most are now forgotten.

Mitt Romney may well be the exception that makes the rule. He is demonstrating that his management skills are put to good use running a campaign. His stump speeches are good, if a bit flat when it comes to "the vision thing". We will see in the next ninety days if he can move from the top of the business world to the top of the political world. But as I have thought all along, there is a pretty good chance that his formidable personal skills might be enough to make him the first "twofor" in the worlds of business and politics.