CEOs of multi-billion dollar companies are quitting a presidential advisory council nominally focused on manufacturing jobs because Donald Trump won’t stop defending Nazis. So many members are leaving that the council reportedly may disband, according to The New York Times. (Update, 1:14 PM: The president has ended the councils with a tweet.) This is hardly a sacrifice, however, because all of Trump’s business advisory councils are a sham.
The American Manufacturing Council was announced by Trump in December at a post-election rally and codified in January as part of the White House Manufacturing Jobs Initiative. It originally included 28 members. “They will be tasked with finding ways to bring industry back to America,” Trump said.
The American Manufacturing Council has met only once. Trump also created the Strategy and Policy Forum, chaired by Blackstone CEO Stephen A. Schwarzman, which had 19 members, three of whom have resigned. It has met once. Trump also created the American Technology Council, which included 18 tech executives at its first meeting in December. The group reportedly agreed to meet quarterly but has only met once.
These councils ostensibly exist to advise the president and his staff, pulling in executives from private industry to “share their experiences and gain their insights,” as the White House said of the manufacturing council. Unfortunately for those who thought their inclusion meant they had the president’s ear, Trump doesn’t listen to anyone. He has never cared about expert advice. His beloved daughter-turned-adviser, who supposedly had sway over him, has been repeatedly bulldozed on issues like the Paris Accord, paid family leave, and trans rights. The staff in the White House can’t even stop the president from tweeting. Instead, Trump’s decisions are influenced by a childlike temperament, possible dementia, petty obsessions like undoing Obama’s legacy, tweets by conspiracy theorists, and Fox and Friends. Members of his inner circle may influence him temporarily, only to be rejected as the winds change.
Here is the supposed value for the business leaders on these councils: Their companies would be associated with power and influence, and they could help shape and influence policy that would hopefully make its corporate profits soar even higher. Neither of these benefits have been realized. Instead, membership on the councils has been exposed as an empty honorific at best and a liability at worst. The executives who have been anointed must have realized that by now, which is why they are now presumably making desperate cost-benefit calculations and consulting with their public relations teams.
The only real reason for not leaving one of these councils is the fear that the action would briefly become Trump’s new obsession. The President could tweet something negative about the company or the executive, and the stock price might fluctuate. It’s what happened when pharmaceutical CEO Ken Frazier resigned, Trump tweeted angrily about the company’s “RIPOFF DRUG PRICES!” At least seven people have now made the decision that a mean Trump tweet is less scary than passively endorsing a man who is empowering white supremacists.
Even Trump knows this is true. Following the wave of resignations, Trump tweeted “For every CEO that drops out of the Manufacturing Council, I have many to take their place, he said. “Grandstanders should not have gone on.” In other words, these aren’t the “best people,” as Trump is fond of saying; they’re all replaceable. Their main role is to flank the president for photos and TV. All they get in return is a literal seat at the table.