Saturday, March 3, 2018

Trump's Tariffs: When Weird-Ass Policy Meets "Unglued"

Donald Trump is finally showing why presidentin' for your Fox-News-educated-and-sustained base leads to horrendously bad governing. Did he just throw steel and aluminum tariffs out there during a temper tantrum?

How do you put this wack genie back in the bottle? What if the answer is you can't?

Donald Trump has in recent weeks showed us a pattern -- of what former president George W. Bush might have called presidentin' -- that involves throwing a White House meeting for senators or cabinet secretaries and tossing ideas for governing around like they were so many frisbees in the park on a Saturday afternoon. Then, over the next few days he returns to his "normal" self that essentially conforms to the hyper-conservative conventions that pass for "normal" these days.

And everybody involved in policy, be it Mitch McConnell, Paul Ryan, the Heritage Foundation, or the NRA, breathes a collective sigh of relief, warily noting that the all-over-the-policy-map guy is again sane enough to be the blue meanie du jour that they usually count on.

This time, though, on tariffs, Trump has indeed gone off the policy rails, catching everybody off guard. And, NBC News reports, it was because he was, at that moment, unglued:
WASHINGTON — With global markets shaken by President Donald Trump's surprise decision to impose strict tariffs on steel and aluminum imports, the president went into battle mode on Friday: "Trade wars are good, and easy to win," he wrote on Twitter.
But the public show of confidence belies the fact that Trump's policy maneuver, which may ultimately harm U.S. companies and American consumers, was announced without any internal review by government lawyers or his own staff, according to a review of an internal White House document.
According to two officials, Trump's decision to launch a potential trade war was born out of anger at other simmering issues and the result of a broken internal process that has failed to deliver him consensus views that represent the best advice of his team.
On Wednesday evening, the president became "unglued," in the words of one official familiar with the president's state of mind.
Alrighty then, at least now we know. Trump is capable of governing by toddler-style tantrum.

In his defense, there are at least two advisers, Peter Navarro and Wilbur Ross who support his protectionist moves, even if they're based on faulty thinking, described by Matthew Yglesias as an accounting error. (Read that link, don't want to go into it here.)

However, most of Trump's economic team are horrified by Trump's action.

Indeed. What remains to be seen -- and there are a number of people praying for it -- is whether or not Trump can "pull a Trump" and change his mind a few days later about this tariff thing. After all, they don't take effect until they are officially crafted and announced, as proposed, next week. Will Trump return to his senses on Monday?

Could be, let's hope so. Trouble is, with a new week, we have to hold our collective breath, worrying what he'll fuck up next.

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