Is Facebook CEO Zuckerberg making a run for the White House?

  • TECH
  • Thursday, 08 Jun 2017

CAMBRIDGE, MA - MAY 25: Facebook Founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg delivers the commencement address at the Alumni Exercises at Harvard's 366th commencement exercises on May 25, 2017 in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Zuckerberg studied computer science at Harvard before leaving to move Facebook to Paolo Alto, CA. He returned to the campus this week to his former dorm room and live streamed his visit. Paul Marotta/Getty Images/AFP == FOR NEWSPAPERS, INTERNET, TELCOS & TELEVISION USE ONLY ==

SAN JOSE, California: Can't you just see the campaign button: "ZUCK for PREZ". 

Stranger things than Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg running for president have happened, including what happened last November. 

As The Washington Post reminds us in a story headlined "The Trump effect: Everyone's thinking about running for president," the idea of an out-of-the-blue candidate making a run for the White House is suddenly quite plausible. A few names – Tom Hanks, Joe Biden, Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, for starters – have bubbled up recently. And all you have to do is write "Oprah for ... " in the Google search bar and, yup, you guessed it. 

But while the thought of The Rock living at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue may border on the preposterous, President Zuckerberg actually has a nice ring to it. Right? 

Not everyone, of course, is thrilled with the thought of the social media chieftain taking over a country currently run by a real estate magnate. "Please," wrote "Mike from Tucson" on the Washington Post website, "anything but another amateur at government and management of large complex organisations, not the family business. Business or entertainment simply does not prepare one for governing." 

With apologies to "Mike," here are some signs that Zuck might want to become commander in chief. 

Guess who's coming to dinner? 

As part of an ongoing campaign to meet and greet Americans living in every single state by year's end, Zuckerberg sat down for dinner last month at the Newton Falls, Ohio home of Daniel Moore to chew the fat. The listening tour, which so far has taken him through conservative states like Texas, Alabama and Mississippi, smacks of presidential ambition, though Zuck has squarely dismissed the notion that he was running for office. 

"My biggest takeaway so far is that our relationships shape us more than we think – how we consider opportunities, how we process information, and how we form habits," Zuckerberg said last month in a blog post about his tour. "After a tumultuous last year, my hope for this challenge is to get out and talk to more people about how they're living, working and thinking about the future." 

Oh, to be king 

On a Facebook post last fall, Zuckerberg confessed to playing the videogame Civilization since he was in middle school and that the game was "one of the reasons I got into engineering." 

And, as everyone who plays the game knows, Civilization is a game where the user creates and grows his kingdom through various eras. Its motto – "Build an empire to stand the test of time" – sounds almost Trumpian in a "Make America Great, Now and For All Time" sort of way, doesn't it? 

Oh, to be king II 

Zuckerberg has said he loves to watch HBO's Game of Thrones, which, as a Salon writer pointed out "is centred on the politics of obtaining the most coveted spectacles in the realm – the throne and the crown." 

He could be president and still run Facebook ... 

After some reports suggested that Zuckerberg would, for legal reasons, be limited to just two years working in the government if he maintained control of Facebook, TechCrunch set the record straight, saying a closer "examination of SEC documents reveals Zuck only needs to still own enough Facebook stock or have the board's approval to be allowed to serve in government indefinitely. Combined with Zuckerberg's announcement yesterday that his 2017 personal challenge is to meet and listen to people in all 50 states, this fact lends weight to the idea that Zuckerberg may be serious about diving into politics." 

Or not 

If he truly wanted to become President, Zuckerberg could rest assured that his chief operating officer would fill his shoes. Since becoming COO in 2008, Sheryl Sandberg has clearly demonstrated she's got the business acumen, gravitas and personal touch to run the social-media behemoth that she has helped turn into the runaway success it is today. 

But a CEO Sandberg sitting in for a President Zuckerberg could be complicated if she herself, as some have speculated, were to make a run for the job. During an on-stage conversation at the Watermark Conference for Women, Sandberg told Recode executive editor Kara Swisher that that option was off the table. 

"I have said no, and I'll going to continue to say no," Sandberg said, to which Swisher replied: "And I'll continue not to believe you, in any way. I feel I have better sources." 

Look who's joined Team Zuck! 

If old Aesop was right and it's true that "a man is known by the company he keeps," then you should know this about Zuckerberg: last January, his philanthropic organisation, the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, hired two of the guys who helped put Barack Obama and George W. Bush in the White House.

Former Obama campaign manager David Plouffe signed up with Zuckerberg and wife Priscilla Chan as president of policy and advocacy while Ken Mehlman, Bush's former campaign manager and Republican National Committee chairman, was picked to lead the organisation's board. And while Plouffe and Mehlman will be focused on their roles as The Guys Who Help Decide Where Zuck's Big Bucks Go, you can't help but wonder what other conversations are being held these days. 

And, oh yeah, he's now into religion, which is good 

Last Christmas, the founder of Facebook announced that was he was all good with God, after identifying himself for years as an atheist. A profound change of heart, or just checking a box on the presidential to-do list? After all, Americans have yet to elect an openly atheist president. 

On Christmas Day, Zuckerberg indicated in a Facebook status that he was "celebrating Christmas." 

"Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah from Priscilla, Max, Beast and me," he wrote, naming his wife, daughter and dog. Then a commenter asked him: Aren't you an atheist? 

Zuckerberg replied: "No. I was raised Jewish and then I went through a period where I questioned things, but now I believe religion is very important." 

Hmm ... — The Mercury News/Tribune News Service

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