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Chicago Tribune and New York Times explain the C.E.O./Trump dilemma

It’s a tough call. And it isn’t going to diminish soon.

Headlines today spell it out:

Chicago Tribune: “Three CEOs quit Trump advisory panel over Charlottesville response”

New York Times: “Outraged in Private, Many C.E.O.s Fear the Wrath of the President”

Jim Puzzanghera, Los Angeles Times Washington correspondent appearing in the Chicago Tribune, summarized the situation this way [condensed]:

[The three C.E.O.s] were among more than two dozen corporate executives and union officials advising the Trump administration on boosting American manufacturing. Now they have become the latest high-profile chief executives to leave a White House business council in recent weeks in protest of Trump’s statements of actions …

“Other members of the council, which met with Trump shortly after his inauguration to provide their perspective on promoting more American manufacturing, decried the Charlottesville violence but did not say they were stepping down.”

Excerpts of Andrew Ross Sorkin’s analysis in the New York Times

“At what point do the C.E.O.s of the largest companies in the U.S. tell President Trump that enough is enough? Not yet, apparently …

“How can so many other American business leaders and senior executives [beyond the three who withdrew] remain quiet about the president’s reaction? Where is the moral courage to stand up? … Privately, many chief executives say they are fuming, outraged by the president … But many are too scared to say anything  publicly that could make them or the company a target of Trump’s wrath [as was Merck’s C.E.O. Kenneth Frazier].”

There it is: The power of the office of the presidency and the readiness of the current occupant to use — or abuse — it. 

Clearly, C.E.O.s must make a personal calculation and a business calculation. And they overlap. 

Each of us — of course, C.E.O.s included — have a social responsibility. When a career or work responsibility shadows personal moral values, individuals must make difficult choices.

Facing up to this current C.E.O. challenge is a dimension of what we’ve called Profiles in — Business –Courage.

Sorkin’s pragmatic, Socratic concluding question and answer: “If the president isn’t following your advice or the values you espouse, when should you get up? Of course, big policy decisions like tax reform remain just around the corner, so many executives are desperate to keep a line open to the president even if it is one-way.”