Davos Newbies Home

Welcome to a newish CEO weblog 

I had to read The New York Times to discover a friend had started a weblog. I’m hurt.

Seriously, having Richard Edelman join the blogosphere is a wonderful development. Richard is one of the most thoughtful, insightful people I met through my involvement with Davos. Our friendship was joined when we sat next to each other during a dinner with former Malaysian prime minister Mahathir. Dr M was asked about his then recent comments about George Soros and financial speculators and he embarked on a tirade of anti-semitic invective. Richard and I walked out into the cold, snowy streets of Davos and took a long walk to cleanse ourselves.

I’ll hazard a guess that Richard leaps to the head of the small but growing class of CEO bloggers. His PR firm is in the world top ten by any measure.

The fatal brew 

Josh Marshall: “Given all that’s happened in Iraq, the potency of the al Qaqaa story was never that it was the worst thing that has happened in Iraq. It’s that it brings together in one package almost everything that’s gone wrong: incompetence, abetted by denial, covered up by dishonesty, and all in one fatal brew.”

Post-election speculation: the Republicans 

When Bush loses next Tuesday I have a fantasy that a marked improvement in the nature of US polity will come from the Republicans.

Of course there will be many Bush supporters who are bent on revenge, particularly if the result is closer than I increasingly think it will be. But a substantial part of the Republican party is also interested in winning elections, and some different attitudes may prevail.

Consider the Republican convention in early September. Who were the star speakers? Schwarzenegger and Giuliani. Both are decidedly on the moderate wing of the party. Who else qualifies as a national figure. McCain. Another moderate, in the context of the modern Republican party. For a party that’s only won one of the last four elections, having been accustomed to being (as the British phrase has it) the natural party of government, a change in direction would make a lot of sense.

The alternative is to continue down the intolerant, fear-mongering road of the Bush administration. Bush himself, of course, could run again in 2008. Teddy Roosevelt was the last former president to try for re-election, with his Progressive party run in 1912. I wouldn’t put it past Bush, but one of the striking aspects of the current campaign has been how tired, washed out, devoid of ideas the administration has been. Additionally, all of the staggering incompetence and failures of the administration will come flooding out in the media and in kiss-and-tell books once the Bush gang is out of power. It would make a re-run highly unlikely.

Of course, the Republicans could continue on the current path. I think that will lead them into a political cul de sac, but plenty of parties have mistakenly thought that’s the road to renewed power.

Post-election speculation: the Democrats 

Laura Rozen quotes at length from Carl Cannon’s National Journal round-up on the likely shape of a Kerry cabinet. It makes for fascinating reading for political obsessives.

Here’s his take on the economic policy team:

  Treasury Secretary — Most-often mentioned are Wall Street financiers and Kerry campaign advisers Steve Rattner and Roger Altman. Altman, who was deputy Treasury secretary under Clinton, is also mentioned as a possible White House chief of staff. So is James Johnson, another potential Treasury Secretary — although Democrats are talking about him as a possible White House chief of staff. Former Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin has influence with Kerry, although if Rubin takes a new job in government it might be an even higher one — say, chairman of the Federal Reserve Board, should Fed Chairman-for-Life Alan Greenspan ever step down. “How do you not want to be God?” quipped Clinton Housing and Urban Development Secretary Henry Cisneros, a Rubin fan.
  Rubin’s former partner at Goldman Sachs, Sen. Jon Corzine, D-N.J., could land at Treasury — though Democrats believe he wants to run for governor of New Jersey. Laura D’Andrea Tyson, Clinton’s first national economic adviser, could also be considered for a range of jobs, including ambassador to Great Britain. Currently dean of the London Business School, Tyson has expressed interest in returning to Washington to lend her oar to a Kerry administration.
  Office of Management and Budget Director — One Clinton alumnus has floated the names of John Spratt of South Carolina, the ranking Democrat on the House Budget Committee; and Kent Conrad of North Dakota, Spratt’s counterpart in the Senate. Several other names have arisen as well, including that of Bruce Reed, Clinton’s domestic policy adviser and now president of the Democratic Leadership Council; and Gene Sperling, who, like Reed, served all eight years in the Clinton White House, the last four as director of the president’s National Economic Council. Sperling has clear qualifications for the job, is interested in it, and has Kerry’s trust.
  Rest of the Best — Kerry has the opportunity to build his own crew of economic advisers by filling other posts at the Treasury Department and OMB, as well as at the National Economic Council and the Council of Economic Advisers, both of which operate out of the White House.
  One Rubin protege who has had a meteoric career rise is Tim Geithner, who heads the New York Fed. W. Bowman Cutter, who served on Clinton’s NEC and in President Carter’s OMB, is mentioned by one former Clintonista as a likely pick. Another Rubin favorite is Tom Steyer, a Goldman Sachs alumnus who funded and runs the San Francisco-based Farallon Capital Management, a giant hedge fund for Ivy League universities. Steyer could be in line for a key Treasury post such as undersecretary for domestic finance. Brookings Institution senior fellow Peter Orszag also has impressive credentials. A former Clinton administration colleague mentions him in connection with the top Treasury tax post, or as head of the Council of Economic Advisers.
  Democrats think highly of Alan Blinder, a professor at Princeton University and a former Federal Reserve governor; and of Lael Brainard, a senior fellow at Brookings and a former deputy NEC adviser. Brainard is mentioned by one source specifically for U.S. Trade Representative, as is Bill Reinsch, who runs the National Foreign Trade Council. Gary Gensler, a former Treasury undersecretary, is yet another veteran of Goldman Sachs. If Kerry wants to dip into the expertise of the House, he could tap Rep. Charles Rangel of New York, ranking Democrat on the Ways and Means Committee.

It really brings home how many hugely qualified people there are for a Kerry administration, and highlights how thin the talent in the Bush administration has been.

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