Today, President Trump, faced by a slow bleed of defections that had turned into a severed carotid since Charlottesville, disbanded his Manufacturing Council and the Strategy and Policy Forum.
Rather than putting pressure on the businesspeople of the Manufacturing Council & Strategy & Policy Forum, I am ending both. Thank you all!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 16, 2017
I’m not sure that forming these councils was ever a great idea. If it was going to happen, Trump probably should have looked for a cabinet agency to be the host to minimize the political heat on participants as well as making their resignations a relatively minor affair. Most of the CEOs aren’t very much in line with anything Trump ran on in terms of economic or immigration policy.
But the controversy that plagues the president proved too much for some in business leadership, who have carefully cultivated images as socially-conscious leaders trying to make the world a better place through corporate positions.
Early on in Trump’s presidency, then-Uber CEO Travis Kalanick became embroiled in a controversy over Trump’s travel ban, and promptly quit the Strategy and Policy Forum. In June, when Trump announced that he would withdraw the United States from the Paris Climate Accords, Tesla CEO Elon Musk dropped out of both councils, and Disney’s Bob Iger left his spot at the strategic forum.
The troubles accelerated following Saturday, when Trump equivocated on violence in Charlottesville, Va. without condemning white supremacist groups as the catalyst for clashes between protest groups that ultimately left three dead and multiple people injured.
On Monday and Tuesday, days in which Trump came out with a harsh statement on racism and then seemingly backtracked, six business leaders resigned from his Manufacturing Advisory Council: Merck & Co. CEO Kenneth Frazier, Intel CEO Brian Krzanich, Under Armour’s Kevin Plank, Alliance for American Manufacturing President Scott Paul, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka and economist Thea Lee, formerly of the AFL-CIO.
Trump’s Wednesday decision to disband the boards came shortly after two more CEO resignations by Inge Thulin, 3M’s chairman of the board, president and CEO, and Campbell’s CEO Denise Morrison.
The constant drumbeat of the resignations since Charlottesville has become part of Trump’s self-inflicted St. Valentine’s Day Massacre. This is the first sign we’ve seen since he’s become president of a willingness to cut losses rather than double down on bad decisions.