A room full of some of the top tech leaders in the US: 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 President-elect Donald Trump for two reasons:
- Whether I like it or not (I most certainly do not like it), Trump will be president of the United States, and anything we can do to influence his behaviour away from what was displayed on the campaign trail and toward 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 Trump was during the campaign. Being present at such a meeting is not an endorsement of Trump’s policies of Trump as a person.
Trump’s actions on Wednesday are a farce, and anybody not willing to say so publicly is hypocritical, because I guarantee if this were an Obama or a Clinton meeting, this would be pointed out in spades.
I looked at a seating map published by Quartz and noticed 25 people in attendance. This is a group of our most senior technology leaders and our new government-elect.
Twenty-five people. Four of them — FOUR — are the president-elect’s children. That is 16% of everybody in the room, or put differently, if I include 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.
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 who 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 in which the president of the US 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 have just taken a seat at the 80% of the table not occupied by Donald Trump’s family.
This is an opinion column. The thoughts expressed are those of the author.
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