Kerry Picking Up Support From Corporate Execs
As has been rumored for several weeks, some major figures from Corporate America are coming out in support of John Kerry this year, including corporate CEOs who supported Bush four years ago. The Wall Street Journal ran a story this morning on Kerry’s corporate support, and the hesitancy by other corporate CEOs to openly support Kerry for fear of retaliation from the White House.
Joined by several business leaders at an economic summit today in Davenport, Iowa, Mr. Kerry will release a list of about 200 other corporate supporters. Among the Kerry converts is David Bonderman, founder and managing partner of the Fort Worth, Texas, investment firm Texas Pacific Group, who supported Mr. Bush for president in 2000 and earlier for Texas governor.
In an interview from a chartered boat off Italy where he is vacationing, Mr. Bonderman said: "George is a really good guy personally. But his policies are really terrible. And he had an opportunity to bring the country together -- which was his MO in Texas. But for reasons only his psychiatrist would know, he's chosen to do just the opposite as president. He's turning out to be the worst president since Millard Fillmore -- and that's probably an insult to Millard Fillmore."
But the Kerry camp has found business executives reluctant to endorse a Democrat publicly, especially against an incumbent Republican whose party controls Congress.
Mr. Bonderman's reasons for supporting Mr. Kerry are much the same as those cited by others on the list today. They include opposition to Mr. Bush's fiscal policies; to his international policies that have, they argue, tarnished America's reputation in the world and, perhaps, its market share; and to environmental and social policies they call too conservative and divisive.
Many say their stance isn't merely anti-Bush, but that they are comfortable with Mr. Kerry, despite his liberal Senate record. Former Bush backer Owsley Brown II, chairman of Brown-Forman Corp., the maker of Jack Daniel's, is interrupting his vacation to be in Davenport.
"It's of course not something someone does lightly," he said, "...and certainly not for someone like me -- a registered Republican all my life. But it seems pretty clear that our choice last time" -- Mr. Bush -- "has not been such a good one for the United States. So I am looking for the kind of leadership that Sen. Kerry will bring, certainly in fiscal matters." Mr. Brown, who also supported Mr. Bush's father, says the Iraq war was based on "naive assumptions" about the world "and only the facts that suited" the president and his administration about Saddam Hussein's regime and unfound weapons of mass destruction.
Thomas S. Johnson, chairman of GreenPoint Financial Corp., one of the nation's biggest banking and mortgage companies, also is throwing his support to the Democrat. As an independent who "very unhappily" voted in 2000 for Democrat Mr. Gore, Mr. Johnson said he badly wanted to back Mr. Bush this year for re-election. His son, 26-year-old Scott Michael, was killed in the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001. Shortly after, Mr. Johnson was part of a group that met with President Bush at a Rose Garden event commemorating the tragedy.
"As you can imagine, as a parent of a son who was lost on 9/11, I was particularly trying to be supportive of the president and the war, and I accepted that we were doing the right thing," he said. After the past year's disclosures undercut the administration's case for war, and postwar chaos in Iraq called into question its military planning, he no longer does. The war in Iraq exacerbated his disillusionment with Mr. Bush's fiscal policies and deficits. "I think to have big tax cuts when a war is going on is wrong economically," he said, adding, "I've benefited tremendously from the Bush tax cuts. But I don't think it's right."
Among others supporting Mr. Kerry are Henry Schacht, former chairman of Lucent Technologies Inc.; Irwin Jacobs of Qualcomm Inc., of San Diego; Charles Gifford, chairman of Bank of America Corp.; and Jim Clark of Netscape. Former Chrysler chief Lee Iacocca, who campaigned and made ads for Mr. Bush in 2000, in June switched to Mr. Kerry, saying, "We're going in the wrong direction." Several major figures in corporate America, also former Bush voters, confirmed their backing for Mr. Kerry in interviews, but wouldn't be named for personal and professional reasons.
Bonderman’s comment about Bush alienating people for reasons “only a psychiatrist would know” is an eye-opener, given the recent spate of murmurs inside the Beltway where some observers suspect that Bush is emotionally unstable. Some of this talk has been from qualified professionals such as Dr. Justin Frank, a professor at the George Washington University Medical Center, whose book “Bush on the Couch – Inside the Mind of the President” is causing quite a stir. Bonderman’s comment indicates that some in the corporate world are also paying attention to Bush’s imperial and isolating approach to his job and whether or not there is a clinical reason behind it.