Politico fronts this story today:
This constellation of talent, however, has something of a black hole. There is virtually no one on Obama’s team with outsized achievements or a high-profile reputation earned in the world of business.
There are no former CEOs in the Obama Cabinet. And among the people who make up his daily inner circle, there is only a dollop or two of top-level private sector experience.
Whether it is a signifcant absence, however, is far more debatable. As it happens, only a small number of the business leaders in recent administrations were stand-outs. And several were ostentatious flops. It would be hard to argue that there is a close correlation between success in business and success in Washington.
Still, some long-time White House observers find it noteworthy that when Obama convenes his best minds, there will be few people who have answered to shareholders as well as voters — people who know by intuition how the business community is likely to react to any given day’s news.
I have wondered about this myself. Putting aside the certainty of breathtaking cuts in pay–one would think that extraordinarily wealthy CEOs would be honored to add service to country to their legacies–it seems… Obama-like… to include some big-name corporate talent to the administration, especially in light of the financial crisis and what I predict will be an inevitable reorganization of significant parts of government. Certainly it would send a message if the usual suspects such as Gates, Jobs, Welch, etc. rushed to the aid of their country.
There are a few personal favorites I would nominate, among them
- Larry Bossidy for discipline and execution,
- Paul O’Neill (once again) for experience and bipartisan appeal,
- Herb Kelleher for innovative thinking,
- Eric Schmidt for talent at building infrastructure,
- Andy Grove for competitive spirit, and
- Fred Smith for determination.
These are purely personal picks. None of them is perfect, but they are all achievers in their own right. It isn’t necessarily a must to bring CEO talent into the White House–John Castellani, president of the Business Roundtable, thinks the administration has done a good job in reaching out to business–but any of these would be certain to leave an imprint.
[Note: I recognize that my list is lily-white and male. I would expect this to shift in the next few years.]