After some thought, we actually think it is.
That wasn’t our first reaction. But our current impression of Meg is coloured by the fact that we hold her responsible for the collapse of eBay. (Meg was solid in her early years as eBay CEO, but, in our opinion, she then retired on the job. eBay stopped innovating about eight years ago, shifted into cruise control, made some ludicrous acquisitions to try to prop up growth, and ultimately smashed into the rocks.)
Overall, we think the perception of Meg’s CEO skills exceeds the reality.* But that said…
Meg has a ton going for her as a running mate:
- Good national consumer brand (not hers–eBay’s)
- Instantly approachable and likeable (just a regular billionaire mum)
- Smart, well-educated (America doesn’t care about this, but it helps)
- Charming and self-deprecating, but also confident (even when making dumb decisions)
- Huge business cred–in Silicon Valley, Wall Street, Washington, and corporate America (especially useful given cratering economy and declining American competitiveness)
- Plenty of experience dealing with criticism, press, adulation, screams, etc.
- Perfect for image McCain trying to re-cultivate: Maverick choice without being scary
- Unlikely to have scandalous skeletons in closet (Never say never, but we just don’t see Meg arranging secret gigolo trysts)
- Hard to attack without looking petty, mean, and/or sexist
- Beneficiary of American Dream, without being yet another rich white guy like Romney
Meg wouldn’t need any of these attributes as vice president, of course: All she’d need to do is smile, glad-hand, and avoid embarrassing her boss. But as a vice-presidential candidate–and, more importantly, as President of the United States–she’d need all of them.
And what about her glaring weakness…a lack of political experience of any kind? Surmountable. Meg will have to learn just how easy it is to offend millions of voters, but she should be up to that. (And the millions of screaming eBay sellers and buyers will no doubt have been good training.)
If Meg joins the ticket, the Democrats will immediately point out that the first “CEO president,” George Bush, hasn’t exactly done a helluva job. But Bush’s problem wasn’t (and isn’t) that he had an MBA. He would have been a lousy CEO, too.
Meg Whitman wasn’t a great CEO, but she certainly wasn’t a lousy one. And she’d be an excellent choice for McCain’s VP.
*Meg was solid in the early years, when eBay needed adult supervision, but she also had the good fortune to have climbed aboard a rocketship. Her main success at the helm, in our opinion, was simply not screwing the company up. This doesn’t mean that she was lame–just that, in those years, she got more credit than she deserved. And in the five years before she retired, in our opinion, she retired on the job–and set the company up for disaster in the process.
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