Former Pfizer CEO Jeffrey Kindler and former Google CEO Eric Schmidt surface as candidates for commerce secretary in the Obama administration, Bloomberg News reports. The Bloomberg story doesn't mention it, but Reuters reported upon Mr. Kindler's departure in December 2010, "few shed tears over Kindler's exit. Over the course of his tenure, which began in July 2006, Pfizer's shares have lost 27 percent of their value, underperforming a 10 percent decline in the NYSE Arca Pharmaceutical index of large drugmakers." Hey, if Mr. Kindler had done any worse — say, if his company had lost a third of its value under his tenure, like GE's Jeffrey Immelt — he might qualify not just for a cabinet post but to be chairman of the President's Council on Jobs and Competitiveness.
As for Mr. Schmidt, I'm an admirer of Google and a small shareholder, but it was widely reported (it doesn't mean that it's true, but it was widely reported) that his departure from Google came amid tension with co-founder Sergey Brin over how to handle China's hacking attack and censorship of search results, with Mr. Schmidt arguing for a softer line and Mr. Brin arguing for the harder line that ultimately prevailed. If Mr. Schmidt is nominated, it could be quite a spectacle of a confirmation hearing, with Mr. Schmidt explaining under oath to senators exactly why he wanted to keep allowing the Chinese Communists to censor Google's search results for things like "Tiananmen Square Massacre." (The Bloomberg article doesn't get into that, either.) I saw Mr. Schmidt speak back in November of 2009 and reported it here as follows:
Google's chairman and chief executive officer, Eric Schmidt, sounded like something of capitalist, too, ruing what he described as a "base case" of federal budget "deficits as far as the eye can see," "large increases in government spending," and a "weak dollar."
"The problem before us will be solved not by what government does," he said, but by private-sector growth. "I'm interested in making the pie bigger," he said.