By Aaron Pressman and Adam Lashinsky
August 20, 2018

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The comparison is brain-dead obvious. A bold-faced-name leader, as famous for his celebrity as his debt-fueled accomplishments, irresponsibly vomits his non-vetted thoughts onto Twitter. He attacks enemies a mature leader would ignore. Real consequences ensue.

I’m talking, of course, about Donald Trump and Elon Musk. The former isn’t particularly the purview of this newsletter, but the juxtaposition is startling. Both billionaires have accomplished greatness, one by parlaying a precariously successful real estate business into a legitimate entertainment (and, um, political) triumph, and the other by simultaneously disrupting three separate industries, four if you include his role at PayPal. Both are geniuses at raising money. Neither likes to be told “no” by those around them.

And both love Twitter, which even Twitter is realizing has become the direct-to-consumer scourge of our time.

Most of all, both lack the decency or maturity to turn the other cheek to perceived enemies. It’d be a good thing for the country if Donald Trump stopped dangerously portraying journalists as “enemies of the people.” Heck, it’d be great if he stopped tweet-insulting Americans of any kind. A mature president takes the criticism and, knowing he is the most powerful person in the world, rises above it.

Then there’s Elon Musk, who blames short sellers for so violently injuring Tesla Motors that he needs to thwart them—and remove the distraction they represent—by taking his company private. So instead of doing what mature CEOs under attack from short sellers do, which is successfully operate their company in a way that will defeat the short-sellers, he tweets. And he sends rescue teams to Thailand. And forms additional companies to bore holes in the earth and maybe manufacture candy. A learned man of great intelligence, Musk hasn’t had enough common sense to see that focusing would benefit him greatly right now and that tweeting is the antithesis of focusing.

For his Twitter sins Trump ultimately answers only to the voters, as it should be. Musk potentially has run afoul of the Securities and Exchange Commission, Nasdaq, and his own investors, meekly represented by Tesla’s board.

A Twitter time out, as Jack Dorsey wisely promulgated on another user, would be welcome. Musk has belatedly promised to refrain from tweeting about a buyout. As for the other guy, one can only hope.

Adam Lashinsky


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