If You Ask Me: A Global Banker Reflects on Our Times
Wriston, Walter B.
Expect To Get Zapped
Walt, do you see a continued adverse environment for business in the future? How do you respond to the critics of the free enterprise system?
First, you can't defend yourself, if you have a lousy product at a bad price. There is no way the marketplace can sustain that kind of deal. You can do it for a little while, but over time it will catch up with you. Too many of us have delivered a product that wasn't that good at a price that was too high. To change anything, there has to be real substance, not just rhetoric.
The second thing we have to do, once we have a good story to tell, is tell it. It isn't enough just to stand in the line of fire trying to look dignified.
We had a Senator who fired off the word obscene to describe profits. That cut down everybody, and there was no opportunity for equal time. Look at what happened to Bud Warner. He cut a half-hour television tape for the oil companies, and television showed 30 seconds of him scratching his nose. That was not an effective reply. On the other hand, CBS and NBC and ABC tell me that ten businessmen out of eleven refuse to go on shows like Meet the Press, Issues and Answers, or Face the Nation.
The reason they refuse is that they are afraid they're going to get zapped. The reality is, yes, you're going to get zapped. But you have to go out there and tell your story about the productivity of the American system, about the creation of jobs in this country, because nobody else is going to tell it for you.
So, if you go on television, or you go on the rubber chicken circuit, you're going to get misquoted, and you're going to get in trouble, but at least you have a fighting chance.
George Meany is a friend of mine. I work with him on the Labor Management Committee. Well, he can hold up a can of soup on television and destroy with one line an hour-long reasoned speech about why business's return on net worth is too low. What we need is somebody in the business community who is as good at the one-liners as George Meany is.
 Rawleigh Warner, Chairman, Mobil Oil Corporation.