It's been a bad week for brozillas. Our two most famous Neanderthal disrupters, one on each coast, have been in a race to see who can flame out more quickly – and insensibly. Arrogance. Chaos. Childish pique. Gauche verbal blunders. Deceptions. Unacceptable behaviour toward women. A bunker paranoia at the top, with staffers below scheming to undercut one another. Even though one embodies the tech economy and the other is celebrating coal mining and curtailing globalization, Travis Kalanick and Donald Trump displayed similar traits as they rose to power, ignoring boundaries and smashing institutional structures.
The 40-year-old ride-sharing king and the 71-year-old Twitter president luxuriated in their mostly white, male cocoons and always seemed to have a spoken or unspoken "or else" tagged onto their requests. Just as Trump rated women on a 1-10 scale and bragged about grabbing their private parts, Kalanick referred to his company as "Boob-er" because he boasted that it allowed him to attract more women. Uber had marketing in France touting "hot chick" drivers, and Kalanick gave his "Uberettos" tips on how to drink and have sex at a company retreat in Miami.
As Time's cover story, "Uber Fail," points out, "Uber was born into conflict." So was Donald Trump's jeering "I'd like to punch him in the face" presidential campaign. The utter inability of the two bullying chief executives to stop brawling with rivals and politicians and blaming the media led to existential crises in San Francisco and Washington.
"When you have a value system that is in some ways a benefit to you in the early days, when you're charging really hard, it can turn into a tragic flaw," Stephen Beck, founder of consulting firm cg42, told Time about Kalanick. "'Run fast, break things, and we can pick up the pieces later' is okay until it's not okay."
Just as Nancy Pelosi urged Trump to get more sleep so that his synapses would function better, Arianna Huffington, the first woman to go on the board of Uber and a zealot about the subject of sleep, persuaded Kalanick to meditate. But it was too late for illumination about gender sins, and the fact that he did it in Uber's lactation room added insult to injury. Tarnished by a blog by former Uber engineer Susan Fowler about sexual harassment and a company-commissioned investigation by former attorney general Eric Holder, Kalanick was forced to take a leave. At the meeting to go over the Holder report, Uber board member David Bonderman joked that putting a second woman on the board would ensure a lot more gabbing. Then he had to resign. In an email to employees, Kalanick said he will work on developing Travis 2.0. Neither Kalanick nor Trump are imploding because they considered themselves unworthy impostors. On the contrary, they seemed to be so unaware of their self-destructive tendencies that they saw no need to curb them or put more adults in the inner circle.
Trump has no intention of working on a Donald 2.0. His paranoia about the Deep State seems to be feeding the Deep State's ability to corral him. His angry and reckless tweets have time and again led to self-incrimination. It was his taunting tweet suggesting that he may have taped his conversations with James Comey that caused the former FBI director to prompt the appointment of a special counsel by giving a memo to a friend to share with a reporter. After a brief flirtation with being classy, as he reacted to the grisly shootout at the congressional baseball game practice here Wednesday, Trump returned to form early Thursday morning, tweeting: "They made up a phony collusion with the Russians story, found zero proof, so now they go for obstruction of justice on the phony story. Nice."
So much for the notion that Melania moving into the White House would restrain the president. The unmoored tweetstorm raged on, and on Friday morning, apparently referring to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, Trump bleated: "I am being investigated for firing the FBI director by the man who told me to fire the FBI director! Witch hunt." Not bothering to keep track of his lies, the president reverted to his earlier cover story about firing Comey because of Rosenstein's memo rather than what he subsequently admitted: that he had the Russia investigation on his mind.
That tweet fired up Dianne Feinstein, a Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee. She put out a scorching statement about the spectre of a new Saturday Night Massacre if Trump fires Rosenstein and Robert Mueller, snapping: "If the president thinks he can fire Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein and replace him with someone who will shut down the investigation, he's in for a rude awakening."
It seems to have just occurred to Trump that while he bizarrely shrugs off proven Russian interference in the election and sulks about Jeff Sessions recusing himself, Mueller is building a top-flight team of investigators. Turns out Mueller is the one building infrastructure: He has hired 13 lawyers and plans to bring on more. (And Trump's personal lawyer has hired a lawyer, too.)
If you investigate Donald Trump with a dream team, nightmares are bound to follow. Remember how a failed Clinton real estate deal led to Monica Lewinsky? It doesn’t take a Brostradamus to predict that, even for the most driven bros, there is some stuff you can’t brazen out.
– (New York Times service)