When I sorted out my Journal Sentinel this morning (i.e., tossed aside the advertising sections), I noted that Crossroads published a column by Lee Iaccoca (actually by his "co-author") trotting out the left's creedal faith on the Bush administration and making the point that a Leader of Men like, oh Lee Iaccoca, knows from leadership and this ain't it. I didn't read it.
Patrick McIlheran did and points out that Lee's plain talk is actually puerile oversimplification. I have now read the piece and, while I agree with Patrick, I have another observation.
Lee Iaccoca was the prototype for the modern CEO Hero. He was one of the first CEOs or owners to place himself in his company's commercials. This has been much repeated, bringing us the likes of the Men's Wearhouse's George Zimmer. Lee should be shunned for that alone.
Of course, you put the CEO Hero in the commercial because the success or failure of the enterprise turns upon him. He can't be paid too much. Lee was a critical stepping point in the process that brought us Richard Grasso.
His subtype is the Common Man At the Top. (Harry Truman is the political version.) This guy is a genius because he doesn't bother with those complexities that bedevil lesser men and women. He cuts through all the horses*** (apparently a key concept for Lee) and gets things done.
It is tempting to look to such people for political advice. The difficulty, of course, is that while such people may know their own business quite well and have done a wonderful job within it, they have no particular insight or expertise that can be translated into the political world. Making money at Chrysler or EDS tells us nothing about how or whether you could govern your state or your country.
Translated in to politics, the Common Man CEO Hero usually calls for an end to ideology and a rejection of the controversies that most of the rest of us are arguing about. This can be very seductive. Cf. H. Ross Perot. The problem, of course, is that, in business, we generally agree about the ultimate objective, i.e., we want to make money. In politics, we don't (or at least we have prioritze differently) and that's what much of the argument is about. Competing views of the good and of the way in which the world works are likely to be far more complex than adding two points to gross margin (which can be a daunting task). A bit more tolerance for debate is required. While Iaccoca argues that Bush is insular, the tired old stuff that he trots out in support of his position suggests that he may need to expand his own reading list.
Lee's (actually Catherine Whitney's) column is just a condensed version of the literary adjunct to the culture of the CEO Hero, the modern business book. It requires some mnemonic device (S.W.O.T.; in this case, the 9 "C"s) or metaphor (i.e., the hedgehog or moving cheese) that the author rides past the point of collapse. I know that some people find these things helpful and they sell like crazy. I guess they can serve as a way to stay focused on what you already know, but they are rarely anything more than tricked up banality.
Like "Iaccoca's" column.
That all this is trotted out in service of the left's disgust with Bush is a tad ironic, no?