This controversy doesn’t involve Mexico or the Mexicans. It doesn’t involve Russia. It doesn’t involve Hillary Clinton, Arnold Schwarzenegger or reporter Megyn Kelly. This time, Trump has gone against the core identity of the people of the United States by placing the neo-Nazis, Ku Klux Klan members, racists and anti-Semites who demonstrated in Charlottesville, Virginia, on the same moral plane as the counterdemonstrators who joined together in opposition to these white supremacists.
We know Trump has been very quick to attack, criticize or reject anyone he doesn’t agree with. In the case of the white supremacists, who left a 32-year-old woman dead, his only condemnation came after 48 hours, and then he later retracted the statement, claiming there were radicals on both sides and good people in both groups.
The result has been a new disaster for Donald Trump. By doing this, he has created a new self-inflicted crisis, leaving him once again with a falling approval rating (it is at 34 percent). He is fighting with Republican leaders in Congress; with the news media (including Fox News, whose newscasters, such as Shepard Smith, have admitted they are unable to find a single Republican to go on the air to defend Trump); world leaders, especially the Europeans, who lived through the horrors of Nazism; African-Americans; military leaders, who have expressed their condemnation of Trump; governors (Arizona Gov. Greg Stanton* requested on Twitter that Trump postpone the rally he has scheduled for Aug. 22 in Phoenix); and even members of his White House staff, who have leaked to the press that they are unhappy with their chief’s statements.
The list of those who are unhappy is not short. But to that list, we have to add the most important U.S. business leaders.
At the beginning of his presidency, Trump approached his friend, Stephen A. Schwarzman, CEO of The Blackstone Group, acknowledged to be one of the biggest employers in the world. Trump asked him to bring together leaders from the most important U.S. companies to form presidential advisory councils.
Schwarzman went to work. He gathered the leaders of Ford, Johnson & Johnson, PepsiCo, JP Morgan Chase, General Motors, Walmart, Boeing, IBM, GE, BlackRock, Lockheed Martin, Dell, Intel, Walt Disney, Uber, Tesla, U.S. Steel, Merck … to form two advisory councils, one for strategy and the other for jobs and manufacturing.
Both were working, until this week. It all started with the resignation of Ken Frazier, of the pharmaceutical company Merck, and ended with Schwarzman’s call to the White House, on Wednesday** a little after 1:00 p.m. Schwarzman told Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and adviser, that there was going to be a mass exodus, so they would be making a group announcement that they were resigning their presidential advisory roles.
What did Trump do? He reacted by immediately posting a tweet, in which he declared that the two advisory councils would be disbanded.
Never before has the relationship between important U.S. businessmen and the president been so tense. Never before would they have said ‘no’ to the president. But now, between moral considerations and the impossibility of ignoring their own customers, they have turned their backs on him.
This is how Trump goes into the first session of NAFTA renegotiations, which kicked off Wednesday** in Washington: weak, battered, isolated, with little support, and with petitions demanding that he resign or be impeached.
The matter is so serious that when the Mexican negotiating team in Washington was asked if they were considering whether it might not be with Trump and his team that they finish up the renegotiations, the answer was: We are not speculating, but we are preparing for all scenarios.
*Translator’s note: Greg Stanton is the mayor of the city of Phoenix, not the governor of Arizona; Doug Ducey is Arizona’s governor.
**Translator’s note: Wednesday, Aug. 16.