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What does Trump see in Elon Musk?

Billionaires helping multi-millionaires. Credit: Getty

May 31, 2024 - 7:30pm

Four-year-old X Æ A-12 Musk has a new playmate, and it’s Barron Trump, son of the former President, the Wall Street Journal reports. The touching detail embroiders speculation (it’s an “exclusive”) that Elon Musk is being considered for a presidential advisory role, should Trump regain the White House. The Journal reports that Trump and Musk are already close enough to talk “several times a month”, so the prospect is not so far-fetched.

For the Journal, it’s too good not to be true. Both are not only global celebrities — Musk this month regained the title of being the richest man in the world — but also gigantic, self-mythologising characters. For both men too, a central strand of their personal brand is challenging a corrupt establishment. Trump vowed to “drain the swamp” of Washington DC, while Musk made enemies as a neophyte bidding for defence contracts. His first biographer, Ashlee Vance, recalls receiving mysterious anonymous packages detailing scurrilous personal allegations about Musk — invariably postmarked from a location near a major US defence contractor. In Trump’s case, the defamatory gossip was catalogued and published in the now notorious “dossier”.

Both are at ease on social media and are experts at using provocation: Trump’s latest diversion is to suggest that Biden is so reliant on an exotic cocktail of pharmaceutical stimulants for his public appearances (he’s “jacked up!”), the former president will demand a drug test before the presidential debates. Musk routinely produces such entertainment for Twitter, the social media platform he liked so much, he had to buy it. The impulsiveness and exaggerations have earned him penalties before, but one may finally earn Musk a criminal fraud charge: he has allegedly been exaggerating the capabilities of Tesla’s autonomous driving technology for many years.

Both men oppose expansive foreign military adventures as bad for business. Both have a fondness for the period of American greatness that was built on post-War manufacturing and military hegemony. Trump’s “Make America Great Again” is an explicit throwback to a better period from which the nation has regressed, economically and spiritually. Meanwhile, Musk’s business empire makes the things you might find as models in a teenager’s bedroom in the 1950s: rockets, very fast cars, spacecraft, and a gigantic digging machine.

Not surprisingly, these two men define themselves by the quality of their enemies. They have gleefully attacked woke causes, and Musk has recently endorsed the proposition that mass immigration is a deliberate political strategy by the Democrats to bolster its core demographic base (“That was always the plan”, Musk agreed in February).

These have not so far appeared to dent Musk’s businesses: Californians hate Trump, but keep buying Teslas.

Another reason the two men might maintain a cooler, more informal advisory relationship is their points of disagreement. They’re likely to diverge on China, where Musk needs to do business, on energy policy, with Trump seeking a revival of hydrocarbon production, and on free trade. Musk opposed Biden’s punitive tariffs on cheap Chinese electric vehicles and the components that comprise them, such as solar cells and batteries, even though these imports pose a mortal threat to America’s car industry, including Tesla itself.

But businessmen as busy as Musk, a micro-manager who owns several companies and formally acts as the CEO of two of them, don’t take full time cabinet jobs as they once did. In the mythical Golden Age, presidents tapped business titans for cabinet positions. This declined with globalisation and the rise of the managerial class into politics, where a lawyer, diplomat or political placeman was seen as better equipped for those formal multilateral negotiations.

In addition, accepting a formal nomination requires putting business interests at arm’s length, with blind trusts a favourite vehicle. This is unthinkable for a manager as involved as Musk. What would Twitter/X do without him?

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Adam Bacon
Adam Bacon
24 days ago

Two gigantic egos who, for better or worse, represent the best chance for the survival of Western Liberalism, in the face of the corrupt corporate Establishment

Champagne Socialist
Champagne Socialist
24 days ago

Clowns are naturally drawn to each other.

Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
24 days ago

Hey, Bobo.

Catherine Conroy
Catherine Conroy
24 days ago

Some of us prefer clowns who don’t suck up to men in skirts.

Mark Phillips
Mark Phillips
24 days ago

Up to?

Santiago Excilio
Santiago Excilio
24 days ago

Funding

J Bryant
J Bryant
24 days ago

I wonder if Musk feels legally vulnerable in the wake of the politically-motivated Trump conviction? Isn’t it entirely possible the establishment will unleash a partisan legal system on him if his views stray too far from the progressive consensus?

j watson
j watson
24 days ago

Money and power is obviously what they see in each other.
But Trump cannot abide close orbit of other Stars. His narcissistic ego would ensure it ended in tears if somehow they struck up a closer alliance.
Elon is clearly brilliant but a strange one. Will age add further wisdom or drag him further towards a vortex of conspiracies and outlandish twaddle? We’ll see.

Hugh Bryant
Hugh Bryant
24 days ago

Pointless article.

Apo State
Apo State
23 days ago
Reply to  Hugh Bryant

Yes, and massively redolent of sour grapes to boot.

Marc Ambler
Marc Ambler
24 days ago

Could these two perhaps be the future diabolical duo of Revelation 13? ’15He was granted power to give breath to the image of the beast, that the image of the beast should both speak and cause as many as would not worship the image of the beast to be killed.
16He causes all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on their right hand or on their foreheads,
17and that no one may buy or sell except one who has the mark orfn the name of the beast, or the number of his name.’

John T. Maloney
John T. Maloney
23 days ago

After being in the vicinity of both men, the reptilian brain reacts that they share innate qualities. They are genial, whimsical, humorous, and joyful. These qualities are paired with a tightly wound, merciless, and trenchant passion that can dismantle the most intractable scenarios to refract and anneal hidden opportunities to propel positive outcomes. It’s leadership. An informal alliance will be productive.  

laurence scaduto
laurence scaduto
23 days ago

This charisma is the fascinating, and frightening, part. I have no doubt that Trump will turn his multi-convictions in Kangaroo Kourt to his advantage, in fact I’m looking forward to it. It’s like a Mark Twain story!

John T. Maloney
John T. Maloney
23 days ago

Adversity is Trump’s oxygen; he must have it to survive, lead, and prosper.

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
23 days ago

Trump sees a maverick genius?