February 22, 2019

The Allure of the CEO President

“Billionaire CEO Howard Schultz has made clear if he runs for president he doesn’t want to embrace the status quo of a broken political system.

“We want to reimagine the system, to disrupt it. I’m an entrepreneur. I want to have a vision to see a new kind of government,” Schultz said in an interview with CNBC’s Andrew Ross Sorkin.
He is hardly the first billionaire CEO to consider a run for the White House in the hopes of changing politics and government. And he won’t be the last.

The promise of “CEO presidents” — particularly very wealthy, self-financed ones — is simple: They will get things done. They will make government more cost-effective and efficient. And they can’t be bought.

“They are seen as a white knight who comes from outside the political process, who can clean up a mess and overcome the problems of politicians,” said Darrell West, vice president and director of Governance Studies at the Brookings Institution and author of “Billionaires: Reflections of the Upper Crust.”

That romanticized notion is based on a misunderstanding — by both the public and the candidate — of government, of the constitutional limits of the presidency and the fact that the president holds not one but three jobs as head of government, head of state and commander-in-chief, said presidential historian Tim Naftali of New York University.

Certainly some CEO traits and experiences could be assets for any occupant of the Oval Office. But some create challenges or become liabilities.”

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