On Monday, Merck CEO Kenneth Frazier resigned from the President’s American Manufacturing Council over President Trump’s unwillingness to condemn alt-right racism by name on Saturday, after violence in Charlottesville culminating in a terror attack by a white supremacist. Frazier, who is the only black member of the council, issued the following statement:
Trump, who labeled Frazier and other members of his council “some of the world’s most successful and creative business leaders,” immediately shot back on Twitter:
It’s not surprising to see the president threatening price controls and other governmental consequences for businesses that displease him: he’s done the same with companies ranging from Amazon to Carrier. But Trump’s vigorous and nasty response here contrasts sharply with his muted response to Charlottesville.
And that’s the problem.
President Trump has an unfortunate tendency that has manifested itself throughout his campaign and now throughout his tenure in the White House: anyone who speaks nicely of him or at least doesn’t oppose him must be treated with kid gloves; anyone who crosses him must be punched into next week. That’s a problem when it comes to support from horrific people like Vladimir Putin or the alt-right; it’s also a problem because it means that Trump has no corrective mechanism when he’s wrong. Anyone who labels him wrong becomes an enemy; anyone who treats him generously becomes a friend.
But it’s the job of the president to put his own petty personal likes and animi aside. He should be standing against those who are wrong, even if they like him. Trump’s best move with Frazier would have been to signal disagreement with his resignation, while stating that he strongly condemns the alt-right. We’re now 48 hours past Charlottesville, and Trump hasn’t done that himself. That’s disturbing and telling.