Why this entrepreneur is treating Trump like a schoolyard bully

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Reid Hoffman, of Greylock Partners, speaks during 2016 TechCrunch Disrupt in San Francisco, California, U.S. September 13, 2016.  REUTERS/Beck Diefenbach - RTSNKTV

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JUDY WOODRUFF: Now the first of two perspectives on the presidential campaign from business leaders.

Tonight, economics correspondent Paul Solman talks to LinkedIn co-founder and executive chairman Reid Hoffman. Hoffman is a supporter of and donor to Hillary Clinton. And he is speaking out against Donald Trump.

It’s part of our weekly series Making Sense.

PAUL SOLMAN: In Silicon Valley, Donald Trump is anathema to many high-tech executives. But billionaire Reid Hoffman is a rare one who is defying him publicly.

So, why aren’t there others?

REID HOFFMAN, Co-Founder, LinkedIn: Because I think they’re fearful of retaliation. And Trump has shown that he will essentially attack individuals, make Second Amendment jokes, et cetera, and they’re worried that this will be bad for their businesses and bad for them.

PAUL SOLMAN: Hoffman, who made his billions founding LinkedIn, running PayPal and investing early in Facebook and Airbnb, is outspokenly anti-Trump. And he’s putting his money where his mouth is.

Last month on the Web site Crowdpac, he pledged $5 million to veterans charities if Donald Trump would release his tax returns. He has also bankrolled a game, “Trumped Up Cards.”

What’s the fastest way to make America great again?

WOMAN: Suing the Constitution.

PAUL SOLMAN: Suing the Constitution?


MAN: Fat-shaming Miss Universe.

PAUL SOLMAN: It’s the popular parlor game “Cards Against Humanity” with a snarky Trump twist.

While building Trump Tower, 200 undocumented Polish immigrants were paid $5 an hour to destroy what?

WOMAN: Tamper-proof I.D. cards.

PAUL SOLMAN: Tamper-proof I.D. cards.

MAN: Make America great again sombreros.


REID HOFFMAN: It’s meant to be informative and to enable discourse more than anything else.

PAUL SOLMAN: But it also mocks Trump mercilessly, prompting this question from Daily Show host Trevor Noah.

TREVOR NOAH, Host, “The Daily Show With Trevor Noah”: Why? Why would you do this?


TREVOR NOAH: Because you realize, if he becomes president, you’re dead.


REID HOFFMAN: It’s a little bit actually inspired by your show and…

TREVOR NOAH: Oh, don’t involve me. No, no, no.



TREVOR NOAH: No, no, no.

PAUL SOLMAN: Hoffman gets why others are Trump-mum and especially why fellow business leaders aren’t sharing what they confide to him in private.

REID HOFFMAN: People are legitimately worried, almost like a schoolyard bully, if I step up, am I going to be targeted, too?

PAUL SOLMAN: And so what you’re doing now is taking on the bully?

REID HOFFMAN: Yes, unfortunately. I really wish I didn’t have to. I wish to be focused on kind of the business stuff I’m doing, how do I contribute to our economic progress, how do I help create a future for American industry, American middle class, these kind of things.

Those things actually really matter to me. But it’s so critical now that I’m taking every available hour and making more hours than I have available in order to get out and speak on this topic.

PAUL SOLMAN: And you yourself, when you were at boarding school, had encounters with bullies, right?

REID HOFFMAN: For the first year, I basically tried to reason with them. I tried to say, look, is this really what you want to be doing? Don’t we aspire to be something more?

You know, none of that talk worked. And the next year, I showed back up and I basically said, OK, here’s how it’s going to play. Anything you do to me, I’m going to do 2X back to you. You damage things in my room, I’m going to trash your room. You threaten me, I’m going to threaten you. That’s the new law of the land.

And, basically, I was so convincing that nothing happened for the rest of the year. I think the boarding schools are like miniature versions of “Lord of the Flies.”

PAUL SOLMAN: But don’t we all have a savage side? And isn’t Silicon Valley a case study in the survival of the fittest?

You’re in an environment where lots of people believe that the way we move forward, every person pursues his or her self-interest in a libertarian way, a free way, and we’re all ultimately better off.

