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Who Needs Advisory Boards?

by Reihan Salam

Trump should take the opportunity to rethink the Right’s relationship to Big Business

At the start of his presidency, Donald Trump invited a number of America’s leading business executives to serve on two new advisory boards: the Strategic and Policy Forum, devoted to providing the Trump White House with advice on economic issues, and the Manufacturing Jobs Initiative, which focused more narrowly on the president’s plans for an industrial revival. Though there’s nothing unusual about having corporate America’s leading lights serve on such boards, which have been around for ages, the fact that Trump was able to persuade so many of them to sign up in the wake of his controversial campaign seemed a reassuring sign, especially to jittery investors. If the chief executives of PepsiCo, General Motors, IBM, and other corporate giants were willing to do business with the new administration, surely all would be well.

That’s not quite how things have turned out. Almost from the inception of these advisory boards, members have been wrestling both publicly and privately with the propriety of serving on them. On February 2, less than two weeks after Trump’s inauguration, Travis Kalanick, who was then the CEO of Uber, resigned from the Strategic and Policy Forum to protest the president’s temporary visa freeze on a handful of Muslim-majority states, better known as the “Muslim ban.” Given Uber’s various PR woes and its heavy reliance on immigrant drivers, this shouldn’t have been too surprising. Distancing himself from Trump was an easy way for Kalanick to score points with his many detractors on the left.

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