Last week more than 140 leaders from around the technology industry signed a strongly worded op-ed that rejected Donald Trump’s corrosive brand of political theatre. I was proud to be among them, despite the threats, browbeating, and taunts that inevitably followed (read the comments on the post, should you want to visit the seamier side of political discourse).
Like many in the industry, I tend to keep to myself when it comes to politics. Most of us just want to focus on making great companies, products and services, and leave the politics to the politicians. But lately I’ve found myself deeply dismayed by the tone of Trump’s campaign: the inflammatory name calling, the dismissive bullying, the complete disregard for truth. Even more sinister is what Trump represents: A resurgence of ugly American exceptionalism which panders to our country’s fears, and refuses to consider the deeper causes of our problems.
John Heilemann’s no holds barred interview with Anthony Scaramucci covers, well, just about everything you’d want it to.
One of most controversial figures to emerge from Trump’s ascendance to the White House is Anthony Scaramucci, whose brief tenure as White House Communications Director provided fodder for months of late night punchlines. But Scaramucci has known Trump for more than two decades, and in this unvarnished, on the record interview with storied political journalist John Heilemann, “the Mooch” offers fascinating insights into Trump the man, Trump the leader, and Trump the political operator. This is riveting political fare, folks. And while the Shift Forum is held under Chatham House Rule, Scaramucci thankfully waived that privilege so we can all take a peek behind the curtains of power. Enjoy.
John Heilemann: Mr. Scaramucci, it’s good to see you. Last night we had Chris Christie at dinner. I was going to try to get him to attack you. I did not, just as a matter of pure courtesy.
The White House’s List of Departures Keeps Growing. An Ongoing Tally…
Steve Bannon’s departure feels like business as usual in an Administration plagued by scandals. But there’s nothing normal about a White House that has seen so many departures — forced or otherwise.
One can easily lose track, so we compiled the list for our readers. The people below have either resigned, been fired or moved into reduced roles. There may be more — so we’ll keep the list up to date.
Sally Yateswas acting attorney general when fired on January 30th after refusing the enforce the Travel Ban.
State Department Official Patrick Kennedy resigned on January 25th after being asked to do so, along with three of his deputies. They represented decades of diplomatic experience.
Michael Flynn was the National Security Advisor when he resigned February 13th due to revelations around his relationship with Russia and Turkey.
U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara was fired March 11th after refusing to resign.
FBI director James Comey was fired May 9th while on a trip in Los Angeles. He learned of the news from a nearby television broadcast.
Communications director Michael Dubke offered his resignation on May 18th after serving for three months. There have now been several communications directors, the current one — Sarah Huckabee — is pegged as “interim.”
Walter Shaub was the Director of the Office of Government Ethics when he resigned on July 17th after reported clashes with the administration. On his way out, he accused the administration of being a “laughingstock.”
Sean Spicer resigned on July 21st after missing out on new role as Communications Director left vacant by Dubke, and in objection to the appointment of Anthony Scaramucci, who lasted 10 days.
Donald Trump’s personal lawyer, Marc Kasowitz, wasmoved onto a reduced role after attacking the press on July 21st.
Press aide Michael Short quits on July 25th before he could be fired by new communications director, Anthony Scaramucci.
Anthony Scaramucciwas let go after 10 days in the job on July 31st, shortly after a colorful interview surfaced.
Manufacturing and Business Advisory Councils disband August 15th after a bizarre press conference where Donald Trump appears to take back his condemnation of hate groups. The dismantling of the councils happens after several members leave.
Chief Strategist Steve Bannon is fired on August 18th. Or, as he put it, he was released to “go to war.”
The president’sArt Council dissolves August 18th, while sending a colorful “Resist” message to the White House.
So it was Tech Week for the Trump administration this week! What ended up happening?
(1) We got to see lots of photos of tech executives looking unhappy or perplexed or biting their tongues as they sat next to the president on Monday. Tony Romm in Recode has a good roundup of the discussions about modernizing government tech, federal procurement, and healthcare.
It seems increasingly clear that this impeachment thing is going to happen. I’ll confess, I’m terrified about the whole idea.
That’s not to say that I don’t believe Mr. Trump has committed impeachable offenses. After he was elected, I believed his refusal to comply with the Foreign Bribery Clause and the allegations surrounding Russia were sufficient grounds for an elector not to vote for him. His behavior since coming into office — again, the Foreign Bribery Clause, the obstruction charges, and now the careless burning of a foreign source by giving the Russians confidential material — I also believe easily meets the impeachment standard of our Constitution.
I don’t remember the ‘70s very well, but thanks to our administration’s recent policy shifts, they’re coming back into focus, and man, we really don’t want to go back there.
Here’s a top-of-my-head rundown of all the shit going down that promises to take us forty years back, to a time when, well…you decide what kind of time it was.
Women had to fight for basic rights. Anyone remember “women’s lib”? That movement found its voice in the 70s, and made steady if punctuated progress for forty years. Now Trump’s promising to repeal the iconic 1970s Roe v. Wade decision, has scrapped equal pay (unnecessary regulations, amiright?!), and, well, this.
