This article was published by The McAlvany Intelligence Advisor on Friday, December 16, 2016:
As Donald Trump opened Wednesday’s meeting with the dozen or so executives from the technology industry, all was sweetness and light:
You are a truly amazing group of people. There’s nobody like you in the world. In the world! There’s nobody like the people in this room. [Anything we] can do to help this go along, we’re going to be there for you.
You call my people, you call me. It doesn’t make any difference.
This was a masterful performance. It conveyed (to some) a surprising willingness to work with his detractors who moved Heaven and earth to keep him out of the White House. It sounded to others like appeasement. To still others, it was “conciliatory” or something out of “The Apprentice” or a “charm offensive.”
The meeting was nothing of the sort. It was a veiled warning: play nice or else.
Those attending included Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon and owner of the virulently anti-Trump Washington Post, Elon Musk of Tesla, Tim Cook of Apple, Sheryl Sandberg who was standing in for Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook, Larry Page and Eric Schmidt of Google/Alphabet, Safra Catz of Oracle, and Satya Nadella of Microsoft.
The topics covered included immigration, trading with China, and the need to ramp up vocational education for American students. Trump asked for suggestions on how their technology could help detect and root out excessive government spending and waste.
Bezos couldn’t hide his astonishment. This is the man who founded Amazon and then bought the Washington Post for a song ($250 million) in 2013. This is the man who has deserved the reputation as the world’s worst boss. Upon leaving, Bezos told the press it was “very productive,” adding:
I shared the view that the administration should make innovation one of its key pillars, which would create a huge number of jobs across the whole country, in all sectors, not just tech: agriculture, infrastructure, manufacturing, everywhere.
This is from a man who realized that, among the dozen or so attending the meeting, there was only one vote, and for once he didn’t have it.
Bezos, it will be remembered, used the Post as a hammer to bludgeon Trump mercilessly during the presidential campaign. He ordered 20 staffers to dig up whatever dirt they could find about Trump and then blast it across the country. A chief writer, Dana Milbank, authored “The Ten Plagues of Trump” last April, comparing Trump’s behavior to that of God inflicting His punishment on the Egyptians.
After the meeting, Bezos was a different man. He got the message, as the others most likely also did: there’s a new sheriff in town. Play nice and we’ll get along just fine. But leave your guns at home.
Trump plans to provide continual reminders. He is going to meet with them, or their representatives, on a quarterly basis. And he is naming some of them to his President’s Strategic and Policy Forum, including Ginni Rometty, IBM’s Chairwoman, President, and CEO, along with Elon Musk of Tesla, Uber CEO Travis Kalanick, and PepsiCo chief Indra Nooyi.
What Trump employed on Wednesday was the advice that Michael Corleone (The Godfather, Part II) received from his father: “Keep your friends close, but your enemies closer.”
The Wall Street Journal: Donald Trump Strikes Conciliatory Tone in Meeting With Tech Executives
The New York Times: I’m Here to Help,’ Trump Tells Tech Executives at Meeting