Well-known TV pundit Larry Kudlow has announced that he will accept President Trump’s job offer as director of the National Economic Council, replacing Gary Cohn, who stepped down last week after Trump pushed forward with tariffs on imported steel and aluminum.
Senior associate dean for leadership studies at the Yale School of Management Jeffrey Sonnenfeld, a friend and colleague of Kudlow’s, told Chief Executive that he would be a perfect fit for the position.
“Kudlow is hugely patriotic but with a strong free market, free trade anchoring. Despite his strong positions, he always courts differences of opinion and debates are never personal,” Sonnenfeld says. “His positions are always anchored in facts, but when opponents produce contrary facts, he does not condemn them as fake. Rather, he examines them always treating differences of opinion with great respect and appreciation. No one ever leaves a debate with him angry, whether you win or you lose.”
A formal announcement on Kudlow’s appointment is expected this week. Kudlow supported Trump’s presidential bid in 2016 and is a supporter of tax cuts and deregulation, though he had spoken out against the president’s tariff plan in recent weeks. While Kudlow is a staunch free trade advocate, Sonnenfeld says he has come to see that there are some trade imbalances that could be perceived as unfair to the U.S. under the current system.
“I cannot imagine anyone better suited for this position. The only question is why it took 14 months to bring him on board.” – Jeffrey Sonnenfeld
“Kudlow is a passionate free trader, but now sees that there are inequities where the U.S. often suffers, whereby some parties such as China and even Europe may have unequal access rules aided by large government investment, creating false economic advantages for shorter term exploitation,” Sonnenfeld says.
Kudlow is also not one to shy away from debate or to ignore those with differing opinions, as illustrated by his choice of guests on his TV programs over the years.
“Regardless of the topics or differences you always feel respect and warm acceptance, if not even genuine affection,” Sonnenfeld says. “[Kudlow] is liked all across the political spectrum and has an uncanny knack for translating complex economic policy issues into simple, clear choices. He is not a sycophant and speaks truth to power but is never a backstabber or a gossip.”
As far as working with the president and his administration, Sonnenfeld believes Kudlow has the makeup to develop a productive working relationship with Trump.
“This president does enjoy debate and differences of opinion, but is obviously extremely sensitive to public attack or ridicule,” Sonnenfeld says. “That is not Kudlow’s style—a perennial half-full, spirited, happy person. Everyone senior in this administration—[Secretary of Commerce] Wilbur Ross, [Secretary of the Treasury] Steve Mnuchin, [Secretary of Transportation] Elaine Chao—knows Kudlow well and likes him. I cannot imagine anyone better suited for this position. The only question is why it took 14 months to bring him on board.”