Article originally published in the Philadelphia Business Journal on November 27, 2018
President Donald Trump cannot be blind to America’s traditional values that go to the heart of who we are since our nation’s founding. He continues to question the CIA conclusion that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salam of Saudi Arabia was responsible for the murder of U.S. resident and Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi, and refuses to sanction Saudi Arabia.
Trump has stated he will not hold bin Salam accountable for the murder so as not to adversely impact the economic interests of the U.S.
“Do people really want me to give up hundreds of thousands of jobs?” Trump said, in reference to the business the Saudis do with the U.S. What about reaffirming America’s commitment to human rights values, a question being asked by both Democrat and Republican lawmakers?
Trump could have strongly reaffirmed American human rights values and then announced appropriate sanctions against Saudi Arabia for the murder of Khashoggi without jeopardizing our economic interests. That is what former presidents would have done. That is what most Americans expected him to do. He didn’t. Trump is tone deaf on this issue.
In a Nov. 16 Fox News article headlined, “CIA determines Khashoggi’s death was ordered by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman: report,” columnist Elizabeth Zwirz writes, “The agency’s conclusion came as a result of ‘an understanding of how Saudi Arabia works,’ rather than a ‘smoking gun,’ a U.S. official with knowledge of the situation told The Wall Street Journal.”
In a Fox News Sunday interview, Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.), stated, “Sometimes you have to work with bad guys in the world. There is a coherent realist case to be made there. …[However,] MBS contributed to murdering somebody abroad and it’s not strength to mumble past that. Strength is telling the truth even when it’s hard.”
Seven weeks after Khashoggi’s murder, on November 20, the White House finally issued a press release headlined, “Statement from President Donald J. Trump on Standing with Saudi Arabia.” To his credit, Trump stated, “The crime against Jamal Khashoggi was a terrible one, and one that our country does not condone.” Inaction, however, speaks louder than words, and many people question Trump’s sincerity.
I have heard people comment that Trump is a former CEO and that’s what boards allow CEO’s to do – pursue the economic interests of their shareholders to the exclusion of non-economic interests and values. Well, not this former CEO, not my board and not numerous public and private company boards that I have served on!
Trump may have chosen to run his own private company as if the bottom line was his only interest. However, he is now the President of the United States, and cannot be blind to American human rights values.
In today’s world, not many CEOs and their boards have such a narrow view of their responsibilities to their stakeholders. Their responsibilities go beyond economic. That is what their employees expect of them. That is what their customers expect of them.
President Trump: CEOs and other leaders as well as the President of the United States, are held accountable to more than just economic, or bottom line results. They are also held accountable for doing the right thing.
Stan Silverman is founder and CEO of Silverman Leadership, and is the former CEO of PQ Corporation. He is a speaker, advisor and nationally syndicated writer on leadership, entrepreneurship and corporate governance. Silverman earned a Bachelor of Science degree in chemical engineering and an MBA degree from Drexel University. He is also an alumnus of the Advanced Management Program at the Harvard Business School. He can be reached at Stan@SilvermanLeadership.com. Follow Silverman on LinkedIn here and on Twitter, @StanSilverman.