Three Arkansas business icons are optimistic that a President Donald Trump will govern more pragmatically than candidate Trump campaigned.
Thomas F. “Mack” McLarty, Franklin McLarty and Robert L. “Bob” Johnson were guests on this week’s Talk Business & Politics in a roundtable moderated by KATV’s Chris May. The three successful businessmen, all of whom supported Hillary Clinton for President, were in Little Rock a week ago for a chamber of commerce luncheon.
Mack McLarty, CEO of the McLarty Companies and former chief of staff for President Bill Clinton in the 1990’s, said the time has come to push forward a more unified American business agenda that includes tax reform and regulatory relief.
“First of all, you do have a businessman that was elected,” he said. “We only have one president at a time, so Donald Trump was elected and we need to support him and hope for a successful administration. I think frankly on the pro-business front, sensible regulations, hopefully tax reform – which he’ll need some Democrats to help him on that – those would be two very good, welcomed initiatives from the automobile sector and more important business widely.”
McLarty, whose worldwide business interests include companies across the U.S., Asia and South America, said Trump’s talk on trade goes beyond economics.
“I think trade is a concern. We are just part of this interconnected world and certainly we’ve got to have trade agreements that work better for all Americans, but that’s a crucial area – not just in terms of commerce, but in terms of foreign policy,” McLarty said.
His son, Franklin, agreed, while noting that “burning things down” doesn’t really accomplish much. Franklin is active in many of the family’s automobile, real estate and investment interests.
“What you say during an election cycle and what you really try to implement with a level head and steely-eyed realism once you’re governing, I think there’s a difference between those two things,” the younger McLarty said. “I think there’s been a reasonableness in a lot of his business dealings if you look at that record in the past. I hope he’ll carry that forward.”
Johnson, the founder of BET (Black Entertainment Television) and a one-time investor in the NBA’s Charlotte Bobcats, is in business with the McLartys and is active on a number of boards and philanthropic efforts. He said Trump has work to do beyond his words with African-Americans.
“President-elect Donald Trump famously said to African-Americans, ‘what have you got to lose?'” said Johnson. “The question is: what do African-Americans have to gain?”
Johnson, who met with Trump last week, said there can be common ground with a Trump administration on an economic front.
“I believe there are things that as a businessperson, and I’m a businessperson, that we can find common ground. Secretary Clinton has already said people should reach out to the new President-elect and seek common ground. I think common ground means: how do we find more access to capital for minority businesspeople?” he said.
“I think the same thing needs to be said about job creation and wealth creation, closing the wealth gap between white American families and African-American families. All of these things create opportunities,” Johnson added.
Watch the full interview with Johnson, the McLartys and May in the video below as they discuss their unique business partnerships and the mentors that have inspired them throughout their careers.
You can watch the discussion below: