In big, bold letters, the homepage of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s website describes the organization’s mission: “Standing up for American Enterprise.”
But the huge business federation—like its counterparts, the Business Roundtable and other major corporate lobbies—was conspicuously silent when Donald Trump launched a salvo of tweets earlier this week accusing Amazon of dodging taxes, bilking the U.S. Postal Service, and undermining Main Street retailers. The assault, which wasn’t Trump’s first on the company, sent Amazon’s stock tumbling and precipitated a broader decline in the stock market on Monday—particularly in technology stocks—before it rebounded on Tuesday.
Finally, the Chamber issued a statement late Tuesday afternoon in the name of Neil Bradley, its executive vice president and chief policy officer. “It’s inappropriate for government officials to use their position to attack an American company,” Bradley said. “The U.S. economy is the world’s most powerful because it embraces the free enterprise system and the rule of law, whereby policy matters are handled through recognized policy making processes.”
It’s not hard to imagine that the response from the Chamber and other business groups would have been far faster and far more furious if a Democratic president had mounted such a sustained attack on a single U.S. company. The cautious reaction to Trump’s offensive against Amazon—like the limp response to his earlier onslaughts on enterprises, from Merck & Co. to Nordstrom to the NFL—reflects the complex bargain that Trump has struck with the nation’s corporate leadership. And it’s a deal the president is using to try to bend business to his will.