Trump demonstrates how he’ll respond to corporate dissent, and it’s not pretty


OK, there was other stuff I wanted to talk about tonight, but, goddammit, I’ve been sucked into a Trump vortex that I can’t seem to escape from. It started innocently enough, with the reading of a single tweet about a Boeing contract to rebuild the Air Force One fleet, but then it just kind of snowballed out of control. Here, in hopes that it helps some of you avoid my fate, is the timeline I’ve pieced together thus far.

1. It all started with that call from Taiwan… On Friday, December 2nd, in violation of standing U.S. protocol dating back to 1979, President-elect Donald Trump took a call from Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen, greatly upsetting the powers-that-be in China, who see the island as a renegade province that should not be dealt with directly by other nations. Trump, as is his custom, took to Twitter to say that his intention wasn’t to legitimize Taiwan, and undermine the “one China” policy that U.S. Presidents have respected for over 35 years. “The President of Taiwan CALLED ME today,” he tweeted to his 16.9 million followers, as though the fact that she called him somehow made the gaffe acceptable.

2. Shortly after the news broke of Trump’s call, Dennis Muilenburg, the CEO of Boeing, speaking before the annual meeting of the Illinois Manufacturers’ Association, referenced the phone call between Trump and Ing-wen. “The last thing Boeing, with $96 billion in annual revenues, wants is an international trade war that could raise tariffs or greatly disrupt long-standing, albeit imperfect, global agreements,” Muilenburg said. He then went on to say that, last year alone, Boeing delivered 495 737s from its factory in Renton, Washington to customers around the world, with about one-third going to China.

3. Tump, it would seem, not appreciating Muilenburg’s critique, then took to Twitter again, implying early this morning that he intended to cancel Boeing’s contract to replace our now 26 year old Air Force One fleet… Here’s the tweet.


4. As you might expect, Boeing stock took a hit in pre-market trading this morning in response. At the close of the market on Monday, according to the Business Insider, Boeing stock was at $152.16. This morning, however, after Trump’s tweet, the stock “continued to dip in early trading, falling 0.9% to $150.90.”

5. Not giving an inch, Trump then told reporters outside Trump Tower this morning, “It’s going to be over $4 billion for Air Force One program, and I think it’s ridiculous. I think Boeing is doing a little bit of a number. We want Boeing to make a lot of money, but not that much money.

6. Boeing responded by stating that they were making every effort to keep costs under control. “We are currently under contract for $170 million to help determine the capabilities of these complex military aircraft that serve the unique requirements of the President of the United States,” the company said in a statement. “We look forward to working with the US Air Force on subsequent phases of the program allowing us to deliver the best planes for the President at the best value for the American taxpayer.

7. Politico and others then point out that this new Air Force One fleet isn’t even scheduled to be produced for another decade. “It will be the president after the next president who actually flies on this Air Force One,” said Deborah Lee James, the secretary of the Air Force.

And that, my friends, is as far as I’ve gotten in putting the pieces of the puzzle together. If you have more to add, please feel free to leave a comment.

So, just to recap, on the day when it was reported that the Pentagon tried to hide $125 billion in waste, our President-elect, instead of focusing on this very real example of government waste, chose instead to focus on the costs associated with replacing the Air Force One fleet, which won’t happen for another ten years, when the planes will be 36 years old. Why? It would seem because the CEO of Boeing had the audacity to suggest that Trump’s call with the President of Taiwan may have been bad for American business. And, as a result of this vindictive nonsense, the company took a significant, although likely temporary, financial hit. It’s hard to know what kind of effect this exchange might have on dissent, but one suspects that CEOs in the future may thing twice before questioning the moves and motives of our President-elect. And, if you think about it, that’s kind of terrifying.

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  1. Joe M.
    Posted December 6, 2016 at 9:19 pm | Permalink

    Focus on the Pentagon stuff – that’s the real story. Who cares about Trump v. Boeing?

    Especially when Trump wants to boost Defense spending – much of that will go to that administrative fat covered up in the Pentagon.

  2. Amy
    Posted December 6, 2016 at 9:33 pm | Permalink

    I don’t think Trump actually knows what Air Force One is. He seems to think it’s interchangeable with his own plane. For one thing, there are two aircraft. And they are HIGHLY modified – they are built to withstand attacks, electrical surges, they can refuel mid-flight…I feel like most media reporting on the Trump comments are failing to nention the modifications, why those modifications are important, the fact that these planes are typically in service for 30 years (the current fleet came into service under H. W. Bush), the expense of the repair and upkeep of older aircraft (especially ones with extensive technology/other modifications), and the fact that Boeing doesn’t exactly make a ton of money off this commission (it’s more of a prestige job). Ughhhhhhh.

  3. Morbid Larson
    Posted December 6, 2016 at 10:24 pm | Permalink

    The last Saturday Six Pack was never uploaded.

    Will there ever be another six pack?

