Bloomberg Businessweek gives Trump dismal evaluation as CEO of the U.S.
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John Micklethwait, the editor in chief of Bloomberg, knows full well that the qualities of a great CEO and a great president don't mirror one another.
And then there's Donald Trump, whose very election campaign turned on the notion of being a great executive. Tough-guy negotiator, builder and all that.
"Forget about ideology, his political agenda or whether you voted for him; just judge him on whether he has been a competent executive," writes Micklethwait in this week's May 22 Bloomberg Businessweek cover story. "Would you want to leave him in charge? Or would you be calling an emergency board meeting?"
He was moved to write, he later told me, because, "it struck me that this is both the way that Trump would most want to be measured and also one of the most damning ways to look at him. Also, there is so much written about this White House that is driven by ideology. This was an intriguing way to strip that out."
He writes that "the Comey fracas is the latest in a long list of apparent transgressions for which a normal CEO might lose his job." He gives other examples, like alleging passing on sensitive information to a competitor (Russia), appointing inexperienced relatives to key spot, waiting too long to fire a top aide who'd lied to your No. 2, and telling undisputed untruths in public.
And there are four bigger failings: "This CEO-in-chief has failed to get things done; he has failed to build a strong team, especially in domestic policy; he hasn’t dealt with conflicts of interest; and his communications is in shambles."
Politically, the onetime Economist editor in chief noted to me, there's a division among CEOs about Trump. Some like him on some issues (like deregulation), not on others (free trade). Personally, few know him since "he was a mid-level real-estate deal maker with a showbiz side. Most stayed clear — until of course he became president."
The ultimate answer to the question that is the story's title — "If America were a company, would you keep this CEO?" — is clear. Nope.
But does that mean that a truly great CEO or visionary entrepreneur would fare better?
He conceded to me, "Most businesspeople have made a hash of government — Italy under the somewhat Trumpian Silvio Berlusconi had a lower rate of growth than anywhere other than Haiti or Zimbabwe."
"I work for one of the few exceptions to this rule. So you should ask him."
Ah! It looks like more to come. ring, ring, Michael Bloomberg.
Can Julian Assange finally exit the Ecuadorian embassy in London?
"Swedish prosecutors said Friday they have decided to discontinue a probe into alleged rape targeting WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange." (The Wall Street Journal)
He's 45 (looks way older, eh?) and fled to the embassy in 2012 to avoid extradition to Sweden. While now cleared with them, he's feared extradition to the U.S. if arrested, the Brits want him for jumping bail, and CIA chief Mike Pompeo has called WikiLeaks a "hostile intelligence service." So don't expect to see him lunching at Harrods in coming days.
Roger Ailes' death and the reality of complexity
Fox News' Shepard Smith had a close relationship with Roger Ailes for 20 years. Ailes hired him and "when a blackmailer entered my life and the lives of my family, he held my hand and saw me to the other side. When details of my personal life became public, he supported me."
Smith was shocked, as were Ailes acolytes, when details of his sexual harassment of Fox women came out last summer and Ailes was booted. But, on Thursday, the anchor served to poignantly remind one and all about the complexity of so many of our lives, including a man derided by Matt Taibbi in Rolling Stone yesterday in "Roger Ailes Was One of the Worst Americans Ever."
A real legacy of Ailes
By total coincidence, Harvard's Shorenstein Center unveiled a study of media during Trump's first 100 days. Much is obvious. In sum: Trump dominated news coverage with elite media, "setting a new standard for unfavorable press coverage of a president."
Implicit, if unmentioned, is how Fox, renegade self-image aside, is now part of the establishment. Its berating of "mainstream media" is hogwash. It's big and rich, given to same constructs as its rivals and, in more cases than one might imagine, more journalistically straight than given credit for. It's got a lot of good people.
I sent the study and my quickie thesis to University of Virginia political scientist Larry Sabato, who agreed, "Fox News Channel is indeed part of the mainstream media, or more correctly, they are the media for mainstream Republicans and conservatives. It is part of the daily news conversation on TV. It's big, rich, and influential, and defines politics for an enormous daily audience."
For sure, "The Harvard data support another proposition. Fox is a parallel universe for news. If it's all you watch — and many retired people have told me they have the network on TV in their homes from 'Fox and Friends' right through 'Hannity' — then your worldview will be very different from consumers of other networks."
"Still," he said, "Fox is as establishment as TV news gets."
When it's right to not divulge everything
"When The Washington Post broke the story this week that President Trump shared highly classified intelligence from a U.S. ally with Russia, not everything the reporters knew made it into print." (Poynter)
Poynter's Indira Lakshmanan, who holds the new Newmark Foundation chair in journalism ethics, delves with great depth into the issue with editors and reporters at the Post and elsewhere. It's one complicated by the rise of media operations without much experience in the area.
