One side effect of Ford Motor Co.'s decision to replace CEO Mark Fields in May is that it got the automaker out of President Donald Trump's American Manufacturing Council without having to take any sort of a political stand.
General Motors is not as fortunate. Its CEO, Mary Barra, isn't anywhere close to getting fired.
Barra sits on another Trump advisory panel -- one focused on economic policy. She originally described the position as a way to have "a seat at an important table" as the Trump administration dealt with issues such as tax reform and job growth.
Instead, as Trump seemingly stumbles from one crisis to another, GM, along with the other corporations that thought they could benefit from regular interaction with the president, finds itself mired in a major public relations dilemma.
Does Barra stay on the panel and allow GM to continue being linked to a president who's extremely unpopular and, most recently, under fire for his reluctance to condemn Nazism?
Or does she quit and potentially alienate Trump's supporters in pickup-loving red states -- not to mention the risk that Trump himself would publicly lambaste GM, as he did Monday when the CEO of drugmaker Merck resigned from the manufacturing council?
Despite the unconventional and bizarre nature of Trump's campaign, those are surely not the questions GM anticipated pondering when Barra agreed to the advisory role.
Merck's CEO, Ken Frazier, one of three executives to abandon the council Monday, said he felt the need to "take a stand against intolerance and extremism" after Trump had failed to condemn white nationalists for inciting a weekend of violence in Charlottesville, Va. Two others, Kevin Plank of Under Armour and Brian Krzanich of Intel, were less critical of Trump in announcing they, too, would step down. Plank said only that the company wanted to be involved in "innovation and sports, not politics."
Frazier's decision to quit garnered a swift response from Trump, who tweeted about Merck needing to reduce its "ripoff drug prices" and stop moving jobs out of the U.S.