  4. Posted December 6, 2016 at 10:36 pm | Permalink

    Yup, I’m trying to book a show now for December 17. As for why the last one’s not up yet, I’m not sure. Maybe the FCC intervened. I’ll ask Brian.

    And, for what it’s worth, I agree both that the Pentagon story deserves more coverage and that Air Force One is a magnificent beast.

  5. Eel
    Posted December 7, 2016 at 8:55 am | Permalink

    Time for Obama to break out the “Get Off My Plane” meme.

  6. Abby Adams
    Posted December 7, 2016 at 9:02 am | Permalink

    Thank you for writing this! Does defense spending need to be reigned in? Absolutely. But the solution is not Trump throwing a tantrum and tossing Boeing’s toy out of the sandbox because of what the CEO said. Bad for democracy. Curious how much this will ultimately end up costing US taxpayers.

  7. XXX
    Posted December 7, 2016 at 9:13 am | Permalink

    Air Force One is designed to withstand a nuclear blast from below, and is completely outfitted with defensive technologies to thwart attacks of all kinds. From Trump’s comments, it sounds like he thinks it’s just an ordinary plane, when it’s actually a flying White House.

  8. Jean Henry
    Posted December 7, 2016 at 9:31 am | Permalink

    The only story here of great import is the intimidation of voices of dissent (even corporate) with threat of retribution.

    That story has not been told enough. Everyone is talking about the cost of the plane or how fantastic ‘terrific’ the plane is. This is how Trumps totalitarian creep becomes normalized by the public. They are distracted by all the tangential issues.

    Pentagon waste as you point up at the end of your piece is not in planes… If people care about military spending, they should click that hyperlink.

    I don’t hold out much hope that they will. You know, for fear of being arrogant with information. An elite. Part of the intelligentsia. Horrors. Stay clear. Information will make you a hopeless snob.

    Fact-resistance is also part of how the totalitarianism creeps in and institutionalizes itself

  9. Meta
    Posted December 7, 2016 at 10:08 am | Permalink

    There’s another element to the story. It’s looking like Trump may have been manipulated into taking the call with Taiwan by Bob Dole, who is a paid lobbyist of the Taiwanese government.

    Shanghaiist: “Taiwan paid Bob Dole $140,000 to make the Trump call happen”

    How much to do you have to pay to radically alter US foreign policy and shatter over 35 years of diplomatic protocol? Well, apparently $140,000 will do.

    According to a recently released lobbying disclosure document, that’s how much the Taiwanese government doled out to Bob Dole (Bob Dole!) and his law firm, Alston & Bird, from May to October, in order to make the Trump-Tsai call a reality. But that’s not all that Taiwan got for its money.

    Over a six month period, the 93-year-old Dole set up meetings between Trump campaign staff and Taiwanese emissaries, briefed the campaign’s policy director and helped to write the “most pro Taiwan” Republican Party platform in history. Dole was the only former Republican presidential nominee to endorse Trump and his presence at the Republican convention was played up as an example of party unity. In the end, his efforts on behalf of Taipei resulted in last Friday’s protocol-shattering phone call.

    The conversation between Trump and Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen was the first official communication between an American president or president-elect and a Taiwanese leader since 1979. At first, Trump seemed to try to portray it is as an out of the blue phone call from Tsai. Later, Vice President-elect Mike Pence termed it as a “courtesy call.” However, mounting evidence shows that it was in fact the result of a coordinated effort between Taiwan lobbyists and Trump staffers, which could signal a significant shift in cross-strait policy.

    Beijing has primarily blamed the call on Taiwanese “shenanigans” preying on Trump’s absence of foreign policy experience. While Taiwan’s influence in the world has been on the decline in recent years, its power in American politics only seems to be getting stronger. According to Politco, Taiwan spends $170,000 a month on a fleet of conservative lobbyists that it has groomed over time to influence government policy. Those investments finally seem to be paying off, bigly.

    One example is the conservative think-tank the Heritage Foundation which has received funding from Taiwanese companies. Foundation staffers now play an influential part in Trump’s transition team. During a radio interview yesterday, Stephen Moore, chief economist of the Heritage Foundation and economic adviser to Trump during his campaign, said that if China doesn’t like the Taiwan phone call, then “screw ’em.”

    Read more:

  10. M
    Posted December 7, 2016 at 12:02 pm | Permalink

    Just wait until Facebook and Google take on Breitbart. There are going to be a deluge of tweets followed by legislation. It’ll be war.

  11. ytown
    Posted December 7, 2016 at 12:28 pm | Permalink

    He wants to save money and you’re bitching?

  12. M
    Posted December 7, 2016 at 12:35 pm | Permalink

    He doesn’t want to save us money, Ytown. The planes are scheduled to be in the fleet in ten years. By then, the existing Air Force One planes that we have will be nearly 40 years old. They need to be replaced. It’s a matter of national security. And, if we cancel the existing contract, it’ll likely just cost more in the future. There are smart things Trump could do to save us money. This isn’t one of them. I suspect this will actually end up costing us more in the end.

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