When it came to withdrawing from NAFTA, Donald Trump brought his trademark decisiveness and strong grasp of policy. Which is to say that he wanted to rush into something he knew nothing about, then got talked out of it by people offering him basic information that had somehow never gotten through to him in his year and a half of campaigning, transition, or first nearly 100 days of presidenting. And then he told the Washington Post all about it:
“I was all set to terminate,” Trump said in an Oval Office interview Thursday night. “I looked forward to terminating. I was going to do it.”
He looked forward to it, like a child looks forward to Christmas, but then some of his advisers who didn’t like the idea got ahold of him, and one of them knew how to appeal to Trump.
[Agriculture Secretary Sonny] Perdue even brought along a prop to the Oval Office: A map of the United States that illustrated the areas that would be hardest hit, particularly from agriculture and manufacturing losses, and highlighting that many of those states and counties were “Trump country” communities that had voted for the president in November.
“It shows that I do have a very big farmer base, which is good,” Trump recalled. “They like Trump, but I like them, and I’m going to help them.”
Go figure. The guy who is still handing out copies of the electoral map showing the states he won was convinced by a map highlighting places he won. But Trump is still the decider and the decision about NAFTA will still be based, essentially, on his whims:
In the interview, Trump recounted his internal deliberations: “In one way, I like the termination. In the other way, I like them — a lot, both of them. We have a very good relationship. And it’s very hard when you have a relationship, it’s very much something that would not be a nice act. It would not be exactly a friendly act.”
But, the president added, he reserves the right to change his mind. “I can always terminate,” Trump said. “They called me up, they said, ‘Could we try negotiating?’ I said, ‘Absolutely, yes.’ If we can’t come to a satisfactory conclusion, we’ll terminate NAFTA.”
Next up, Trump will run the country through use of the time-tested method of pulling petals off a flower while saying “they love me, they love me not.”