A room full of some of the top tech leaders in our country: Apple, Facebook, Cisco, Intel, Microsoft, IBM, Oracle, Amazon, Tesla and so forth. It’s a breath of fresh air to see that Marc Benioff, who has become a beacon for protecting the rights of our most vulnerable citizens, is not in attendance.
But I actually fall on the side of the issue that it’s good that our tech leaders are meeting with Trump for 2 reason:
- Whether I like it or not (I most certainly do not like it), Donald Trump will be President of the United States and anything we can do to influence his behavior away from what was displayed on the campaign trail and towards less harmful policies the better. No, I don’t hold out much hope now that we have seen his cabinet picks, his Russia posturing, etc, but asking our best leaders to put their heads in the sand is also not a strategy.
- I also think that as public-company CEOs they have a responsibility to their shareholders not to make governmental hostility a company policy until and unless Trump does enact some of the policies he has proposed by which they will face tougher choices. But a seat at the table is the responsible action if asked — as disgusting as Donald Trump was during the campaign. Being present at such a meeting is not an endorsement of Trump’s policies or Donald Trump as a person.
Donald Trump’s action today are a complete farce and anybody not willing to say so publicly is extremely hypocritical for not pointing this out because I guarantee if this was an Obama or Clinton meeting this would be pointed out in spades.
I looked at this seating map published by Quartz and notice that there are 25 people in attendance. This is a group of our most senior technology leaders and our new government-elect.
25 people. 4 of them — FOUR — are the president-elect’s children. That is 16% of everybody in the room or put differently if I include Donald Trump the meeting consists of 20% family members. This is the definition of nepotism that we would condemn from the least democratic nations in the world.
Donald Trump has not legally separated himself from his businesses and to the extent that he has made statements it has been that his children will run his business for him. His children that are sitting in the effing room with him while he meets the top technology leaders in the country. If that’s not a kleptocracy I don’t know what is.
Let me point out what else is ridiculous.
Trump has been Tweeting negative comments about Boeing and Lockheed Martin and taking all too literally the colloquialism of the “bully pulpit” in a way that directly affects individual stocks and companies. Because we know nothing about Trump’s economic interests we of course can’t know whether this is market manipulation for personal benefit.
But think about this. If we live in a society where the President of the United States publicly bullies companies like Boeing, Lockheed Martin and Carrier you can imagine what’s coming for our sector when they try to stand up to Trump’s autocratic tendencies. That’s when we’ll truly know how our industry will respond to autocracy. For now, they’ve just taken a seat at the 80% of the table not occupied by Donald Trump’s family.