With Trump in White House, Some Executives Ask, Why Not Me?
Having reached the top of a major corporation and amassed a fortune, chief executives often wonder: What’s next?
After Donald Trump, the answer may well be a run for the White House.
Trump had no political or military experience, the traditional routes to high political office. Virtually his only qualification was his business career, and a checkered one at that, considering his own brush with personal bankruptcy.
“There is this sense that if Trump got it, why shouldn’t they?” said David Gergen, co-director of the Center for Public Leadership at Harvard Kennedy School and an adviser to four presidents. “They’ve been more successful, they have more experience, and they’ve run a public company, which is more equivalent to what a president does than a private company” like the Trump Organization.
“人们有种感觉，如果特朗普可以，那他们为什么不可以？”哈佛大学肯尼迪学院(Harvard Kennedy School)公共领导力中心(Center for Public Leadership)联席主任、为四位总统当过顾问的戴维·格根 (David Gergen)说。“他们更成功，他们有更多经验，他们还经营着上市公司”，比起经营一家私人公司”——譬如特朗普集团(Trump Organization)——“这和总统做的事情更为接近”。
Stu Loeser, once press secretary for Michael R. Bloomberg, the former New York mayor who considered a presidential run last year, concurred. “If you run a company that has employed tens of thousands of people, and generated lots of profit and been undeniably successful, and you look at a sitting president who, to be honest, a lot of business people don’t have much respect for, you think, why not me?” he said.
为去年曾考虑竞选总统的纽约市前市长迈克尔·R·布隆伯格(Michael R. Bloomberg)当过新闻秘书的斯图·勒泽(Stu Loeser)，对此颇有同感。“如果你掌管着一家雇用数万名员工、赚取丰厚利润、获得无可否认的成功的公司，看到现任总统是一位——坦白说——很多商界人士都不太尊重的人物，你会琢磨，为什么不是我呢？”他说。
Loeser runs his own strategic consulting firm, and told me he has clients who are business executives considering a run for high public office. “I can’t tell you their names, obviously,” he said.
Boldface corporate names widely discussed as contenders for the next Democratic presidential nomination include chief executives like Howard Schultz of Starbucks, Robert A. Iger of Disney and Marc Benioff of Salesforce.com, along with Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook chief operating officer, and Oprah Winfrey, chairwoman and chief executive of Harpo Inc., which owns half of the Oprah Winfrey Network.
一些商界名人被普遍当成下一次民主党总统候选人的竞争者来讨论，其中包括星巴克(Starbucks)首席执行官霍华德·舒尔茨(Howard Schultz)、迪士尼(Disney)首席执行官罗伯特·A·艾格(Robert A. Iger)和Salesforce首席执行官马克·贝尼奥夫(Marc Benioff)等，还有Facebook首席运营官谢莉尔·桑德伯格(Sheryl Sandberg)以及哈泼公司(Harpo Inc)董事长兼首席执行官奥普拉·温弗瑞(Oprah Winfrey)——哈泼公司持有奥普拉·温弗瑞电视网络(Oprah Winfrey Network)的半数股权。
All deny they’re running, or even seriously considering it. But everyone demurs so far ahead of the first primaries, as did Hillary Clinton four years ago, and it hasn’t stopped anyone from speculating. That’s especially the case for people who, appalled by the Trump administration, can hardly wait for the next campaign.
“I feel many of these chief executives are responding to a public longing for a strongman, or woman, a strong leader,” Gergen said. “There’s a sense that’s why Trump got elected. You’re seeing the same thing in Europe, in Asia, in a long list of countries. People are dissatisfied with standard politicians. Military types and business people with a strong track record offer an attractive alternative.”
Apart from proven business experience, they have widespread name recognition or identification with major consumer brands. And they have enough money to finance their own campaigns.
I’ve spoken this week to multiple people who have at least discussed the possibility of running for office with Schultz and Iger. (All declined to be named discussing what were private conversations.)
Schultz, 63, with a fortune estimated by Forbes at $3 billion, came close to making a bid last year, but backed out after concluding it would be very difficult to defeat Clinton, who seemed to have the Democratic nomination all but locked up and at the time seemed likely to win the presidency.
Those circumstances have obviously changed drastically. With Trump in office, the next Democratic race appears wide open, and many friends and potential donors are urging Schultz to run.
Schultz seemed to pave the way in December, when he announced he’d step down as Starbucks’ chief executive in April. But he continues to be actively involved in the expansion of the company’s high-end “roasteries” as well as its social-impact initiatives.
