Jobs are What Matter: Amex CEO Reflects on the U.S. Elections

WSJ's Viewpoints Executive Breakfast Series

04/11/2010 North America

"If progress is not made, there will be another power shift in the next two years," said American Express CEO Ken Chenault, reflecting on the setbacks suffered by the Obama administration in the mid-term elections.

Chenault was the special invited speaker at this week's Wall Street Journal's Viewpoints Executive Breakfast Series, co-sponsored by IESE Business School and BCG. Asked what he would say to the so-called "Tea Party" Republicans, he said the important thing is to engage in a dialogue. "But I would also say to them that, just as you hold other people accountable for driving results and outcomes, you will also be held accountable."

Everyone, from the president on down, is going to have to "reach across the aisle", he said. Legislative gridlock is not the solution, though it will work for a short period of time in the polls. "But at the end of the day, what the American public is focused on is do I have a job and is the economy growing."

Although he voted for Obama, he feels the President should have focused less on issues such as health care and more on the economy. "The President has to ask what are the key priorities that the public want him to focus on," he said. "My view is it needed to be on job creation. The U.S. faces a host of issues but as leaders we have to decide what are the core priorities and the time frame that we're going to focus on those core priorities."