LeStudio1 - 2018 / Flickr DONALD TRUMP...
LeStudio1 - 2018 / Flickr

Would someone go wake Senator Smoot and tell him to pass the good word to Representative Hawley? After 80-plus years of being blamed for not exactly causing the Great Depression, but rubbing a double handful of salt in the wound, the authors of the Tariff Act of 1930 can safely wander off into history. Because their role as economists’ most kickable pair, is being soundly outdone by a disciple of theirs who is far less prepared, far less knowledgeable about consequences, and apparently both unwilling and unable to learn from the past.

This “easy to win” to win trade war that Trump started without warning mid-week when he launched a preemptive strike against steel and aluminum, is already spiraling out of control — a result that could have been predicted by … everyone. Because Trump can’t let any slight, not matter how slight it is, slip by he might as well just start all negotiations by slapping the big button. Because he’s going to get there.

Trump is so determined to make trade into a zero-sum game, even though that has no basis in fact. After all, how can you be a winner unless someone else loses, and Trump is determined that someone is going to lose this game. So far that someone is everyone in America who buys anything that’s made out of steel Sorry, autoworkers, Donald Trump is making steelworkers happy this week, but look! He’s already offered to upend the economy to help you next. Which is just going to go great. Because the last time someone restricted cars foreign cars coming into the US, the production of cars … went down.

U.S. car makers also lowered production in 1984 to help boost car prices. Less production meant fewer workers: America lost over 60,000 auto jobs between 1982 and 1984 due to the trade restrictions, according to Brookings.

When Reagan put limits on imports of Japanese cars, American companies saw the opportunity to drop their own production and create an artificial shortage of vehicles, driving up prices and giving them more profit per car. They also cut R & D spending because … why research improvements if the White House is willing to just shut out the competition. As a result, the quotas and tariffs Reagan laid against foreign autos, cost American consumers, and lowered the number of jobs in the auto industry. Meanwhile, consumers outside the US were finding a glut of new vehicles available, giving them the power to demand a bargain. So maybe someone does have to win.

Come inside, let’s read pundits.

White House of Horrors

Philip Rucker, Ashley Parker and Josh Dawsey go inside the nearly empty halls of the White House to hear the sounds of wailing and gnashing of teeth.

Inside the White House, aides over the past week have described an air of anxiety and volatility — with an uncontrollable commander in chief at its center.

These are the darkest days in at least half a year, they say, and they worry just how much farther President Trump and his administration may plunge into unrest and malaise before they start to recover. As one official put it: “We haven’t bottomed out.”

To be honest, this is an opinion piece. It’s first page news. It’s just too good to pass up.

Trump is now a president in transition, at times angry and increasingly isolated. He fumes in private that just about every time he looks up at a television screen, the cable news headlines are trumpeting yet another scandal. He voices frustration that son-in-law Jared Kushner has few on-air defenders. He revives old grudges. And he confides to friends that he is uncertain about whom to trust. …

In an unorthodox presidency in which emotion, impulse and ego often drive events, Trump’s ominous moods manifested themselves last week in his zigzagging positions on gun control; his shock trade war that jolted markets and was opposed by Republican leaders and many in his own administration; and his roiling feud of playground insults with Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

Watching the Trump gun sessions was amazing. He dragged Senators onto national TV, insulted them as if they were wait staff at one of his hotels, then terrified everyone left and right by suggesting that due process was an optional feature of democracy.

Trump’s friends are increasingly concerned about his well-being, worried that the president’s obsession with cable commentary and perceived slights is taking a toll on the 71-year-old. “Pure madness,” lamented one exasperated ally.

I’m trying to imagine the “Help Wanted” ad for Hope Hicks replacement.

Tom Phillips on Trump’s fresh admiration for autocracy.

Donald Trump has celebrated Xi Jinping’s bid to shepherd China back into an era of one-man dictatorship, suggesting the United States might one day “give that a shot”.

China’s authoritarian leader took power in 2012 and had been expected to rule until 2023. However, last week it emerged that Xi would attempt to use an annual meeting of China’s parliament, which kicks off on Monday morning, to abolish presidential term limits by changing the Chinese constitution….

However, Trump offered a more positive assessment during a fundraising event at his Mar-a-Lago estate, where he hosted Xi last April. “He’s now president for life. President for life. And he’s great,” the US president reportedly told Republican donors.

You know what? This one isn’t commentary either. Though reading it certainly is causing me to make some choice comments.

“And look, he was able to do that. I think it’s great. Maybe we’ll give that a shot some day,” Trump added, according to CNN which obtained a recording of what it described as an upbeat, joke-filled speech.

Oh yeah, the guy who has wandered around this week starting trade wars and threatening the other kind is just hilarious.

Leonard Pitts on how to find balance when the world is upside down.

Shouldn’t there be somebody to defend Donald Trump? …

It’s easy to find progressive writers willing to lambaste him. But as more than one editor has lamented, when they look for balance to writers on the right who can usually be depended upon to defend a conservative Republican, it turns out they view him with similar scorn.

I once heard an editor muse about maybe making a concerted effort to find new voices willing to stick up for Trump, but to me, that smacks of false equivalence — and obscures an important point. If writers who unstintingly praised George W. Bush, John McCain and Mitt Romney are unwilling to champion this guy, is that not visceral confirmation of what an outlier he really is?

It’s actually not that hard to find Trump supporters, many of them may turn out to be software ‘bots, but odds are those ‘bots can write a better column than any flesh and blood Trump supporter.

The Trump question, though, is just a subset of a larger one. Namely, how should mainstream news media deal with the fever swamp of conspiracy, lies and hogwash that produced and sustains him? To put it another way: Should crazy have a place in the public square?

