Soon after taking office, Donald Trump seemed eager to demonstrate his ties to the nation’s private-sector leaders. Whether they’re equally eager to be tied to him is another matter entirely.
In late January, for example, the president unveiled the names of his White House American Manufacturing Council, featuring 28 members, many of whom led some of America’s largest companies. A week later, Trump was proud to launch his 19-member White House Strategy and Policy Forum, which included another group of powerhouse CEOs.
It all sounded quite nice: the president, after promising voters he’d bring private-sector know-how to government, had assembled an impressive and successful team, whose members would help guide the administration’s thinking on helping American businesses and workers. What could go wrong?
As it turns out, plenty. Once Trump started defending racist activists, his private-sector partners started looking for a way out. As CEOs started resigning from the White House panels, the president saved himself further embarrassment and pulled the plug on the entire endeavor.
President Donald Trump dissolved two of his economic advisory councils Wednesday after a rash of CEOs resigned in the wake of his response to a white nationalist attack in Charlottesville, Virginia, that occurred Saturday.
“Rather than putting pressure on the businesspeople of the Manufacturing Council & Strategy & Policy Forum, I am ending both,” Trump tweeted. “Thank you all!”
Just so we’re clear, today’s move almost certainly had nothing to do with relieving “pressure” on private-sector leaders.
The White House was facing prolonged humiliation, watching one CEO after another disassociate themselves with a flailing president. Earlier today, it appeared that every member of the White House Strategy and Policy Forum was poised to quit en masse.
So Trump ended the councils, which he didn’t really care about anyway, to save himself further embarrassment.
Indeed, as recently as yesterday, when the number of fleeing business leaders was quite low, the president said via Twitter, “For every CEO that drops out of the Manufacturing Council, I have many to take their place.” Apparently, that wasn’t entirely true.
As a substantive matter, the policy significance of these developments is limited. Despite the White House’s claims, these forums were largely honorary endeavors – members weren’t doing real work – so their demise won’t change the administration’s economic agenda in any meaningful way.
But the politics is nevertheless one more embarrassment for a president who didn’t need another one.