Why Mr. Buffett Won't Be Going to Washington


Warren Buffett's name was mentioned during last night's debate by both Republican John McCain and Democrat Barack Obama as a potential Treasury Secretary, but it's hard to imagine Buffett would ever give up Berkshire Hathaway and Omaha and relocate to Washington.

NBC's Tom Brokaw asked the two presidential candidates who they might have in mind to take on the "greatly expanded" powers of the Treasury Secretary, on the assumption Henry Paulson won't stay in the post.

McCain replied that it has to be someone Americans would immediately trust. "A supporter of Senator Obama's is Warren Buffett. He's already weighed in and helped stabilize some of the difficulties in the markets and with companies and corporations, institutions, today." McCain went on to mention former eBay CEO Meg Whitman as another possibility.

Obama's polite response: "Warren would be a pretty good choice, Warren Buffett, and I'm pleased to have his support. But there are other folks out there."

Back on September 24, Buffett told the Squawk Box team that if he was in the White House come January, he would ask Hank Paulson to keep the job for another year. That led Carl Quintanilla to ask if Buffett would be willing to "do something on the public side?"

Buffett didn't jump at the idea, but did graciously say that "if anybody wants my opinion," he'd be happy to "help them out."

McCain has mentioned Buffett's name before as a candidate for Treasury, and it didn't really make sense then, much less now.

It would be difficult to find any Buffett-watcher who thinks he would be willing to leave Omaha and the job he loves and does so well, making billions with Berkshire Hathaway, to dive into the political mud-fights of Washington.

The idea that someone who likes to make decisions and take action quickly would be willing spend his days negotiating, fighting, and compromising, with slow-moving politicians and bureaucrats is simply inconceivable.

McCain may be trying to show his bipartisanship by associating himself with Buffett's sterling reputation for honesty and common sense, but he's got to know that even if he gets the White House job next month, Buffett won't be accepting any full-time employment offers.

Current Berkshire stock prices:

Class A:

Class B:

Questions? Comments? Email me at buffettwatch@cnbc.com