On Wednesday afternoon, President Donald Trump tweeted this:
“Rather than putting pressure on the businesspeople of the Manufacturing Council & Strategy & Policy Forum, I am ending both. Thank you all!”
Left unsaid in Trump’s tweet was the fact that CEOs for some of the largest companies in the country – Intel, Merck, UnderArmour – had already resigned from these executive councils in the wake of Trump’s unwillingness to lay blame solely at the feet of white supremacists and neo-Nazis for the violence over the weekend in Charlottesville, Virginia.
Or the fact that just 24 hours ago, Trump had tweeted this: “For every CEO that drops out of the Manufacturing Council, I have many to take their place. Grandstanders should not have gone on. JOBS!”
The truth? These councils, which were formed as proof that Trump was making good on a campaign promise to bring the best and the brightest in the business world into his inner circle, were already collapsing. Within days, the pressure on the CEOs who remained on them would have become too great – and they, too, would have resigned their roles.
Knowing that, Trump pulled a tactic familiar to anyone who has ever been a 7th grader before. Back in the 1980s, when I was 13, I remember distinctly getting word via the grapevine that my girlfriend of several weeks – it was very serious between us – was planning to end things with me. I quickly rushed to her locker to give her the news: “I’m breaking up with you!”
Boom! You can’t break up with someone who has already broken up with you!
That tried and true 7th-grade tactic is what Trump is doing here. You can’t resign in protest from these councils, because these councils don’t even exist anymore!
It’s something Trump has done his entire life. Faced with certain defeat – or bankruptcy or some other business setback – he simply declares victory and moves on. He seeks to set the narrative surrounding his shortcomings and, in so doing, turn them into strengths.
But here’s what you should remember: Trump ran on the promise that, as a businessman, he could take advantage of the smarts of the business world in a way that President Barack Obama – and, really, no past president – has or could. He knew all of these people personally. They were itching to be consulted and tired of being ignored by politicians. Just you wait and see what he and they would do, Trump promised.
In announcing the Manufacturing Jobs Initiative back in late January, the White House crowed: “The President will be meeting with some of the world’s most successful and creative business leaders to share their experiences and gain their insights. President Trump plans to continually seek information and perspectives from a diverse range of business leaders.”
This is a failure for Trump. He was forced to disband this group of business leaders because they were all going to eventually abandon him over the firestorm caused by his Charlottesville comments.
That is the fact. And no matter how hard Trump spins, he can’t change it.