The Campaign Spot

Obama’s Most Admired CEO? A McCain Campaign Co-Chair

Time for the Netroots to explode in rage again. During Obama’s interview with BusinessWeek, he was asked for a specific CEO he admires:

There are a bunch of them. You know who I really enjoyed talking to at our last lunch was Fred Smith of Fed Ex. Very thoughtful. He’s an example of somebody who is thinking long-term. His industry is deeply sensitive to energy prices, and he’s the first one to say that if we don’t start getting an energy policy that’s smart, we’re going to lose in our competition. He’s also very thoughtful about trade that talks about the difficulties they had in some cases with partners around the world.

Fred Smith was also a McCain campaign co-chair, and there was some buzz about him being an under-the-radar possible vice president for McCain. I wrote about him here.

Smith is a bit more tied to right-of-center political causes than one might initially think. He’s a member of the Business Roundtable and the Cato Institute, and is co-chairman of the Energy Security Leadership Council. (John Judis denounced Smith in his book The Paradox of American Democracy as an example of a politically involved business leader who embraces “a kind of irresponsible individualism.”) He served as chairman of the U.S.-China Business Council and the French-American Business Council, was co-chairman of the U.S. World War II Memorial Project, and served on the boards of the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and Mayo Foundation.

Also note this irony from the beginning of my Fred Smith piece, written in early August:

The overwhelming perception in political circles is that anyone worth considering for vice president is already a household name, or at least well-known in political circles. This has led, in the conventional wisdom, to the dismissal of several rising GOP stars — Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal? Not ready yet. Sarah Palin? Alaska’s too far away and too small a proving ground. Tim Pawlenty? The Minnesota governor is barely noticed on the national scene.

UPDATE: Two readers note another irony:

Don’t forget the bitter fight between UPS and FedEx over how UPS wants FedEx to be covered by the NLRA (Wagner Act) which would inevitably lead to the Teamsterization of FedEx’s drivers instead of the RLA which covers FedEx now. So basically Obama’s favorite CEO is fighting tooth and nail against Big Labor — don’t tell Andy Stern, he might want a refund!

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