The G7 ended Saturday, and yet the fallout still continues. Team Trump continued to go on the offensive against America's (former?) allies, and the allies began to push back.
At the moment, the current target of the President's ire is Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau. At his press conference on Saturday, he said that he found Donald Trump's basis for retaliatory tariffs—"national security"—to be insulting. On Sunday, Trudeau expanded on that point, telling NBC's Chuck Todd that he is having "a lot of trouble getting around" that Canada has abruptly become "a national security threat to the United States." He opined that U.S. and Canadian soliders, "who had fought and died together on the beaches of World War II, on the mountains of Afghanistan and have stood shoulder-to-shoulder in some of the most difficult places in the world, that are always there for each other, this is insulting to that."
This seems a pretty reasonable point of view. In fact, it's actually somewhat restrained. What Trudeau easily could have said, as the New York Times' David Leonhardt points out, is that Trump—as is so often the case—is lying. The tariffs are not the atrocity that the President pretends they are; the average tariff between the U.S. and Canada right now is 0.8% (with the other members of the G7, it's only slightly larger, between 1.4% and 1.6%).
Nonetheless, Team Trump has decided to respond with outrage. Although the President himself is in Singapore, several of his underlings went on the Sunday morning news programs to body check the Canadian. National Economic Council chairman Larry Kudlow claimed "betrayal" by Trudeau, accused him of a "sophomoric political stunt for domestic consumption," and said he "stabbed us in the back." Trade adviser Peter Navarro was even more unhinged: "There's a special place in hell for any foreign leader that engages in bad faith diplomacy with President Donald J. Trump and then tries to stab him in the back on the way out the door." That's a very interesting argument. However, if bad faith negotiations coupled with personal attacks afterward really do earn a politician a one-way ticket to hell, it's probably not Trudeau who needs to be worried.
While Trump may not be available to appear on American television, though, Twitter is worldwide and is 24/7. So, he too joined in on the party:
Fair Trade is now to be called Fool Trade if it is not Reciprocal. According to a Canada release, they make almost 100 Billion Dollars in Trade with U.S. (guess they were bragging and got caught!). Minimum is 17B. Tax Dairy from us at 270%. Then Justin acts hurt when called out!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 11, 2018
....And add to that the fact that the U.S. pays close to the entire cost of NATO-protecting many of these same countries that rip us off on Trade (they pay only a fraction of the cost-and laugh!). The European Union had a $151 Billion Surplus-should pay much more for Military!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 11, 2018
....Germany pays 1% (slowly) of GDP towards NATO, while we pay 4% of a MUCH larger GDP. Does anybody believe that makes sense? We protect Europe (which is good) at great financial loss, and then get unfairly clobbered on Trade. Change is coming!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 11, 2018
Sorry, we cannot let our friends, or enemies, take advantage of us on Trade anymore. We must put the American worker first!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 11, 2018
Those tweets were spread across a couple of hours, so clearly the matter lingered on Trump's mind.
In any case, if there is anything that is certain about this spat, it is this: There is no chance that Team Trump is actually this offended by what Trudeau said. Their response continually misrepresents what the Prime Minister said, is highly coordinated, and is way too over the top. All of these things are clues that the Donald and his underlings are consciously trying to create a mountain out of a mole hill. Why? Presumably to please the base, or to distract attention from Trump's performance at the summit, or both.