Post National Editor Scott Wilson says, "Your job is to inform your readers.” “At the same time, you don’t want to put people in danger or jeopardize legal operations that are ostensibly protecting the security of the country.”
Facebook and MLB
At lunch Thursday, a media executive friend was wondering about the fate of ESPN and whether the just-announced big programming changes will work. He sees a continuing decline and a time when the major sports leagues go to paid subscription models.
A few hours later came this reminder of a changing competitive scene for ESPN: "Major League Baseball is coming to Facebook. The two sides announced a new partnership Thursday in which Facebook will livestream 20 MLB games throughout this season for free to its U.S. users. The deal was previously reported but not made public until today." (Recode)
A FCC surprise (not)
"Surprising absolutely nobody, the FCC voted 2-1 along strict party lines to begin dismantling net neutrality protections for consumers. The move comes despite the fact that the vast majority of non-bot comments filed with the FCC support keeping the rules intact." (TechDirt)
And while FCC boss Ajit Pai has breathlessly insisted he intended to listen to the concerns of all parties involved, there has been zero indication that this was a serious commitment as he begins dismantling all manner of broadband consumer protections, not just net neutrality.
Check out The Atlantic
Yesterday The Atlantic unveiled a digital redesign that didn't rely on any consultants and results from inviting users to the office, seeing what ideas worked with them and using clickstream data to quantitatively discern what was working on the page.
What did president Bob Cohn and colleagues learn?
One: "Readers' mental model can be different from our own. Those who use the homepage treat it as an index of the site’s content, not as a subset or best-of."
Two: "It was difficult for users to find the latest stories."
Three: "Readers often have preferred writers that they look for."
Four: "When browsing on a traditional computer, e.g. something with a keyboard and mouse, they almost all had two modes: discovery and consumption. In discovery mode, most readers opened multiple stories in new tabs before switching to consumption mode. As one reader said: 'I do the filtering first and the reading second.'"
Five: "Those who watch video tend to do so in the evenings."
Six: "Many readers will not scroll too far. One or two screens for this group."
Seven: "It's OK to promote our products — subs to magazine and to newsletters, appeals to like us on Facebook, etc. Readers are not alienated if we give real estate to internal promotions."
And this Ailes addendum
Douglas Wigdor, the lawyer for 21 current and former Fox News employees in lawsuits against the network, told LawNewz.com, “The sudden passing of Roger Ailes will make it difficult for Fox News to refute the allegations against him as his testimony was not secured by sworn testimony to date.”
Late-night art news
"Joining the rarefied $100 million-plus club in a sales room punctuated by periodic gasps from the crowd, Jean-Michel Basquiat’s powerful 1982 painting of a skull brought $110.5 million at Sotheby’s, to become the sixth most expensive work ever sold at auction. Only 10 other works have broken the $100 million mark." (The New York Times)
So much for my modern tastes. If you'd shown me a photo and asked for a guess at the value, I would have missed by perhaps $110.49 million.
The morning babble
"Fox & Friends" was at Three Sons Diner in Warren, Michigan to talk "to a lot of great Trump supporters" as it heralded his first foreign trek today that begins in Saudi Arabia. It remains on anti-Comey cruise control, berating leaks that have humbled Trump.
CNN's "New Day" Maggie Haberman elaborated on her New York Times colleague Michael Schmidt's tale on Comey crafting contemporaneous memos in which he felt Trump was seeking to curry favor with him. But, as on most days, there were many strong Times and Washington Post Trump tales to cite.
On MSNBC's "Morning Joe," there was Schmidt himself noting outreach to him by Ben Wittes, a terrific legal affairs reporter at The Brookings Institution who founded the Lawfare blog and writes here about lunching with James Comey, a friend, and hearing his concerns about being compromised by Trump.
Meanwhile, Bob Woodward wondered (multiple times) to the assembled why Comey never voiced his concerns of Trump's outreach to the White House legal counsel. Hmmm. Might he have had as little trust in Don McGahn as in Trump?
Trump's digital travail
"Fed up with the constant notifications about threats to the United States, an exasperated President Trump was trying to figure out how to unsubscribe from the boring national security email list, sources reported Thursday."
The Washington Post did not have to worry about withholding any details of this tale since it was in The Onion.
Well, there's little fake about a weekend that brings a baseball practice, three baseball games, two soccer games, one Bar Mitzvah, two birthday parties to attend and one to belatedly co-host for a just-turned eight-year-old. The only indecision involves Jack Daniels, Blanton's and Woodford Reserve tonight. Cheers.