I regularly get asked what elite Wall Streeters think about our current divisive political dynamic, and how they would like to see it fixed. Their answers are often of the Wall-Street-loves-gridlock variety, meaning that Wall Street prefers political inaction in Washington and preserving the status quo, rather than an executive and legislative branch sufficiently in sync to actually get things done. It’s terribly cynical, I know—and may not just be a Wall Street thing—but also probably explains why we have tended, in recent decades, to have a president of one party and a Congress of another party, ensuring that it is extremely difficult to accomplish anything. And very little does get done, notwithstanding President Joe Biden’s outstanding legislative record in his first two years in office.
Then along comes David Rubenstein, the billionaire co-founder of The Carlyle Group, one of the O.G. firms for what we now call alternative asset management and what we used to call private equity, who recently said the quiet part out loud. In a public conversation the other day in Nantucket with the journalist Evan Thomas, Rubenstein did what billionaires like to do: he proposed a big, important, creative deal. This time, though, he was proposing a political deal, not a business deal. It is pretty damn clever, I have to say, and one I can certainly endorse, too, even if it may never happen.
He urged President Biden to call former president Donald Trump and offer to pardon him for his alleged federal crimes, and to work with state prosecutors to try to get them to pardon Trump for his supposed state crimes. In exchange for these extraordinary get-out-of-jail-free cards, Rubenstein continued, Trump would agree to never run for any public office again, including for president in 2024. The deal also had one final bipartisan twist of brinkmanship: If Trump were to agree to Biden’s stipulations, Biden would also further announce that he would not run for re-election in 2024, either.