Honestly, were it possible to not mention Donald Trump at all, that might be for the best. We could all pretend that the government had taken a four year holiday, and would be back and perking come 2020. Except for the part where Trump daily threatens to break the economy, the judiciary, and maybe start a new war after lunch.

Kathleen Parker would like to address the Planet Earth.

Dear world:

Please pay no attention to the man behind the golden drapes.

He doesn’t mean it.

What goes with that ‘it?’

Anything. Donald Trump doesn’t mean anything he says. At least not for long, so try not to react.

Kind of like that T-rex in Jurassic Park.  If you just don’t respond to Trump’s threats, he’ll forget what he was threatening.

Dana Milbank on Trump’s rotating crew of whipping boys.

In his latest tweet disparaging his own attorney general, Trump this week called Sessions’s conduct at Justice “DISGRACEFUL!” and he has privately referred to Sessions as “Mr. Magoo.” …

Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law, was put in charge of Middle East peace, government reform, the opioid crisis, criminal-justice reform, and relations with Mexico, China and the Muslim community.

Now he has lost his security clearance and is a poster boy for conflicts of interest.

Seriously when it comes to Kushner, losing his security clearance isn’t really the issue. It’s that first part, where he was the only one in the Trump White House charged with doing something. Except he didn’t.

It’s a peculiar phenomenon: Trump bumbles along, his approval rating low but relatively constant, while those he touches are disgraced or ruined. Trump delights in destroying foes, but his indiscriminate destruction brings down friends just as easily.

Gun Safety / Gun Control

Megan McArdle is seriously worried about the feelings of NRA members.

Remember when companies tried to stay out of politics? I’d imagine Delta Air Lines is recalling those days very fondly. The airline bowed to pressure from liberal activists to stop offering a group discount to the National Rifle Association’s annual convention. Now it’s facing a backlash from Georgia Republicans. Given that Delta’s headquarters and biggest hub are in Atlanta, that’s a big problem.

See, Megan feels that not giving the NRA a discount, essentially giving their members the same price as anyone else, is playing politics. Giving NRA members a special cheap rate … not politics. If that seems backwards, it’s only because everything in this article is from some alternate timeline.

The true aim of this exercise is stigma, not economic warfare. I suspect that Delta understood this, and simply miscalculated the risk of backlash.

And that backlash is … what? Yes, the Lt. Governor of Georgia made a threatening tweet, but does McArdle seriously believe that George is going to endanger keeping Delta’s HQ in the state? That is not going to happen. McArdle is apparently just realizing that people can use their economic leverage to convince companies to take action. She doesn’t like it. She doesn’t like it at all.

Max Boot says no one should get their hopes up about Trump taking action on guns.

“Take the guns first, go through due process second,” Trump said.

If President Barack Obama had said any such thing, Fox News hosts would have had an aneurysm and congressional Republicans would have launched impeachment proceedings. But with the exception of Sen. Ben Sasse (R.-Neb.), Republicans are giving Trump a pass, and for good reason. They realize that once again the president doesn’t know what he’s talking about and doesn’t mean what he says.

Just nod and wait for Fox and Friends to tell him what he thinks.

Elections / Voting Trends

Jill Abramson on the Republicans white woman problem.

Support for Donald Trump among white women is cratering. This helps explain why, after days of tacitly condoning alleged spousal abuse by Rob Porter, which Porter denies, and former White House speechwriter David Sorensen, who also denies the accusations made against him, the president finally said last week that he was “totally opposed to domestic violence”.

It’s always been unfathomable to me that Donald Trump won a majority of white female votes in 2016, but he did. This was after the notorious Access Hollywood tape, the allegations of more than a dozen women who said he sexually harassed them.

It seems like a lot of people ranked those descriptors in order. First “white” and then “woman.”

Trump / Russia

The Washington Post doesn’t quite go with the “Hicks had been in the process of leaving for weeks” position.

Testifying before the House Intelligence Committee, which is investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election, she refused to answer any questions about anything that happened after Mr. Trump was sworn in. She did not — indeed could not — invoke executive privilege, a power that only Mr. Trump can wield to prevent disclosure of information to Congress. But she refused to answer anyway, as though executive privilege properly applied.

A self-respecting legislative branch would not allow executive-branch witnesses to so easily evade basic questioning, particularly when it concerns matters as important as the Russia investigation.

1984. Not the book, the year. 1984 is the last time someone was sucessful prosecuted on contempt of Congress.

Economics / Tariffs

Ian Bremmer makes me wish I’d just quoted him and skipped writing my opening.

It is perhaps his most essential quality: President Trump is determined to triumph — and to see America triumph alongside him. “I win against China. You can win against China if you’re smart,” he said at a campaign event in July 2015. “Vast numbers of manufacturing jobs in Pennsylvania have moved to Mexico and other countries. That will end when I win!” he tweeted during the campaign. “China, Japan, Mexico, Brazil, these countries are all taking our jobs, like we’re a bunch of babies. That will stop,” he once promised.

In Trump’s view of the world, there is a finite amount of everything — money, security, jobs, victories — and nothing can be shared. He previewed this past week’s announcment of steel tariffs when he said during the campaign that foreign smelters are “killing our steelworkers and steel companies.” He promised during his State of the Union address to protect “our” citizens over the undocumented “dreamers.” In other words, the United States, and all of its inhabitants, are in a zero-sum competition over everything, all the time. And you’re either victorious or defeated. It’s a universe where the strong do what they can and the weak suffer what they must, as Thucydides said.

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This is a Creative Commons article. The original version of this article appeared here.


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