JP Morgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon just said the quiet part out loud when it comes to President Donald Trump.
“I think I could beat Trump… because I’m as tough as he is, I’m smarter than he is,” Dimon said at an event in New York City on Wednesday, adding: “And by the way, this wealthy New Yorker actually earned his money. It wasn’t a gift from daddy.”
Woof. Actually, double woof.
To be clear, Dimon said in the same interview that he was not going to run for president and that, even if he did, “I can’t beat the liberal side of the Democratic Party.”
He also quickly apologized for, uh, speaking his mind. “I should not have said it,” Dimon said of his Trump comments. “I’m not running for President. Proves I wouldn’t make a good politician. I get frustrated because I want all sides to come together to help solve big problems.”
Still! It’s as if Dimon spent the last month in a lab, creating the perfect statement to elicit a response from Trump. It’s like the Ivan Drago of Trump attacks. Consider:
- A boast about how Trump is beatable? Check!
- A shot at Trump’s toughness? Check!
- A barb about his intelligence? Check!
- A taunt about how Trump got rich? Check!
It’s also reflective of the view held by lots of titans of industry and other very wealthy businesspeople when it comes to Trump. These are people, like Dimon, who know Trump at a professional — and, in some cases, personal — level and remain totally and completely stunned that he was elected president.
“Every now and then you hire the wrong CEO,” Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban told CNN’s Van Jones in 2017. “How many people here have worked for really bad bosses? When you get a really bad boss, you don’t just quit, particularly if it’s your company. … You believe in that company.” (Cuban’s major-league shade directed at Trump came in the context of speculation that he might run for president himself in 2020.)
Among that elite business set — of which Dimon is quite clearly a leading member — the sense is that Trump was always a sort of amusing caricature, a wealthy and successful guy for sure, but someone who was more showhorse than workhorse. That group looked down its nose at Trump as sort of a carnival barker, putting his name on buildings and turning himself into a pop-culture figure. To them, he was 85% reality TV star, 15% businessman.
And then Trump went and got himself elected. (A massive part of Trump’s motivation to run for president was, of course, to prove these business and political elites wrong — to show them all how wrong they were about him.)
Which, because Dimon and his ilk aren’t exactly lacking in ego and ambition, convinced them that they could (should?) actually be the one who is president. It’s like if a guy who you played high school baseball with — and who you thought wasn’t as good as you — got drafted by a major-league team. Your reaction would be something like Dimon’s or Cuban’s. That guy? Seriously? I am way better than him!
It’s not accidental then that, seeing Trump succeed, a bunch of CEOs are suddenly hinting at their own interest in running for president. Dimon continues to insist he has no interest in running while kind of, sort of sounding like a candidate. (“I get frustrated because I want all sides to come together to solve big problems?” Come on, man!)
Cuban is actively considering a bid. “If I can come up with solutions that I think people can get behind and truly solve problems, then it makes perfect sense for me to run,” he said last fall.
Outgoing Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz sounds to all the world like he’s on the verge of being a candidate; “President Trump has given license to the fact that someone who is not a politician could potentially run for the presidency,” he said this summer. “I can’t be nailed down today on what I might or might not run for.”
Oprah Winfrey was the subject of a MAJOR 2020 boomlet earlier this year before pouring cold water on the idea. Disney head honcho Bob Iger seemed to be considering a run before bowing out earlier this year.
There will be more notable names from the business world before the 2020 jockeying is over. Because Trump looks beatable, sure. But even more so because these CEOs are people who know Trump and, candidly, believe they are far more qualified to be president than he is.
To all of them, I would say this: Success in business ≠ success in politics. The politics game is a hell of a lot harder than it looks.