Sitting inside Bob Iger’s voluminous office in Burbank, with the vast Disney industrial complex buzzing below, I found myself caught slightly off guard by a comment that the chief executive made in passing. Iger’s acquisition of Pixar, development of ESPN, and oversight of Disney’s international expansion have made him among the most renowned media C.E.O.s of our time. He’s also one of the most articulate. So I was rather surprised when he responded to a question of mine with one of his own. “Can I throw that back at you?” he asked, seemingly perplexed. “Why is that? What’s happened to me that all of a sudden people are asking that?”
The question I had just asked Iger on Vanity Fair’s new podcast, Inside the Hive, one that has been swirling through the minds of so many people for the past few months: Is Bob Iger going to run for president? For Iger, it wasn’t the first time that he been presented with this query. In March, The Hollywood Reporter noted that Iger’s friends were nudging him to run for president in 2020. It’s also a question dozens of media outlets have posed in recent months. In fact, he had been posed the same question a day before our conversation after he led the company’s earnings call.
I’m more accustomed to doing the interviewing than the other way around, but Iger’s question seemed, while clearly not rhetorical, easy enough to answer. One hundred or so days into his administration, there isn’t even the faintest question that Donald Trump has been bad for democracy—from his assessments that the system was rigged to his assertions that millions of citizens voted illegally; from his habit of calling reputable journalistic outfits fake news to his inability to handle classified information. The list of misdeeds is seemingly endless. But, there has been one silver lining. Prior to his election, Trump had never served a day of his life in public office. And by pulling off that perpendicular climb into the highest office in the land, he has upended the traditional C.V. requirements for the job. In these early days of 2020 bootstrapping, some ascribe to the anyone-can-be-president model. This may explain why Dwayne Johnson, a.k.a. “The Rock,” told GQ that running for president in 2020 is “a real possibility.” Johnson even has a five-point lead over Trump in one new national poll. (And yes, this is not a joke.) It’s also why Kanye West has postured, Hamlet style, suggesting that he might run in 2020. (He is down in the polls.) For all we know, a long list of other bizarre people could potentially put their names on the ballot in three years. Indeed, there’s a possibility, albeit razor slim, that the next election isn’t waged by a bunch of career Republicans, Democrats, and independents debating issues onstage but rather two dozen reality-TV stars and a guy who has a really good vlog, all taking selfies to see who can get the most likes. After all, we’ve seen crazier, more unpredictable events befall us in the last 18 months.
A more realistic outcome, however, is that Americans react to Trump with some sort of convulsion. Presidents are often succeeded by people who reflect the opposite values. That’s one explanation for why the harebrained, politically incorrect Trump followed a cool and cerebral Barack Obama. But it’s also entirely possible that some segment of the voting population might come to the conclusion that they like the notion of a leader who hails from the private sector, unmolested by years of political dealmaking, but they also want a capable, respectable business leader who has experience managing more than a small, family-run real-estate development and marketing venture. And given the lack of transcendent next-generation contenders on both sides of the aisle, Iger, who manages hundreds of thousands of employees, and a company with a market capitalization of some $164 billion, doesn’t seem like such a wild idea after all. In fact, it might not even be a half-bad one, whether he likes it or not. And that’s why people are asking him the question.
Read more at Vanity Fair.