Considerably more mysterious is exactly why Trump seems to dislike America's allies so much, while at the same time he makes nice with America's rivals and outright enemies. With the caveat that he's gone back-and-forth with just about every world leader, he's generally been much more positive toward China, North Korea, Russia, and Saudi Arabia, and much more negative toward Canada, Germany, France, and the UK. What's going on? The Times' Leonhardt proposes three theories:
To this, let us add a few other possibilities:
Maybe the correct answer(s) appear above, and maybe they do not. Even the people who have been studying this subject for decades are mystified. What we can be sure of, however, is that Angela Merkel, Emmanuel Macron, Theresa May, et al., are not stupid. They can see that their current approach is not working, and they are growing exasperated. It's not just the G7, it's the TPP, and the Iran nuclear deal, and the Paris Accord, and a host of other issues where Trump has disdained cooperation in favor of unilateral action and/or temper tantrums. There will come a time, and it may be upon us sooner than anyone expects, when the allies will stop beating their heads against the wall. They are going to work around the U.S., maybe even against the U.S., at which point the partnership that won two world wars and the Cold War could be permanently shattered. And again, that may be exactly what Trump is gunning for. As Le Monde observes in today's edition, "Donald Trump is the same age as the world order put in place by the United States at the end of the Second World War, but one would swear he decided that the latter will not survive him." (Z)
Five states will hold primary elections tomorrow. Here are some of the things to watch for:
Also of note is that many women are running and could win. Jacky Rosen is almost certain to be nominated to run for a winnable Senate seat and Janet Mills might get the Maine gubernatorial nod for the blue team. Several women might also win nominations for House seats, too. (V)
According to dictionary.com, denuclearize means:
However, Donald Trump and Kim Jong-Un may have very different definitions as to what denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula means. For Trump, it means that North Korea eliminates all of its nuclear weapons, rockets, and facilities to construct new ones. In his view, the U.S. doesn't have to do anything, because South Korea has no nuclear weapons. In contrast, Kim's view has always been that part of the deal is that the U.S. fold its "nuclear umbrella," meaning removing all nuclear weapons from the Pacific. Japan and South Korea are not likely to be too keen on that. In fact, absent U.S. protection, either or both might rush to develop their own weapons (even though that might run afoul of Japan's constitution).
The North Koreans also want a formal treaty to end the Korean War. If Trump were to offer that without getting anything in return, on the grounds that peace is better than war, it would be a major victory for the North Koreans. Trump might do it anyhow, so he can tweet that he brought peace to Korea. Nobel Prize, here I come. His advisors are all dead set against a peace treaty unless it is part of a larger package, which would have to include major concessions from North Korea. Whether Kim is prepared to give up his nukes is doubtful, because as soon as he does, NSA John Bolton will be calling for regime change in North Korea, preferably by means of a hostile takeover at the hands of South Korea (with generous U.S. support). (V)
"Donald" does not exactly roll off the tongue when it comes to regnal names, which may be why the world hasn't seen a King Donald for close to 1,000 years. However, it's apparently got one now, as Time magazine decided to point out on this week's cover:
The magazine's story is specifically focused on how Trump has handled the Mueller investigation, placing himself above both the law and the well-being of the democracy. Their exact words:
Trump has advanced a vision of American democracy that paints the President as all-powerful, the Attorney General and the Congress as his handmaidens, the top law enforcement and intelligence agencies as corrupt bureaucrats. If Trump's team takes Mueller to court over a subpoena, the judiciary, too, could find itself riven by politics...Trump's strategy may in the end prove ironic. His claims of unchecked power could end up leaving behind a damaged Executive office and a weakened federal government. But for Trump and his team, all that matters is the president's survival.
It's a pretty provocative argument to make, but we are now 18 months into the Trump presidency, and so there's now a great deal of evidence for the magazine's claims. Further, Time is the dean of American newsmagazines—they are not prone to wild, unfounded declarations, like Mother Jones or the National Review sometimes are.
On Sunday, Politico reported on a small, but instructive, king-like habit that Trump has. By law, he is required to keep all official communications for archival purposes. However, he likes to tear paperwork up, particularly that which displeases him. And so, staffers are compelled to go through the trash, pick out the bits of torn-up paper, and then try to put them back together with scotch tape. This may seem minor in the scheme of things, but it has all the elements of Time's argument: selfishness, disregard for the law, and underlings who scurry around behind the scenes to clean things up and rein in the President's behavior.
