New reports suggest that Google CEO Eric Schmidt is under consideration for appointment to be the new secretary of Commerce, replacing Gary Locke who will be headed to Beijing as the new U.S. ambassador.
Last week, I wrote that President Obama should not appoint a CEO on the grounds that the history of the success of business leaders as heads of major government departments is awful and also that appointing a business leader just for purposes of cozying up to business would be a terrible waste of what should be a first tier cabinet slot.
Let me take some of that back in the case of Schmidt. He is one of the rare business leaders who have a real chance of succeeding in Washington. I have known Eric for nearly thirty years and can vouch for the fact that he is savvy about policy and Washington, just as he is about business. Very importantly, he understands the significance of policy for business success and he understands globalization and the fact that globalization takes place in an environment in which the playing field is rarely level and trade is often not a win-win proposition.
Schmidt knows technology, is well known in the business community but also in the policy community. In particular he is known as an out-of-the-box thinker and as one who listens more than he talks.
I wholeheartedly urge President Obama to move ahead with this appointment. It would be good for business, good for technology, good for trade, and would also be good politics.
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Clyde Prestowitz is the president of the Economic Strategy Institute and writes on the global economy for FP.