Taking Occam’s Razor to Campaign 2016

By J.F. McKenna

John Nance Garner, who played No. 2 to FDR once upon a time, declared the vice presidency not worth “a warm bucket of spit.” While not exactly striking a tasteful tone for the average seventh-grade civics text, Garner’s appraisal remains indisputably accurate.

Worse, though, Garner’s mucilaginous evaluation applies to the all-important top post today. Just ask the regular folks—those voters discouraged by everything from a badly tuned economy to a capriciously managed foreign policy. Come to think of it, this figurative second bucket isn’t even warm.

The nation is a mess economically, militarily and spiritually. The taxpayers are hungry for real-world leaders toting solid ideas and tested solutions. They are weary of empty promises, “presumptive candidates,” and the media’s tiresome coverage of the road to The White House.

Time to break out Occam’s razor, the long-celebrated tool of epistemology that says the best solution is typically the simplest at hand. As my gift to fellow citizens, allow me to unclasp and wield that centuries-old razor: Let’s settle on the Fiorina-Kasich ticket in the GOP camp, and be done with it.

Now allow me to relax the suddenly formed wrinkles in your face and the all-new questions in your mind. Former business executive Carly Fiorina is no stranger to success, and certainly no stranger to making mistakes and failures out in the open. What really stands out—and makes her ideal for the toughest exec job in the world—is that Fiorina has learned management lessons in the unforgiving private sector.

As The New York Times recently chronicled, “When Ms. Fiorina, formerly a top executive at Lucent Technologies, took over at Hewlett-Packard in 1999, it was the largest publicly traded company ever to be led by a woman. Yet she also outraged some feminists by saying, ‘I hope that we are at a point that everyone has figured out that there is not a glass ceiling.’ Her business career ended a few years later in one of the more notorious flameouts in modern corporate history. After orchestrating a merger with Compaq that was then widely seen as a failure, she was ousted in 2005.”

An unabashed and outspoken conservative, Fiorina has stayed on the nation’s radar, even after losing a Senate challenge to California’s Barbara Boxer in 2010 and sharing such sentiments as “America is the most innovative country” while cautioning the U.S. that it can’t keep said status if its runs away “from the reality of the global economy.”

And, as noted, she’s not above owning up to her own failings. When the Los Angeles Times showed she had failed to vote in most elections, Fiorina responded: “I’m a lifelong registered Republican but I haven’t always voted, and I will provide no excuse for it. You know, people die for the right to vote. And there are many, many Californians and Americans who exercise that civic duty on a regular basis. I didn’t. Shame on me.”

Certainly this 2005 Fiorina quote suggests a Lincolnesque job-readiness for 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue: The worst thing I could have imagined happened. I lost my job in the most public way possible, and the press had a field day with it all over the world. And guess what? I’m still here. I am at peace and my soul is intact.

Which brings me to another strong soul and the ideal 2016 running mate—Ohio’s own John Kasich. A heartbeat away from the Presidency, Kasich would have the big heart, and the good head, to take on the challenges of this proposed constitutional partnership.

As politically savvy Buckeyes know, the former Greater Pittsburger has been a public actor in Ohio since his days working with State Senator Buz Lukens in the ‘70s. Kasich can boast eight turns in the U.S. House of Representatives. He was elected Ohio’s governor in 2010 and re-elected four years later, handily defeating Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald the second time around.

Kasich, now 63, has drawn a salary in the private sector as well, having worked with broadcasting’s Fox Corporation and with investment banking’s Lehman Brothers as a managing director. Like Fiorina, Ohio’s guv is no stranger to difficulty, criticism and failure. He’s also a tough-minded reformer.

Kasich, who has been on the fringe of presidential politics over the years, is considered an independent, policy-first thinker who aims for results and not just PC kudos. Criticized for a mostly male cabinet some years ago, Kasich responded this way: I don’t look at things from the standpoint of any of these sorts of metrics that people tend to focus on, race or age, or any of those things. It’s not the way I look at things… I want the best possible team I can get.

This former history student considers that last quote and says, “Move over, Mr. Biden: make way for a guy who’ll always be ready for governing.” So do a lot of other Americans, I suspect. Combine Kasich’s executive thinking with Fiorina’s well-spoken customer-first philosophy and America is looking at as capable a 2016 presidential ticket as any primetime pundit promotes in the evening. Just a bit better.

Awhile back in this corner, I quoted a fellow named Twain who had shrewdly observed that the nation and its ingenious republican system is far more important than any candidate who tells us that he or she can improve on the machinery that Washington, Madison and Hamilton put in motion. “No country,” old Mark warned in 1873, “can be well governed unless its citizens as a body keep religiously before their minds that they are the guardians of the law, and that the law officers are only the machinery for its execution, nothing more.”

As I carefully put away Occam’s razor for use another day, I tell myself that it would be great to elect a woman President.

The right one, of course.


J.F. McKenna, a former resident of Cleveland’s West Park, has worked as a reporter, business editor and communication specialist. He is a former staff editor of such magazines as Industry Week and Northern Ohio Live. His online work also appears on the site Steinbeck Now. The Cleveland native and his wife, Lady Carol, now live in Pittsburgh with their dogs, Duchess Holly and Lord Max. Reach him at jfmckwriter23@yahoo.com .



  1. JF McKenna says:

    My editorial guardian angels, Russ and Stan, nudged me this afternoon. They reminded me that I had reported Kasich’s age but not Fiorina’s. She’s a lively 60. And I was asleep at the keyboard when I wrote, “Kasich, now 63, has drawn a salary in the public sector as well, “having worked….” Should be, “working.” My goof.

  2. JF McKenna says:

    My friend Frank, a new reader to CBR, was indeed correct when he suspected a word had gone missing in the March 17 column. The sentence should read: “Former business executive Carly Fiorina is no stranger to success, and certainly no stranger to making mistakes and confronting failures out in the open.” Thanks for the head-up, Frank.

    Having two dings in two days comes as no surprise to me—this being National Self-Editing Weak. As we kids were taught to say at St. Ignatius Grammar School, mea maxima culpa.

  3. JF McKenna says:

    To the wags who said I shouldn’t admit to errors in an open forum, let me irreverently paraphrase a line — let those without solecism cast the first flawless column.

  4. Len Diamond says:

    Again, that oddly persistent conservative idea that being CEO of a business is qualification to be president. There are parts of government that should be run in a businesslike way, but the government isn’t a business. How can anyone miss the fundamental difference between presiding over a profit-making enterprise and over a country?
    I hope your ticket does run; it would make things easier.

  5. And yet, Len, the federal govt eats up a full quarter of the GDP. Not sure if most of the Beltway knows what the GDP is.

  6. JF McKenna says:

    The WSJ reports that the savvy businesswoman will announce WH run in May. What really stands out about Carly Fiorina is that she has learned management lessons in the unforgiving private sector. Can I get a hooray?


  1. […] No surprise, though, given the source. Here’s a bit of what I wrote about Carly from this corner back in March—  https://clevelandbusinessreview.org/2015/03/17/taking-occams-razor-to-campaign-2016/ : […]

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