Trump is not the first president to be called king, it's a somewhat common line of attack lodged against any chief executive who seems to be overstepping his bounds. However, the president who received that label the most frequently, by a fair margin, was Andrew Jackson:
Jackson was a plutocrat who rode populist fervor into the White House, where he pursued a reckless fiscal policy (that ultimately tanked the economy), staffed the federal government with his cronies, frequently used the threat of armed force to intimidate opponents, showed utter disdain for the federal court system, and cared little for the rights of non-white Americans. Hard to see what he and King Donald might have in common. (Z)
Suppose you like Netflix but are stuck with Comcast as an Internet provider. Yesterday, Comcast had to provide access to Netflix because the law said it couldn't block Netflix or any website for that matter. Starting today, if Comcast can get a really great deal from Netflix's competitor Amazon Prime, it could simply decide to block (or slow down) Netflix. If you don't like that, you could look for a new Internet provider, but good luck, since in many areas there is only one. In other words, welcome to the new world without net neutrality, a world that starts today. To give a more political example, suppose Fox News decided to pay Comcast to block the New York Times, Washington Post, CNN, and other "fake" news outlets it felt were detrimental to the message it is trying to convey. Yesterday, that would have been illegal. Today it is just business between two companies and perfectly legal.
Older voters are only dimly aware of net neutrality as an issue, but millennials are much more attuned to it. Democrats are likely to use net neutrality as an issue to try to get millennials to vote in November, especially if some major Internet provider makes a deal in the next few months that clearly demonstrates why it is important. (V)
Donald Trump is fond of pointing out how great the economy is doing, claiming it is the best economy ever. In a sense it is. In fact, it almost always is. The New York Times has put together this graph of GDP per capita (corrected for inflation) over time.
The first thing to note is that except for a number of brief recessions (shown in gray), all presidents since Harry Truman could legitimately boast that the economy has never been better and that GDP per capita is at an all-time high. This graph suggests that the economy keeps growing on its own and the president has a limited effect or influence, except in the very short term.
But there are other ways of looking at the economy. For example, the unemployment rate is currently 3.8%, but that is 50% higher than the all-time low of 2.5%, in 1953. Yet another way to look at the economy is the rate of growth. The Times article has a graph for that as well:
Here we see that the current growth rate is nothing to write home about. During the past 70 years, it has frequently been much higher. As recently as last December, Trump was promising a GDP growth rate of 6%. As can be seen from the graph, he is about a third of the way there now. Almost no economists believe that 6% is possible, and most don't think even 4% can be achieved. So in short, Trump's boasts about the economy don't really hold water. Yes, we have the highest GDP per capita ever, but every president in the past 70 years could legitimately claim that. Meanwhile, the current growth rate is nothing special. And of course, Trump inherited a booming economy from Barack Obama and didn't have to make any tough decisions to get it where it is now. It is basically on autopilot for the time being. The real test will come if and when the current bull market comes to an end, and the President has real choices to make. (V)
Hollywood has a well-deserved reputation for being liberal. So too does the music industry. But of all the major entertainment awards, none are more lefty than the Tonys. This is largely due to the demographics of the community, which includes a sizable number of New Yorkers, people of color, union members, Jews, and LGBT folks, all of them very left-leaning constituencies.
Anyone who did not know this was made aware of it on Sunday night, when the latest round of Tonys was handed out. In fairness, most folks tried to be at least a little bit subtle; wearing "Time's Up" or ACLU ribbons, or talking about the importance of diversity, tolerance, and gay rights, without directly mentioning the President. However, when members of the drama department at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School performed a song from "Rent" and then talked about the need for gun control, the Trump criticism came into sharper focus. Also when Nathan Lane won Best Actor for playing Trump mentor Roy Cohn in the play "Angels in America," and declared that, "It [the play] is still speaking to us as powerfully as ever in the midst of such political insanity." And anyone who still wasn't clued in at that point figured it out when Robert De Niro got on stage to introduce Bruce Springsteen and twice shouted "Fu** Trump." CBS could end up paying a fine for that one.
That Trump is very, very unpopular with the glitterati—whose acceptance he desperately craves—is nothing new at this point. Still, when he's as central to the story as he was on Sunday night, it's worth noting, if for no other reason than to understand the tweets that are surely coming. (Z)