President George W. Bush is legally the U.S. commander-in-chief. But how does he rank as chief executive? Two collegiate experts in private and public service joined “Power Lunch” to examine how the first president with an MBA from Harvard Business School is holding up as America’s CEO.
Jeffrey Sonnenfeld, Senior Associate Dean at the Yale School of Management, declared that in a business analogy, Bush is “a CEO who’s sweating bullets.” He told CNBC’s Sue Herera that reports from Davos reveal a “backlash on U.S. diplomacy” that is “hurting U.S. brands.”
Roger Porter, a professor at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government, agreed with Sonnenfeld. He suggested that as Bush prepares to deliver the State of the Union address tonight, he will re-focus – “as all good CEOs do” – on other issues besides the ones most at the forefront of national consciousness, e.g., the divisive war in Iraq. Porter said that to succeed, the 43rd president must break “new ground” to find common cause with congressional Democrats.
Sonnenfeld reminded viewers of the tactics of Presidents Lyndon B. Johnson and Gerald Ford, who each were tasked to “re-frame” the political picture: LBJ conjured up his “Great Society” social initiative program, and Ford took to soothing post-Watergate political rifts. The Yale dean said Bush could reclaim a “successful aura” by working on domestic issues like immigration and education – although, he noted, the president’s track-record on these might garner more Democratic support than any from his own party's hard-liners.
Sonnenfeld concluded with advice given by the late George Burns to “41”, a.k.a., President George H.W. Bush, the incumbent’s dad: “Too bad all the people who know how to fix the economy are cutting hair and driving taxis.”
According to aWall Street Journal/NBC News poll on Monday, a mere 22% of Americans believe the president should set policy for the U.S., while 57% say Congress ought to do so. 66% say Bush's performance is unlikely to improve in his last two years in the White House.