Photo: AP

Donald Trump’s decision to pull out of the Paris climate agreement has finally caused major American corporate CEOs to publicly rebuke him. This says more about corporate CEOs than they might think.

More notable than the fact that the CEOs of Tesla and Google and Microsoft and Apple and Disney and GE and Goldman Sachs would make public statements of disappointment in Trump’s decision yesterday—including several of them announcing that they are withdrawing from the president’s advisory council—is the fact that, as of May 30, 2017, major corporate CEOs were still formally attached to an advisory council in the Donald Trump administration. It was withdrawal from a global climate change treaty that finally caused these major corporate CEOs to publicly distance themselves from the administration, rather than to publicly sit at a table with Trump and his advisers and shake hands and pretend to interact with them as interested colleagues, as they had been doing up to that point.

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The following actions of Donald Trump, which all preceded his withdrawal from the Paris agreement, were not enough to cause these CEOs to publicly distance themselves from him:

  • Calling climate change a “hoax,” for years.
  • Calling Mexicans “rapists,” and then trying to build a wall on the Mexican border.
  • Calling for “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States,” and then trying to impose a travel ban targeting Muslim nations once in office.
  • Joking about sexual assault, on tape.
  • Trying to dismantle our creaky national health care system and slash Medicaid and basic social programs for the poor.
  • Singlehandedly reviving white nationalism as a mainstream, unconcealed political force in America.

These are not the basic left-right political disagreements, which are too numerous to list here; these are just some of the beyond-the-pale things that did not make major corporate CEOs say, “You know what? I can’t work with this guy.”

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CEOs are a scam. Congratulations to corporate America on performatively waking up to basic human decency, far too late for it to do us any good.