REID HOFFMAN: One of the great strengths of American culture is this empowerment of individual, is the individual being able to be entrepreneurial, create new things.

But you create a whole group of people to make great companies. It’s employees and investors and customers and partners. The fabric of society, of a network of relations, is key to being successful.

PAUL SOLMAN: And we are all then linked in to…


And that’s part of the reason why we also need to focus on, how do I give to society, how do I participate in society, how do I make society a better place, because, by the way, it’s good for me, but it’s also good for all of us in the environment in which we live and work.

PAUL SOLMAN: There is an opposing view in the Valley, however, trumpeted by Hoffman’s longtime libertarian pal Peter Thiel, fellow member of the so-called PayPal mafia and a Donald Trump delegate who spoke at the Republican National Convention.

PETER THIEL, Entrepreneur: Our economy is broken. If you’re watching me right now, you understand this better than any politician in Washington, D.C. I’m not a politician, but neither is Donald Trump. He is a builder, and it’s time to rebuild America.


PAUL SOLMAN: The appeal of Donald Trump to people like your friend Peter Thiel and former partner is that things in our democracy are broken, gridlocked. We need somebody strong to come in, break it up, and be the ultimate change agent, and that’s what Donald Trump represents.

REID HOFFMAN: What I think he imagines is that Trump has a policy, that Trump has an idea of what to do.

I haven’t heard any of those ideas. All I hear is sloganeering, vitriol, personal attacks. That’s not how you solve this problem. How you solve this problem is say, OK, how do we essentially return to being a nation of builders, how do we strengthen the educational system, inclusion of the middle class?

PAUL SOLMAN: What would happen to the United States’ economy in general and Silicon Valley’s economy in particular if Donald Trump were to become president, in your view?

REID HOFFMAN: I think the randomness by Donald Trump’s governing, by tweeting, sloganeering, attacking, will create great chaos in the entire market. I think people will have difficulties in predicting the future. I think capital will recede.

We have made a huge amount of progress over the last 50 years by enabling trade, by enabling kind of collaboration and learning. And actually, in fact, when you look at your average 30-year-old today, they’re much better off than a 30-year-old 20 years ago, 30 years ago, because of progress in technology and health care and all the rest of this.

PAUL SOLMAN: But what about all the people who are demonstrably left behind, who are hurt by trade, hurt by globalization, hurt by the progress of technology?

REID HOFFMAN: So, I actually think we need to put our energies, as entrepreneurs, as technology inventors, as government, to being much more inclusive.

I think the key thing is actually working together.

PAUL SOLMAN: Well, but the argument is, we can’t go on as we are, and there seem to be a lot of people who think that, right?


PAUL SOLMAN: And so we have with to blow it up or break it down or do something different than the way things have been done up until now.

REID HOFFMAN: Yes. And so, at Silicon Valley, I’m extremely sympathetic to the revolutionary response. I not only agree with it emotionally. I agree with it practically.

And the only thing I disagree with is, I don’t think Trump is that. Trump is blow it up for no good reason at all. You want to actually do revolution with a target, with an idea, with building a new system.

PAUL SOLMAN: Aren’t there a lot of people here in Silicon Valley who don’t believe in democracy at all anymore at this point?

REID HOFFMAN: Democracy tends to be a collaborative process, a committee, a consensus.

Silicon Valley tends to believe in the individual who creates a small group and does something big. Democracy is always frustrating, but it creates a society that, for example, allows us to invest in each other’s kids, to have public education, to have both a greater society and individual freedom for creating businesses.

So, I think there are people who go, oh, this is all broken, you should throw it all out. And that’s unwise.

PAUL SOLMAN: How does Trump, or Mr. Trump, plan to restore — quote — “a sense of dignity to the White House”?

MAN: Topless horse rides with Vladimir Putin.


PAUL SOLMAN: Or, as the tag line of “Trumped Up Cards” puts it: “This is a game. Democracy isn’t.”

For the “PBS NewsHour,” this is economics correspondent Paul Solman, reporting from Menlo Park, California.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And, tomorrow, Paul will talk to investor Tom Barrack. He is one of Donald Trump’s economic advisers.

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