THE BLOG
09/16/2005 09:07 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

10 Americans Who Could Head the Reconstruction Better Than Karl Rove

Astonishing, is it not, that in all of America, the only person the President is said to find up to the job of heading the reconstruction of the South is....Karl Rove.

The President didn't mention the Master Fixer's name last night, but The New York Times reports:

Scott McClellan, the White House press secretary ...indicated that Mr. Bush would not use the speech to name a "reconstruction czar" to oversee the effort. A number of White House officials have advised the president to name such a czar, with Gen. Tommy Franks, commander of forces in the 2001 war in Afghanistan, being a favorite of Republicans who are pushing the idea.

Republicans said Karl Rove, the White House deputy chief of staff and Mr. Bush's chief political adviser, was in charge of the reconstruction effort.

Rove? What has he ever run that wasn't followed by charges of dirty-dealing and fraud? What if he gets indicted for his apparent role in the outing of a CIA deep cover agent? And even in the best of circumstances, isn't he needed in Washington to tell the President what to think?

What if putting Rove's name out there was just a test? What if the White House would -- for the first time ever -- consider appointing notable Americans not obviously beholden to Republican and corporate interests?

In that spirit, here are ten Americans who could, I think, get us some results from the $200 billion this reconstruction is going to cost our children:

ROGER ENRICO: Twenty years ago, when Roger was CEO of the Pepsi division of Pepsico, I wrote his book, 'The Other Guy Blinked,' with him. What a lesson in leadership and commitment that was! This guy ran a demanding business all day, then worked me under the table at night. Inquisitive and demanding, compassionate and warm, tough and loyal -- Roger was the complete CEO package. If you were in an alley fight, this is a guy you'd want at your back.

KRISTIN BREITWEISER: The most visible of the 'Jersey Girls' -- the others are Mindy Kleinberg, Lorie Van Auken, Patty Casazza, and Monica Gabrielle. They lost their husbands on 9/11 and asked one question ('Our husbands went to work one morning and didn't come home. Why didn't they come home?') over and over until they simply overwhelmed a recalcitrant White House. We owe the 9/11 Commission to these women. Surely they could stand face-to-jowl with construction companies.

BARBARA EHRENREICH: For her book, 'Nickel and Dimed,' she worked minimum-wage jobs and showed exactly how hard it is to live with dignity In her new book, 'Bait and Switch,' she explores what Bush economic policies have done to the middle class. Think she can read a balance sheet? I do. And as for connecting with workers, no question.

BOB PITTMAN: I worked for him for five years at AOL, and I'd be shocked to hear there's a tighter executive on the planet. His directives are unsparing, even for executives -- public transportation is a good thing, cabs are acceptable, black Lincolns sitting for hours at the curb are borderline felonies. Early in my tenure, when we were both working in Virginia, far from our homes in New York, he ragged me for never getting together with him. 'If I had an assistant, I'd get out of here early enough to have a social life,' I shot back. 'Nah,' he said, 'I don't need to see you that much.' Managing a turnaround? Yeah, he could get 'er done.

ELIOTT SPITZER: He's as ambitious as Rudy Giuliani, and ten times as competent. And he's a Democrat, which gives the White House a good chance to show that at least one decision in two terms isn't based on political loyalty.

CAROL FITZGERALD: Over eight years, Carol turned bookreporter.com -- one of the most unlikely ideas for a Web-based business: book reviews, book chats and services to writers and publishers --into a network of sites that pretty much owns books on the Web. And she's done it on a shoestring: $2 million in income over 8 years, 3 employees in the office, a large, mostly volunteer virtual staff. As her business partner, I'm in awe of her integrity, work ethic and willingness to speak blunt truths. Could she run a reconstruction? Hey, she could run anything.

HARRY PARKER: He became Harvard's crew coach in 1963, when he was just 27. For the next 6 years, Harvard did not lose a single intercollegiate race. His crews won 18 consecutive races against Yale. His winning percentage from 1963 to 1997 is .806 -- he is, very probably, the most successful coach in any sport in the whole and entire world. As a leader, he is sparing with praise, long on inspiration. His philosophy: "To build a winning crew, select the right athletes, place them in the proper seats, and allow for the freedom to create. In other words, hire the right people for the right jobs and manage with a long, loose leash." Just what the White House says, and never does.

JAMES SINIGAL: Co-founder and CEO of Costco -- the 'good' version of Wal-Mart--he has made it a point to treat his employees fairly. And still he produces profit. Apparently it can be done.

HAROLD MOORE: Mel Gibson played him in 'We Were Soldiers,' a film that only hints at his greatness as the leader of American troops at the first battle between US soldiers and the Vietcong. He flew in to Ia Drang on the first helicopter. He led his men from the front. When he saw men from another company beginning to haul one of his dead soldiers out of a foxhole with a harness, he snapped, "No you won't do that. He's one of my troopers and you will show some respect. Get two more men and carry him to the landing zone." When it was over and it was time for Moore to turn over command, he requested a full battalion formation. One soldier recalls, "We stood in formation, with some units hardly having enough men to form up. Colonel Moore spoke to us and he cried. At that moment, he could have led us back into the Ia Drang." Think of him as Patton, but with a bigger heart.

MICHAEL DOUGLAS: He's already played the President, and he wasn't half-bad. Acting is the least of what he does now; he's an artful producer and a productive activist. He eats issues for breakfast. He can meet a budget. And he's survived studio chiefs and studio accountants -- he knows the game.

Not that the White House could care what you think, but the place to send your suggestions is comments@whitehouse.gov.