Sen. John McCain’s adviser, Carly Fiorina, coming off a controversial tenure running Hewlett-Packard, has been widely quoted as ill-advisedly but accurately observing that none of the candidates, McCain included, are capable of running a Fortune 500 company. I would be reluctant to put any in charge of a small business either. I advise over 20,000 small business owners directly, over 1 million indirectly, and I can’t imagine recommending hiring any of these four.
But if we must hire two of these, and we must, then let’s think it through as best we can. This will be doing more than anyone in the media has, given their dismissive attitude toward business in general and the pundits’ and journalists’ own lack of experience at running anything. But hiring a CEO is what we, the voters, and the media exerting its influence, are engaged in.
Sen. Barack Obama has zero experience running anything but his presidential campaign – which has the most bloated staff and largest budget of any, is out-spending his opponent by a wide margin but failing to gain proportionate market share. His wife mentioned that Barack would be surprised at the amount of money she spends on their children’s activities, so he’s obviously not running their household or its budget.
While Wall Street’s been burning, and a monstrous federal bailout ala Resolution Trust, costing up to $1 trillion has been OK’ed (with vague caveats) by him, he and his running mate Sen. Joe Biden proposed doubling our foreign aid and handing $50 billion of additional largesse over to the United Nations. He is only grudgingly acknowledging some of his grand giveaway plans might not occur immediately, simultaneously upon his election. Seriously, if you owned a business, could you rest easy on extended vacation with its checkbook in Obama’s hands?
Biden, has been in the U.S. Senate longer than Methuselah. Longer even than McCain. He’s never seen an earmark, bloated spending bill or tax he hasn’t liked. Spending other people’s money is the thing he has the greatest experience with. Of course, he has never run anything like a business or been held accountable for making books balance or controlling spending either. His resume has more years in government on it, but more qualifications to actually manage the nation and its business? No.
McCain gets some slight advantage here. Although obviously pro-military, he has fought against wasteful military spending. At least once he enraged Pentagon officials, many fellow Republicans, and defense industry lobbyists by fighting and ending investment in military hardware no one in the military wanted, that did not work, and was priced far beyond its best-case value.
He has actually managed something in addition to his smaller, leaner funded presidential campaign; he had military command, responsible for troops and assets. He has at least been within sight of business and might have picked up something about how business works, thanks to wife Cindy’s family’s adult beverage distributorship. Thin credentials I admit for a CEO, but still superior to none. I also view his admission that the complexities of the economy are not his strong suit as a plus. Knowing what you do not know is a very important type of knowledge. It leads to care, caution, and consultation.
Incidentally, according to Citizens Against Government Waste, McCain gets a lifetime 88 percent positive rank on scale of 0 to 100 for voting against government waste. Obama gets 18 percent. Biden is one of only 14 to earn a zero for 2007.
Finally we have Gov. Sarah Palin, much maligned as unqualified for the second or – if necessary – top job. Yet only Palin has actually managed anything. She is, after all, member of an elite fraternity, one of only 50 people selected by voters who know them best to be governors. In getting hired for that job, she unseated an incumbent. She has held extraordinarily high approval ratings. She has managed staff, legislative relations and budgets. It’s fair to at least compare her to someone running a small business being promoted to the running of a big one; a risky proposition once ridiculed by Ross Perot; but still preferable to promoting someone with zero relevant experience.
If we could conduct a proper search and find the best two people to hire for these positions, I suspect Fiorina is right; none of these four would make the cut. But we can’t. It’s impossible to argue that choosing Obama-Biden is anything but grossly irresponsible. It is indefensible on rational, businesslike grounds.
I’m paid to make speeches and I respect his speechifying talent. I’d hire him to pitch a product for me on a late night TV infomercial in a hot second – and would never let McCain have that job. But with economic survival and national safety in the balance, I’ll take the adults with some relevant experience, far less arrogance, and more demonstrated toughness. It’s a tough hiring only because of choices absent and unavailable. As is, it’s a very easy hiring choice indeed.
Dan Kennedy is a serial entrepreneur, adviser to business owners, sought-after speaker and author of 13 books. More information about Dan can be found at www.NoBSBooks.com, and a free collection of his business resources including newsletters and webinars at www.DanKennedy.com.