Warren G. Harding and the bad CEO

In 1999, facing the prospect of Governor Bush as President, I read the definitive biography of Warren G. Harding to begin to understand what a Bush presidency would be like.

People forget that Harding was a popular president: A handsome man with an attractive personality; a man who looked like a leader, but lived like one of the boys.

Only after Harding’s death—when it was revealed how oblivious the President was to the corruption of his administration—did people realize how out of his depth Harding was in the White House. Since the late 1920s, Harding’s presidency has been justly judged a failure.

One of the best takes on the similar failure of the Bush presidency is a recent post by Kevin Drum:

Bush styles himself a “CEO president,” but the world is full to bursting with CEOs who have goals they would dearly love to attain but who lack either the skill or the fortitude to make them happen. […]

George Bush is, fundamentally, a mediocre CEO, the kind of insulated leader who’s convinced that his instincts are all he needs. Unfortunately, like many failed CEOs before him, he’s about to learn that being sure you’re right isn’t the same thing as actually being right.

So sure: George Bush is genuinely committed to winning in Iraq. He just doesn’t know how to do it and doesn’t have the skills, experience, or personality to look beyond his own instincts in order to figure it out. America is about to pay a heavy price for that.

Karl Marx was wrong. The first time was the farce. This time is the tragedy.

(Mark Schmitt writes a follow-up to Kevin’s post.)

3 Responses to “Warren G. Harding and the bad CEO”

  1. kevin whited Says:

    Drum, a hard left partisan, thinks the Bush Presidency is a failure. There’s a shocker! It needs one of those loud News2Houston graphics to go with it. :)

    Drum’s imprecise ramblings aside, it will be interesting when Presidential scholars seriously take up the Bush CEO presidency. It is a model that deserves study, but the academic verdict will be a bit longer in coming, and that’s a good thing.

  2. Steve Says:

    Kevin: Only if “IMPRECISE RAMBLINGS FOUND IN BLOG!” gets the graphical treatment, too. :-)

    The CEO model is not the problem—the model might work, with the right president. The problem is Bush.

    Imagine if a real CEO had stood in front of his stakeholders and demonstrated the ignorance and inability to communicate that the president showed in last month’s press conference. How long would that CEO last?

    Delegation is one thing. Laziness is another.

  3. M1EK Says:

    How long would that CEO last? Quite long, at least in this country.

    my old clerking factory, for instance

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