Trump’s Vichy Cabinet and the new Collaborateurs


On December 10, Fortune magazine ran an article by Paul Pendergrass advising CEOs how to deal with Trump’s penchant for attacking corporations and their leaders who don’t toe his line:

CEOs: How to Survive a Trump Ambush

I did not see this article, but Joie did. What did she think of the advice he offered? I will let her speak for herself, as she did in the following response sent to Paul Pendergrass:

Those in corporate America who think they will get through Trump’s presidency unscathed are mistaken, as you correctly point out. What is more contemptible than Trump’s bullying, however, is the response from Boeing to his threats: a $1 million donation to the inauguration. This action by Boeing represents a failure of understanding that you fall victim to in your Fortune article of 12/10: psychologizing Trump as a fragile, vindictive narcissist reduces his actions to those of an individual. It is tempting to see him as an annoying person like others we have known who can be managed and kept at bay through careful handling.

This psychologically naive approach ignores Trump’s deeply cynical agenda and that of the extremist right who support him. It ignores the reality that the presidency is among the most powerful offices in the world. As a student in France in the late 1970’s, the worst insult a person could receive was to be called a “collaborateur.” This insult, rarely inflicted, referred to those who collaborated with the Nazis in the 1940’s. I see now that Boeing and others who feel their economic interests may be harmed by Trump will roll over and play dead, or worse. The collaboration has begun. In your piece, you recommend this course to a CEO whose company is under attack by Trump: “park your ego and resist” any impulse to “argue back.”

You may well insist that practical leadership requires a leader to assume responsibility for the welfare of the whole organization. It does indeed, but there is a fundamental problem, one that is embedded in the caution you offer the dithering CEO: “Any hint of such pique undermines your ability to make yourself a partner in Trump’s victory.” There we have it: Granting Trump “victory” – even tactically, as you recommend in your article, or rhetorically, a position implicit in your advice to the CEO – is the essence of appeasement. I cannot even begin to address the implications of your suggestion that the CEO might “become a partner in Trump’s victory.”

Taking the path of responsible leadership, you might instead have warned CEO’s of this: After appeasement there is no going back to business-as-usual. Instead, through small acts of accommodation, business in general will soon be at the mercy of the whims of Trump and those who follow his lead, whether they sit in the Cabinet, the Congress, or the Governor’s mansion. Believing that you can coach CEO’s to control this chaos is a fundamental error of judgment. Those of us who were born in the post-war period recall Churchill’s words to Chamberlain: “You were given the choice between war and dishonour. You chose dishonour, and you will have war.” What better warning can I give America’s CEO’s?

— Josephine Hyde December 13, 2016

Paul Pendergrass quickly responded to Joie; I won’t paste his entire email here but only the beginning:

 Dear Dr. Hyde,

Thank you for your thoughtful response to my recent post in Fortune.

I’ve read your message three times now, and I think you’ve offered very good advice for anybody writing about Trump in any context. (As we watch a Vichy-like cabinet being assembled, your reference to collaborateurs was jolting.)

. . .


Pendergrass (now) sees the point: accommodation to Trump is dangerous. But how and when will the CEOs of Boeing, Carrier, Ford, and other firms now or soon to be bullied by Trump and his Vichy cabinet realize these dangers?

I might add this observation: When Barack Obama first took office, he believed that the members of the Republican party would act as decent and reasonable individuals. Eight years later, we have seen what havoc that foolish and foolhardy assumption has brought upon his Presidency and upon this Nation.




~ by raysparrowe on December 14, 2016.

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