When he was campaigning, Donald Trump constantly bragged about the power of his business contacts – about how he could bring the biggest names in corporate America to his side to spur the economy and promote jobs. “You need people that are truly, truly capable,” he said.
Now, he can’t even keep them in the room.
His handling of the terrible events in Virginia has come under withering fire. Many see tacit support for racism in his response. Others see, at best, a clumsy attempt at equivalency between white nationalists and counterprotesters. Either way, his business buddies are fleeing fast.
The president had set up two advisory councils filled with movers and shakers, including the big bosses of Merck, Under Armour, General Motors, Johnson & Johnson, PepsiCo and many more massive companies. When the first few members started bailing out after the uproar over Charlottesville, he initially said he could easily replace them. But the defections grew so rapidly, he soon tweeted, “Rather than putting pressure on the businesspeople in the Manufacturing Council & Strategy & Policy Forum, I am ending both.”
However, members of his Strategic and Policy Forum had their own message, suggesting their group was dissolving in part on its own volition. “Intolerance, racism and violence have absolutely no place in this country and are an affront to core American values,” they wrote. “We believe the debate over Forum participation has become a distraction…”
In other words, they were facing tough questions from their own boards, their employees and the public about why they were still standing so close to the president amid this firestorm – and they moved away.
Whether you are a fan of this president or not, these are the facts as we know them right now: He is struggling mightily to pass any significant legislation. His approval rating remains dreadful. He has alienated an increasing number of members of Congress in his own party. And now his gold-plated claim to influence in the business world appears badly tarnished.
And all of that is raising a tough question: Even if Trump can figure out a plan to get his presidency back onto a positive track – who will help him?