By Larry Kudlow
President Obama’s “divide-and-conquer” approach isn’t what great leaders do, Jack Welch said Thursday on “The Kudlow Report”.
The renowned former General Electric CEO chided the president for blaming others for economic woes.
“It was the insurance executives in health care. It was the bankers in the collapse. It was the oil companies as oil prices go up. It was Congress if things didn’t go the way he wanted. And recently it’s been the Supreme Court,” he said.
“He’s got an enemies list that would make Richard Nixon proud.”
Welch, who helmed GE for 21 years and founded the Jack Welch Management Institute at Strayer University, penned an op-ed article for Reuters with wife Suzy Welch this week in which he tackled the idea of Obama’s enemies list.
“Surely his supporters must think this particular tactic is effective, but there can be no denying that the country is more polarized than when Obama took office,” Welch wrote, making a case for presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney.
“Without doubt, Romney is not the model leader (his apparent lack of authenticity can be jarring), but he has a quality that would serve him well as president — good old American pragmatism,” he wrote. “Perhaps that’s the businessman in him. Or perhaps you just learn to do what you’ve got to do when you’re a GOP governor in the People’s Republic of Massachusetts or the man charged with salvaging the scandal-ridden Salt Lake City Olympics. If Romney’s long record suggests anything, it’s that he knows how to manage people and organizations to get things accomplished without a lot of internecine warfare.”
In 1981, Welch became GE’s youngest CEO, and increased its market value by $387 billion, making it the world’s most valuable company. But the move came in part by slashing GE’s workforce by more than 100,000 workers, earning him the nickname he despised, “Neutron Jack,” a reference to the bomb designed to eliminate people while leaving buildings intact.
Welch argued that “great leaders are interested in coalescing” the way they would run a company.
“You don’t have one division pinned against the other,” he said. “You try to get the whole company pull together.”
I asked him whether he thought Romney could win the White House. “Absolutely,” he said. “It’d be great for the country. We’d be a stronger country. We’d have more jobs. We’d have more people getting a piece of the pie. And we wouldn’t have this divisive nature that we have with this president, screaming at one group and then screaming at the next group in a high-pitched voice.
“He was in Florida this week screaming and yelling about rich people. He went after the Supreme Court. We’ve got to stop this, Larry.”
Earlier in the interview, Welch said he was seeing modest growth in short-cycle sectors such as food and chemicals, along with “real strength” in non-residential construction and infrastructure.
“While the economy was strong, it wasn’t accelerating the way I thought it would after the fourth quarter,” he said.
Tailwinds included consumer confidence and the Federal Reserve.
“On the negative side, though, we’ve got gasoline prices, we’ve got Europe, we don’t know where China is going and we’ve got tax increases right around the corner,” he said.
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