Viewpoint - Cabinet Fever

Dec. 21, 2004
Bush taps a former CEO for VP. Why stop there?

Texas Gov. George W. Bush might be on to something. He has selected the CEO of a major U.S. company -- Dick Cheney -- to be his running mate. Cheney has government experience, but he also has successfully run Halliburton Co., one of the largest energy companies in the U.S. Having a CEO in line for the No. 2 spot in government -- someone who understands the meaning of "turning a profit"-- is not a bad idea. I realize it is a big "what if?" but what if Gov. Bush selected the U.S.'s most talented CEOs to complete the rest of his cabinet? These leaders, both men and women, are the country's best and brightest. They have led efforts to find cures for the most disabling diseases, employed tens of millions of people, and developed the technology and infrastructure that keep America running. In case Gov. Bush should read this, I have a few suggestions for possible cabinet leaders (some serious, others, well . . . not so serious).

  • Secretary of State: Bill Gates. While no longer CEO of Microsoft Corp., this rich executive would have plenty to offer at, say, the Middle East peace talks. I'm talking dollars here. BIG dollars. Not sure who should govern Jerusalem? No problem. Give the Palestinians the old city. The Gates Foundation will build Israel a new one. Of course, only Microsoft Internet Explorer will be allowed in the new digs.
  • Secretary of Defense: Jack Welch. No messing around here. Can you imagine this General Electric Co. CEO agreeing to pay $600 for a toilet seat? No way. How about allowing a missile defense system that is about 1% accurate? I don't think so. With Welch implementing Six Sigma in the military, there will be no room for wasted dollars and ineffective systems.
  • Secretary of Commerce: I nominate Andrea Jung, CEO of Avon Products Inc. With a direct sales force of almost 3 million people, Jung well knows the meaning of team leadership. What other company's leader besides Avon's would best know how to find new customers in an ever-shrinking world? If every major company in the U.S. were as progressive in its hiring practices, the glass ceiling for women and minorities almost surely would be broken.
  • Secretary of the Interior: Goodbye Bruce Babbitt. Hello Michael Eisner. A success at building the most prosperous entertainment company in the world, Eisner would be a shoo-in for this slot. With his "imagineering" and a bit of pixie dust, he could turn our national parks into profit centers that would last for millennia. Expect to pay to play, but wouldn't it be nice to see lasers dance around Old Faithful, robotic dinosaurs prance around Gettysburg, or Goofy wave at the top of Pike's Peak?
  • Secretary of Education: John Chambers. Using the Internet, this CEO of Cisco Systems Inc. will help make the U.S. educational system the most efficient in the world. Every school in the U.S., small or large, will have Internet access. Training programs will be made available online for every trade. By 2010 every college and university will offer online courses.
  • Secretary of Agriculture: This one is a slam dunk. Kenneth Wolfe, CEO of Hershey Foods Corp., runs a company that knows how to make chocolate to die for. With his Willy Wonka-like thinking, and a bit of genetic engineering, everything U.S. farmers produce will taste like chocolate. Who ever said brown cows don't produce chocolate milk? Possible selection for undersecretary: William Wrigley Jr., CEO, Wm. Wrigley Jr. Co. (Free gum for everyone.) Vice President Al Gore had better name his running mate soon. Gov. Bush could read this column and decide to put together the most talented cabinet of ex-CEOs ever seen. Admittedly, the chance of the CEOs giving up their salaries and stock options to serve their country is remote. Still, stranger things have happened. (Remember Ross Perot's selection of Admiral James Stockdale in 1992? Need I say more?) Just remember you read it here first.

    Glenn Hasek is an associate editor for IndustryWeek based in Cleveland.

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