Dirty, climate changing coal was king in the ’70s, powering nearly half of US energy output. It’s now less than a third and dropping fast, mainly because of clean sources like solar and wind, which are starting to take power costs to zero, all while driving far more jobs than coal. Do we really want to go back? Well, Trump certainly does. WTF?
The EPA was established in 1970, when our rivers were on fire and kids had to hide inside from killer smog attacks (I was one of them). Now, Trump’s EPA has repealed decades of regulations, and it’s run by a guy who, well, hates the EPA. Oh, please, let’s go back to flaming rivers and unbreathable air, shall we?!
And then there’s climate change. After decades of science, inconvenient truths, and global disasters, the world’s leaders finally got their collective shit together and agreed to do something about our shared existential crisis. But not Trump, who thinks climate change is a hoax and has vowed to cancel the Paris accords. That sentiment might have flown in 1975. But now? Really?
“Law and Order.” If you’ve not watched 13th, please add it to your NetFlix cue…or just take 90 minutes and watch it now. The phrase “law and order” is a semiotic stand in for systemic racism and state-driven racial injustice. It rose to prominence in the 1970s as a political reaction to the civil rights movement, and has been widely discredited as social policy. But, you guessed it, Trump wants to bring it back.
Oh, and war. Remember that long, Cold one? Forty years ago, it was the most critical foreign policy issue of the day. By last year, it was all but over. Then Trump got elected, and…well, it sure feels hot again.
Rampant capitalism/neoliberalism/financialization. This is a tough subject to detangle, but in essence, the past forty years have seen the rise, and recent decline, of unrestrained, Friedman-esque capitalism (note this new book on the topic, FWIW). The Great Recession gave our body politic pause, and while Dodd Frank was in many ways toothless, it did set a new tone. Trump not only put a gaggle of bankers in charge of his government, he also is committed to repealing Dodd.
I could go on and on (immigration, creationism, public schools…) but I think I’ve made my point. We love to idealize the past, but forty years ago, women and minorities had vastly diminished rights, our environment was a mess, climate change was ignored, capitalism was unrestrained and destructive, and we were playing a terrifying game of nuclear chess with Russia. By last year, we had made massive progress on all of these crucial societal issues.
And now we’re going back to the ‘70s. Anyone else want off this particular train?
The tech industry is poised to lead the resistance to Trump. But will it?
At the dawn of the Trump administration, a diverse panel of technology veterans — Fred Wilson, co-founder of Union Square Ventures, Rachel Whetstone, head of policy and communications for Uber, and DJ Patil, the outgoing Chief Data Scientist for the White House — went on the record to discuss the impact of a new and unpredictable administration on their industry. What resulted was a compelling, wide ranging, and sometimes salty exchange. Below is the video and the full transcript, edited for clarity.
John Heilemann (JH): Rachel Whetstone is the head of policy, and a bunch of other stuff at Uber. Fred, come on up. Fred, from Union Square Ventures. A man who’s a great venture capitalist, and also really interested in public policy. Then DJ Patil, who was the chief data scientist for the United States of America until a couple of days ago, and like Valarie Jarrett, now is enjoying actually sleeping regular hours.
You’ve probably already heard that EO 13771 is a two-for-one deal. It requires that every newly proposed federal regulation be accompanied by the repeal of two existing regulations. And just in case the folks at the FDA or EPA or SEC or any other agency think they can pull a fast one, the order also requires that the total additional cost of all new regulations in fiscal 2017 net out at zero. Read the President’s lips: No added cost!
Let’s take a hard look at how he’s managed his brand in the past…
I recently asked a salesman at Nordstrom’s if dropping the Ivanka Trump brand had impacted business. “Nope,” he smiled. “A guy just came in and dropped $700 on shirts he’d planned to buy somewhere else.” Nordstrom’s stock price is up since the President went on a tweet warpath over their decision.
On the Trump-positive end of the spectrum, Ivanka’s perfume sales increased on Amazon, and after a group organized a boycott of Trump wine, retailers sold out. But politically-motivated purchases are an unsustainable long-term brand strategy.
Tech-industry workers outraged by President Trump aren’t just protesting and signing petitions: They are volunteering their time and skills to candidates who oppose the Trump agenda (Lauren Smiley in Backchannel). As with so much of the “resistance” movement in tech-land, this is a bottom-up phenomenon, with impassioned employees stepping forward to take action on their own and pressing their companies to live up to their values.
Protest and political action groups continue to emerge, including a plan for a one-day walkout on March 14 — Pi Day (the walkout will be on 3/14 at 1:59 p.m.). The wave of concern and activism isn’t limited to trendy startups and household-name consumer service firms; it’s spreading to “the older, stodgier, less glamorous part of the tech universe,” too, writes David Streitfeld in The New York Times. At companies like IBM, Oracle, Qualcomm, and Cisco, top executives may be working closely with the Trump administration, but workers are pushing their employers to state clearly what ethical lines they will not cross.