“Howard Schultz is definitely being pursued,” Gergen said. “He has a powerful social conscience. He comes from a very different place than the kind of chief executive with a big ego who wants the trappings of presidential power.”
Schultz declined to comment.
Last year Iger, 66, told The Hollywood Reporter that “a lot of people — a lot — have urged me to seek political office,” and last week the entertainment publication fueled renewed speculation when it reported that Iger had discussed the possibility with Bloomberg.
66岁的艾格去年曾告诉《好莱坞报道》(The Hollywood Reporter)，“很多人——很多——都催我谋求政治职位”；这本娱乐刊物上周又报道说，艾格和布隆伯格探讨过这种可能性，从而让新一轮揣测愈演愈烈。
People who have discussed a possible presidential run with Iger told me that his discussion with Bloomberg, some years ago, focused more on a possible run for mayor of New York City, where Iger has an apartment. New York has long welcomed nonresident candidates like Clinton, so Iger’s California residency isn’t seen as an obstacle.
Both Iger and Bloomberg declined to comment.
Whether any of those jobs, including the presidency, would actually be better than being chief executive of Disney remains an open question. After earlier announcing his retirement, Iger recently said he was willing to extend his contract, which would eliminate the need for any high-profile exit strategy, at least for the next few years.
Campaign buttons emblazoned with “Vote for Benioff” and “Marc Benioff for President” circulated two years ago at Salesforce’s annual Dreamforce conference in San Francisco, which draws hundreds of thousands of participants and has been viewed by some as a likely launching pad for any Benioff campaign.
Sandberg’s coming nationwide tour to promote the new book she co-authored, “Option B,” which describes coming to terms with her husband’s sudden death in 2015 and other stories of coping with adversity, has fueled speculation (and possible wishful thinking) that the book could be a springboard for a presidential campaign.
As a billionaire ($1.47 billion, Forbes estimates) and a key executive of the hugely successful Facebook, Sandberg has enormous name recognition. Her previous book, “Lean In,” was a best-seller and inspired a rallying cry for women. She has worked in politics before, as an assistant to former Treasury secretary Lawrence H. Summers, and was a donor to Clinton’s campaign. She was considered a candidate for a top post in any Clinton administration.
作为亿万富翁（据《福布斯》估计，她的财富为14.7亿美元）以及非常成功的Facebook重要高管，桑德伯格拥有很高的知名度。她的上一本书《向前一步》(Lean In)十分畅销，激发了女性的斗志。她之前在政界工作过，担任前财政部长劳伦斯·H·萨默斯(Lawrence H. Summers)的助理，也曾是克林顿竞选的捐款人。她被认为有望在克林顿的政府任要职。
Sandberg has denied any immediate presidential ambitions, insisting that she loves her job at Facebook. At 47, she’s under no pressure to run this election cycle.
(Widespread reports that Facebook founder and chief executive Mark Zuckerberg would run for president seem even more far-fetched. The speculation appears to have been set off by a Bloomberg News report that Zuckerberg would retain voting control of Facebook even if he sold his shares and served in a government position for up to two years. Zuckerberg has denied any interest in running.)
（广泛流传的Facebook创始人兼首席执行官马克·扎克伯格[Mark Zuckerberg]会竞选总统的报道就更是不可信了。这种猜测似乎源自彭博新闻社[Bloomberg News]的一项报道，该报道称，即使扎克伯格出售自己的股票，在政府任职两年，也将保留Facebook的投票控制权。扎克伯格否认对竞选总统有任何兴趣。）
Then there’s Winfrey, 63, who for many Democrats might amount to the dream candidate: She has unrivaled star power, is an African-American woman, has run a successful business, and has a fortune estimated by Forbes at $3 billion.
In an interview broadcast last week on Bloomberg Television but taped in December, the host, David Rubenstein, brought up the idea: “It’s clear that you don’t need government experience to be elected president of the United States, right?”
上周，在彭博电视台(Bloomberg Television)播放的去年12月录制的采访中，主持人戴维·鲁本斯坦(David Rubenstein)提到了这个想法：“很显然，你不需要政治经验就能当选美国总统，是吧？”
“That’s what I thought,” Winfrey replied. “I thought, ‘Oh gee, I don’t have the experience, I don’t know enough.’ And now I’m thinking, ‘Oh! Oh.'”
But when Rubenstein began to ask, “As you consider whether you are going to run for president of the United States or not ...,” she interjected, “No, that won’t be happening.”