Why Jack Welch Is Spectacularly Stupid When It Comes to Political Op-ed Columns, + anatomy of a joke

To be sure, it’s not the first time the GE retired chairman and CEO has missed the glaringly obvious (and I’ll set down that this lovely title intentionally borrows from Forbes’  Jenna Goudreau’s for her article on Welch and women in business, “Why Jack Welch Is Spectacularly Stupid When It Comes To Women“).

Indulgence declared, 5 points:

(1) Conservative New York Times op-ed columnist, David Brooks, published the article, The Real Romney, reproduced below in full.

The Real Romney


Published: August 27, 2012

The purpose of the Republican convention is to introduce America to the real Mitt Romney. Fortunately, I have spent hours researching this subject. I can provide you with the definitive biography and a unique look into the Byronic soul of the Republican nominee:

Mitt Romney was born on March 12, 1947, in Ohio, Florida, Michigan, Virginia and several other swing states. He emerged, hair first, believing in America, and especially its national parks. He was given the name Mitt, after the Roman god of mutual funds, and launched into the world with the lofty expectation that he would someday become the Arrow shirt man.

Romney was a precocious and gifted child. He uttered his first words (“I like to fire people”) at age 14 months, made his first gaffe at 15 months and purchased his first nursery school at 24 months. The school, highly leveraged, went under, but Romney made 24 million Jujubes on the deal.

Mitt grew up in a modest family. His father had an auto body shop called the American Motors Corporation, and his mother owned a small piece of land, Brazil. He had several boyhood friends, many of whom owned Nascar franchises, and excelled at school, where his fourth-grade project, “Inspiring Actuaries I Have Known,” was widely admired.

The Romneys had a special family tradition. The most cherished member got to spend road trips on the roof of the car. Mitt spent many happy hours up there, applying face lotion to combat windburn.

The teenage years were more turbulent. He was sent to a private school, where he was saddened to find there are people in America who summer where they winter. He developed a lifelong concern for the second homeless, and organized bake sales with proceeds going to the moderately rich.

Some people say he retreated into himself during these years. He had a pet rock, which ran away from home because it was starved of affection. He bought a mood ring, but it remained permanently transparent. His ability to turn wine into water detracted from his popularity at parties.

There was, frankly, a period of wandering. After hearing Lou Reed’s “Walk on the Wild Side,” Romney decided to leave Mormonism and become Amish. He left the Amish faith because of its ban on hair product, and bounced around before settling back in college. There, he majored in music, rendering Mozart’s entire oeuvre in PowerPoint.

His love affair with Ann Davies, the most impressive part of his life, restored his equilibrium. Always respectful, Mitt and Ann decided to elope with their parents. They went on a trip to Israel, where they tried and failed to introduce the concept of reticence. Romney also went on a mission to France. He spent two years knocking on doors, failing to win a single convert. This was a feat he would replicate during his 2008 presidential bid.

After his mission, he attended Harvard, studying business, law, classics and philosophy, though intellectually his first love was always tax avoidance. After Harvard, he took his jawline to Bain Consulting, a firm with very smart people with excessive personal hygiene. While at Bain, he helped rescue many outstanding companies, like Pan Am, Eastern Airlines, Atari and DeLorean.

Romney was extremely detail oriented in his business life. He once canceled a corporate retreat at which Abba had been hired to play, saying he found the band’s music “too angry.”

Romney is also a passionately devoted family man. After streamlining his wife’s pregnancies down to six months each, Mitt helped Ann raise five perfect sons — Bip, Chip, Rip, Skip and Dip — who married identically tanned wives. Some have said that Romney’s lifestyle is overly privileged, pointing to the fact that he has an elevator for his cars in the garage of his San Diego home. This is not entirely fair. Romney owns many homes without garage elevators and the cars have to take the stairs.

After a successful stint at Bain, Romney was lured away to run the Winter Olympics, the second most Caucasian institution on earth, after the G.O.P. He then decided to run for governor of Massachusetts. His campaign slogan, “Vote Romney: More Impressive Than You’ll Ever Be,” was not a hit, but Romney won the race anyway on an environmental platform, promising to make the state safe for steeplechase.

After his governorship, Romney suffered through a midlife crisis, during which he became a social conservative. This prepared the way for his presidential run. He barely won the 2012 Republican primaries after a grueling nine-month campaign, running unopposed. At the convention, where his Secret Service nickname is Mannequin, Romney will talk about his real-life record: successful business leader, superb family man, effective governor, devoted community leader and prudent decision-maker. If elected, he promises to bring all Americans together and make them feel inferior.

Joe Nocera is off today.

(2) Jack Welch tweeted:

(3) Of course Brooks’ piece wasn’t lampooning Romney at all—hint 1 of which is the word “hours” in sentence 2, followed by hint 2, “definitive”, in sentence 3, neither of which makes sense for a serious piece and both clear signals of an impending sarcasm.
But for those still not aboard the parody train, Brooks went further in sentence 3 with the shattering referent, “Byronic soul”,  sending an express limo straight onto the platform for any doubting Thomases, with a belligerent infant driver named Stewie holding a neon placard alternately flashing “Whatever the hell your name is HERE” and “Bitches” at regular intervals.
Brooks, of course, was  sticking it to the media—ironically a target of Welch’s angst. The Welchian-like misunderstanding, however, is what today on NPR Brooks termed as “extremely depressing.”
(4) Tweeter Joe Kernen’s Hair well noted the 2 possibilities:
(5) Welch didn’t get it (and for the record he wasn’t alone). Worse, he spontaneously synthesized, among other things, a fairly specific motivation in Brooks—“job security”—based on nothing in particular.
We assume CEOs are adequately deliberative, have good instincts and use information for conclusions.  It’s not the first tearing of britches on twitter by Welch, however, and likely not the last. It’s a revealing glance at the emotional intelligence and judgment of an esteemed managerial talent.

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