From "I'd like my life back," to "I don't know, Congressman" ad nauseam at the hearing, to "rare private time" on his yacht in clean European waters, BP's Tony Hayward has put on the most self-damaging and institution-harming performance by a supposedly savvy bigshot since, well.... I can't think of anything comparable.

  - John Edwards destroyed himself with flat-out lies, but until he was caught out he didn't act as tone-deaf as this.

  - The pre-philanthropic Bill Gates was harmfully haughty during the 1990s-era Microsoft antitrust trial, but that was a long time ago.

  - Mark Zuckerberg did not make Facebook any friends with his flop-sweat performance at a recent conference, but that was a small insider group.

 - Zhang Qingli, a Chinese Communist official, called the Dalai Lama "a jackal clad in Buddhist monk's robes," but he was mainly playing to a supportive domestic Chinese audience.

All in all, I can't think of any CEO or similar figure who has been as consistently, unbelievably, and consequentially self-destructive as Hayward, especially in this past month. I can remember when this guy was thought of as a sparkling young hotshot! That was only four years ago. If anyone has a nominee for a worse public performance than Hayward's, please let me know. Will report any suggestions that cross the "worse than Hayward" threshold.