The Washington Post reports: “The White House on Tuesday said it would delay imposing tariffs on Chinese imports of cellphones, laptop computers, video game consoles, and certain types of footwear and clothing until Dec. 15, significantly later than the Sept. 1 deadline President Trump had repeatedly threatened.” Stocks moved higher, and economically literate people breathed a sigh of relief.
Now, let’s remember that President Donald Trump, for 2½ years, has said trade wars are easy to win. He’s said that China pays tariffs; and he’s said we are getting rich from tariffs. Now, after days of stock market losses and a steady increase in the risk of a recession, according to economists at top financial firms, Trump has changed his tune. The Post reports:
“‘What we’ve done is we’ve delayed it so they won’t be relevant in the Christmas shopping season,’ Trump said before boarding a flight to western Pennsylvania. “Just in case they might have an impact on people.”
“The economy has shown signs of slowing this year, and some business executives, lawmakers and White House officials had worried that the tariffs were damaging the economy even further. A number of businesses had cut back on investing, in part because they were unsure how Trump planned to proceed with the trade war. Democrats had begun attacking Trump for lacking a coherent plan in his approach to dealing with the Chinese, and the rapid reversals had caused dramatic swings in the stock market.”
Well, it would have been nice if “just in case” tariffs would hurt farmers — driving up the number of bankruptcies to record highs and risking the loss of essential overseas markets — that before launching his trade war and taxing American families (that’s what a tariff is), Trump had talked to any of the hundreds of economists and businessmen out there who would have told him that tariffs hurt our own economy.
It also would have been nice if Trump — “just in case” he was wrong and every qualified economist was right — hadn’t announced these additional tariffs, then blinked and thereby gave China all the reassurance its negotiators would need that the president could either be pressured to dropping the tariffs or just waited out. China can see that Trump cares about the risk of a recession far more than getting a deal, let alone a good deal. China’s hand has improved.
In the “just in case” department, perhaps Trump could be convinced to adopt a scientifically sound approach to climate change because, after all, according to analysis by The Washington Post, “Over the past two decades, the 2 degrees Celsius number has emerged as a critical threshold for global warming. ... (and) more than 1 in 10 Americans — 34 million people — are living in rapidly heating regions, including New York City and Los Angeles. Seventy-one counties have already hit the 2-degree Celsius mark.”
“Just in case” China might take Trump’s nonchalant attitude (“I hope it works out for everybody — including China, by the way”) about China’s troops moving toward a conflict with Hong Kong’s democracy protesters as a green light to brutally suppress the activists, Trump might try issuing an unmistakable warning against violence or even supporting the protesters, as many lawmakers have.
“Just in case” there is a chance that violent white nationalists derive encouragement and confidence from Trump’s language parroting white-nationalist tropes (“an invasion”), he might stop the racist rhetoric.
“Just in case” there is a chance a hard Brexit may trigger a serious recession (which will impact the United States), he might tell national security adviser John Bolton to stop egging on British Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
“Just in case” there is something important in the daily intelligence briefing, he might insist upon reading it every day at an in-person meeting. You never know — he might learn that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un doesn’t really smile only for Trump and doesn’t even like him, but is flattering Trump only as a means of continuing Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons program without fear of U.S. military action or increased sanctions.
You get the point. Trump is a man without curiosity, knowledge or judgment. He’s skated through a life of failures (bankrupting casinos, shuttering everything from an airlines to steaks with his name on it), blaming others or simply hiding evidence of his mismanagement. Now, his record in office is plain for all to see and voters are coming to the conclusion it might be a good idea to get a new president, “just in case” his assault on democratic institutions, his erratic foreign policy, his ignorant trade policy and his reaffirmation of white-nationalist themes would, with another four years in office, pose a dire threat to the planet and to our national security, prosperity and constitutional system. You can never be too careful.
Jennifer Rubin writes reported opinion for the Washington Post.