Donald Trump came to Washington promising to run America like a business.
“I will be the greatest jobs president that God ever created,” the real estate tycoon boasted.
“Great business people endorsed me,” he told Forbes magazine last year. “I would use our great businesspeople to negotiate those deals.”
The only problem: Most businesspeople don’t want to sit on an advisory board for a president who thinks some “very fine people” attend white supremacist rallies. That’s not good for the bottom line.
Trump obviously didn’t consider this before deciding to equate heavily armed racists with people protesting racism. At a news conference in New York on Tuesday, he argued that last weekend’s violence in Charlottesville, Va., which resulted in the death of a woman at the hands of a Nazi sympathizer, was the fault of “both sides.”
“Not all of those people were neo-Nazis, believe me,” the president, seemingly unhinged, said of white men, who had chanted “Jews will not replace us” while marching with tiki torches. “Not all of those people were white supremacists by any stretch.”
Not surprisingly, this was the last straw for several CEOs, who had struggled to stay in the president’s corner as he fought to ban Muslims from entering the United States and decided to pull out of the Paris climate accord. This week, Trump’s peers – the same people he promised would help make America great again – made clear they want nothing to do with him. Even Tiki Brand issued a statement decrying the misuse of their torches. Trump is no longer part of the corporate club, which has to sting.
The exodus from Trump’s Manufacturing Council started on Monday with Merck’s CEO Kenneth Frazier. Other executives followed, including Brian Krzanich of Silicon Valley’s Intel Corp.
“I resigned because I want to make progress, while many in Washington seem more concerned with attacking anyone who disagrees with them,” Krzanich explained in a blog post. “We should honor – not attack – those who have stood up for equality and other cherished American values.”
By Wednesday, with executives from Campbell Soup and 3M also pulling out, Trump had little choice but to disband the Manufacturing Council and the Strategy & Policy Forum.
It’s a sign of the times, or maybe just of the morally bankrupt Trump administration, that Corporate America has become the biggest defender of our country’s most sacred democratic values.
Trump, lashing out on Twitter, called the CEOs who quit “grandstanders.” He singled out Frazier, as if it would be unthinkable for a black man to want to quit working with a president who just gave a pass to white supremacists. It’s a good bet Stephen Curry, a spokesman for Under Armor, had something to do with CEO Kevin Plank quitting, too.
But as a businessman, Trump also must understand that the almighty dollar rules. Racism isn’t popular with most Americans and, therefore, it isn’t profitable. Perhaps that also explains why Doug McMillon, CEO of the red-state staple Walmart, criticized Trump, but decided to keep his seat on the Manufacturing Council, only to have the council disbanded.
Regardless, Republicans should be worried. Trump said he wanted to run the country like one of his businesses. And he is. He’s running it into the ground.