A Case Against CEO Presidents
As elections come and go, there has been this phenomenon of us Americans falling in love with CEO-presidential candidates. I have always been very skeptical about the exaggerated campaigns of the greatness of CEOs who usually campaigned to bring prosperity to the country. I think there is a fundamental flaw in the argument that a CEO whose life has been spent on bringing in profits for his/her company or satisfying the never-ending greed of Wall Street brokers/analysts can serve a nation. In my opinion, a US president’s role is much more complicated and wide-ranging than that of a CEO. In addition, the responsibilities of a US president are far greater than those of dictators, leaders of banana republics or demagogues of fake democracies. As a leader of a functioning democracy for the most part. he/she needs to uphold the basic principles of democracy, human dignity, and be a guiding light to the world to prevent chaos.
Let us look at the recent history (21st century) of a few presidents, presidential candidates, and their running mates who were billed to have the experience of a CEO. The election campaign of President George W. Bush that was ultimately decided by the Supreme Court in 2000 is something I remember where the early love affair with CEOs began (I may be wrong). I remember his experience as a governor as well as the CEO of an oil company and a football team were publicized and touted as positives. Likewise, his vice-president’s experience as CEO of Halliburton was also considered a major plus. As the election results were being fought in courts, I was naively hoping Mr. Bush would simply concede the election based on the butterfly ballots and the mistaken votes for another candidate (Mr. Buchanan) that were meant to be for Mr. Gore. Girl, was I wrong! But then, life teaches you lessons and frees you of illusions.
Under President Bush, we saw the initiation of two unnecessary wars that resulted in trillions of dollars in wasted tax-payer dollars (not a company or stockholder dollars) besides the “shock and awe” of one of the highest death tolls of the servicemen and servicewomen of this nation. It is also important to note that many thousands still bear the physical as well as spiritual wounds of this terrifying episode in recent American history. Twenty years and three presidents later, we are still trying to clean up the mess. Towards the end of his tenure, we also saw the results of the deregulation mantra that led to the evisceration of the life-long savings and wealth of the middle-class in this country and beyond.
In 2012, we narrowly escaped the possibility of having a CEO president who might have even created separate voting rights for corporations (remember the “Corporations are people my friend!” quote) or reduced the voting rights of his “47%” that were dependent on government. I guess people change. Thankfully, we saw the election of President Obama, whose single and greatest achievement was the expansion of affordable health care to millions of taxpayers despite its weaknesses. It would have been even more spectacular if not for the early successes of the fake news engine and the minority rule of the opposition and regressives.
The most egregious example of how CEOs can bring harm to the very foundations of this nation built on the principles of the free press, free speech, and human dignity belongs to the period of 2016–2020. We got the whole package we never wanted. Ineptitude, insincerity, irresponsibility, infidelity, and ignominy combined with an inability to empathize, delusions of grandeur, and indulgence in pettiness. It is wrong to blame one person and it is important to remember that with a president willing to cooperate, the regressives were at work from day one- to dismantle, weaken and uproot all the progress this country had achieved and tried to protect over the last two centuries.
I still remember the shameful spectacle of a sitting US president gloating over billions in arms sales using placards while the benefactor Prince was smiling (seemed amused but might have been smirking). A few months later the Prince would order the dismemberment of a journalist with a bone saw! The nation was brought to the brink many times as our friends and neighbors near and far watched helplessly to see the shining light of democracy being actively weakened. Fortunately, this sordid period is behind us even though the ramifications can be far-reaching. For many a time, we were cleared of the fantasy that the US constitution is invincible and reminded that it needed upgrades (and amendments) to survive in the future. Just like we have upgraded from horse carriages to planes, rifles to assault weapons, and wooden structures to mansions to name a few. Imagine if the results had been the other way around. We might as well be staring at a million Covid related deaths in this country with only a fraction of the populace vaccinated as opposed to more the 45% today- within 100 days of President Biden’s tenure. A herculean accomplishment even by the highest standards.
To equate and expect the narrow mindset and experience of a CEO to uphold the rule of law, to defend the constitution, to care about the nation’s citizens, to uplift every section of the country, and to inspire people is wishful thinking. Of course, there may be a few exceptions out there — CEOs who have spent many years doing philanthropic work after a successful stint as visionaries for their company and the world, someone who might understand technology and its strengths and weaknesses, who is still upholding his or her moral compass, speaks his or her mind without an eye on stock trades or bank accounts and thinks globally. There are even fewer of them out there who credit their successes to the hardworking men and women they hired during their tenure as CEOs. But the trappings of politics and the ugliness it brings along may be a bridge too far to cross for such well-meaning individuals.
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the opinions or views of his employer.