Notable & Quotable: Aug. 18, 2017

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In "Trump Loses Corporate America," The Wall Street Journal's Holman Jenkins writes, "There is no point in taking brickbats for a president who does not deliver."

Companies get in bed with politicians when it serves their interests and are quick to run away when it doesn't. Thus nobody is obliged to interpret the flutter of CEOs away from President Trump's advisory council since the Charlottesville riot as occasions of courage.

Still, these are some of America's most delicate PR canaries, surrounded by risk-averse advisers. Mr. Trump's administration is turning out not to be the administration they were hoping for, though probably the one they realistically expected.

Especially he has not made headway on corporate taxes - the issue that bought him whatever benefit of the doubt America's CEO class was willing to give him.

Now a handful are fleeing his advisory council because he didn't say the right words over Charlottesville or didn't say them quickly enough. This is big news because the media can't get enough Trump. He insists on making himself the lightning rod. That's one problem.

If the president or a scraggly someone close to him in the West Wing is soft on white supremacists because he thinks these groups are a vital bloc, this would be the miscalculation of the century. Their adherents couldn't swing a race for dogcatcher. It is precisely the left's fantasy of the right that these people constitute a useful electoral base.

None of the departing CEOs likely believe Mr. Trump is a white supremacist or Nazi sympathizer. They just see no upside to being associated with him. Two of those who quit, Merck's Kenneth Frazier and Intel's Brian Krzanich, implicitly cited an unnamed individual's failure to speak out forcefully enough against racism.

From "Democrats Fret as Clinton Book Rollout Looms" by Albert R. Hunt, Bloomberg View, Aug. 15:

[Hillary Clinton] could take a lesson from another prominent Democrat, one who has kept a relatively low profile since January. That's former President Barack Obama, who has mostly resisted the temptation to strike back at repeated Trump cheap shots. Today, surveys of voters have found, he's the most popular American politician. Some Democrats want him to take on Trump a bit more and are pleased he'll be out campaigning for a few Democrats this fall.

By contrast, Clinton has moved from being an admired former New York senator and secretary of state to becoming a divisive and unpopular figure. In last month's Bloomberg national poll, 58 percent of respondents rated her unfavorably compared to 39 percent who gave her favorable marks. More than one in five people who voted for her in November now regard her unfavorably. That was even worse than Trump's standing in the same poll.

Indeed, the only figure with higher negatives in the survey, which was conducted by the Iowa polling firm Selzer & Co., was her old nemesis, Russian President Vladimir Putin.

In "It's Been 40 Years Since Elvis Left the Building For Good," columnist Bob Greene writes, "As he lay there in his casket, I realized his fans felt they knew him, but he'd known none of them."

Everything felt wrong that sorrowful August afternoon. Just being inside his home: Graceland was supposed to be for Elvis Presley and his prank-loving Memphis buddies. A place for his friends and family, as locked-down and exclusive as the White House. You didn't get in unless you knew him and he invited you.

But on that day he was in an open casket in the foyer, which of course was what felt the most wrong of all. He had died the day before - Aug. 16, 1977 - and his father, Vernon Presley, had decreed, against expectations, that Elvis' home would be open to anyone who cared to visit. The plan turned out to be a mess. More than 70,000 people tried to get onto the street in front of Graceland, and in the sweltering crush only a relative few made it inside the gates.

To see him that day ... well, it was something almost impossible to process. He lived just 42 years, and as of this week he has been gone for 40, so now the idea of his death is taken for granted. Today there are millions of adults who have no recollection of Presley as a living man. On that summer day in 1977, though, it was all new, present tense, and the overwhelming thought as you stood in Graceland's foyer was that you could not, should not, be seeing what you were seeing. But there he was.

The secret of great stardom, its defining alchemy, is a mysterious ability to make hundreds of millions of men and women believe they know a person they have, in fact, never met. All the strangers filing through that day had counted Elvis a sustaining part of their lives, but he would not have recognized any of them. Now they - we - were in his home. The stillness of him, after a lifetime of constant motion, was shattering.

Who was he? The full answer, in the end, he had kept to himself, which is all a man can do when he has led a life so public.

For all his fame, Presley undoubtedly understood his frailties and fallibilities better than anyone. Out of view on that day, upstairs in his bedroom, was the artifact said to have meant the most to him, an unlikely item that may provide a clue to what he cherished, or at least to what he sought.

It was a trophy. His friends would later tell me that more than any other tangible accolade from his career - the framed gold and platinum records, the keys to hundreds of cities presented by hundreds of mayors, the honorary badges from local police and sheriff's departments - the trophy is what he always kept physically close. He took it with him wherever he traveled, slept near it in his hotel rooms when he was on tour, as if it were a talisman.

Notable & Quotable is compiled by Graham Osteen. Contact him at graham@theitem.com.