Wednesday, September 29, 2010

A question of Experience

In a strange sense the US Senate race in California comes down to experience.  The incumbent, Barbara Boxer, has spent almost three decades in Congress.  The paucity of her legislative accomplishments is legendary.  Most of the objective ratings of members of the US Senate rank her near the bottom.   The one debate between the two candidates simply re-surfaced Boxer's utter incompetence.

Boxer's supporters argue that Carly Fiorina's experience at HP was pretty bad.   Oddly they argue that her decision to move production out of the country is an indication of that.  Anyone with a modicum of understanding of the setting for international corporations understands that the discussions of keeping jobs in one country belie a profound lack of understanding of the competitive nature of enterprise.   Joel Kotkin, the author, argues that in the coming decade America may be uniquely positioned to re-establish a manufacturing base and that may be true.   But in the time that Fiorina was CEO of HP, the decision to move production off shore was a sound one.

That does not suggest that Fiorina was a great CEO.  The merger with Compaq was a decision to pay way too much for a crappy company.   The purchase used up a lot of cash and required HP to ignore some alternative opportunities, such as computer consulting, where the mix would have been a lot better.  However, the job of US Senator is not as a corporate CEO.   It takes brain power, and Fiorina's opponent has not demonstrated that she has much.

During the candidate's debate, Fiorina made a strong case why she would be a good member of the Senate.   She demonstrated a sound understanding of the nuances of issues.   While I do not agree with all of her positions on issues, in some of those where I disagree, she made a credible case for her position.   In the positions that Senator Boxer holds where I disagree, her best defenses were cliches.  It is bizarre to me that someone with almost three decades of experience cannot get beyond the mantra of her side of the aisle.

Boxer has had the luxury of having weak opponents in her previous campaigns for the Senate.  Her opponent this time has made a credible case for replacing her.   I will vote for Fiorina.

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