Politics as an escape hatch

Reading these news articles that slam more and more nails into the already-dead reputation of Hewlett Packard executive Meg Whitman, I keep thinking: what if she’d won her election a couple years ago and was now governor or senator or whatever she was running for? Then nobody would care that her company was falling apart!

Conversely, when Jon Corzine lost his reelection and reentered the business world, he left himself open to charges of acts of corruption that wouldn’t have been possible in congress or from the governor’s office.

But sometimes the immunity can go the other way. Jack Welch still has the street-cred to write Wall Street Journal editorials despite his history of data manipulation, but it’s hard to imagine he could be elected to public office, even if he wanted to. For another example, Al Sharpton was caught out on his lies in a well-publicized court case but that does not stop him from being bankrolled as a quasi-public figure.

Big names in politics and business get away with so much that it’s notable when the magic dries up and their statements get taken with the same skepticism as would be applied, for example, to leaders of foreign countries that are not our allies.

I have no systematic thoughts on this right now but it seems worthy of study.

4 Responses to Politics as an escape hatch

  1. Rick A. November 26, 2012 at 6:34 pm #

    “Jack Welch still has the street-cred to write Wall Street Journal editorials despite his history of data manipulation…”

    Alternate hypothesis: the owners of the WSJ are more interested in spreading an ideological message than they are in the veracity of their opinion writers.

    • Andrew Gelman November 26, 2012 at 7:53 pm #


      Sure, but an ideological message is better spread via a credible voice.

  2. Mark November 27, 2012 at 8:26 am #

    I don’t understand your point.

    Your assumption that no one would care if Whitman had been elected and HP was falling is wrong. HP’s troubles have been big news for several years and this latest screw up would also be big news regardless of whether Whitman was CEO or not.

    As to Corzine, since he got into trouble for “misplacing” $1.6 billion after he was in government, I am not sure what you are trying to say.

  3. John Berg November 28, 2012 at 6:02 pm #

    “Caught out in his lies” seems an overstatement on Al Sharpton. Very likely Tawana Brawley was lying (though I think she still denies it), but I haven’t seen anything to indicate that Sharpton didn’t believe her – her story was just the sort of thing he would believe, and in the Howard Beach case he had been vindicated. His attack on Pagones was wrong and inappropriate, but I wouldn’t call it lying. More like jumping to conclusions without sufficient evidence.