Monday, May 6, 2019

Trump Threatens Tariffs

Markets brace for fall as analysts wonder how China will react.

My take: American talks with China on any topic are always going to involve brinkmanship and chaos. Add Trump (and Twitter) into the mix and those dynamics quadruple. Trump and his negotiators believe there is a bright line between a good deal and a bad deal. That line separates both on substance and on optics. Trump has long known he will have to endure some short-term pain to the American economy if he is going to get the Chinese to do the unprecedented: make real concessions that create a more level playing field on trade. Trump’s latest move reflects the reality that he does not believe the Chinese are taking him seriously — yet. And he believes the US economy has enough strength to survive a few short-term hits.

Hot Hotspots

Trump foreign policy team on overload with tension rising with Iran, Venezuela, North Korea, Israel-Palestinians.

My take: Trump has purposefully kept the US out of most military entanglements and tried to avoid having his domestic and trade agendas hijacked by national security tensions. That is part of the reason for the robust U.S. economic growth. But now world events are forcing his hand. The shops of Bolton and Pompeo have more on their plates right now than at any point in this administration. Sabers are being rattled, but look for attempts at de-escalation wherever possible. For all his bluster, Trump is extraordinarily risk adverse in this realm.

Mueller Showdown

Trump suggests independent counsel shouldn’t make long-anticipated Capitol Hill appearance.

My take: Trump will do anything and everything he can to either stop Mueller from testifying or to discredit his words if Mueller does appear. The media obsesses about the timing of the hearings, but the trajectory of this story as it will impact the prospects for impeachment or the views of the American people will be determined primarily by what Mueller actually says when he opens his mouth. The press and the Democrats are way too hungry to hear from the independent counsel to drop this quest, but the mystery remains: why is it still so hard to get this event locked in place? The longer the delay, the less impact the testimony will have.

“Own the Mainstream”

Pelosi advises Democrats to stay in the center-left.

My take: In interview, the Speaker demonstrates that even more than Joe Biden, she is using her influence to try to coax the nominating electorate into choosing a Trump opponent who can’t be defined as a socialist unfit to be commander in chief and a good steward of a good economy. Tom Perez, Democratic Twitter, and the party’s interest groups are still forcing the debate to the far left — or letting it go there with no pushback. Pelosi is increasingly emboldened out of necessity from her point of view to speak out. She is doing something very few people in public life ever attempt: she is trying to get her party to choose a leader who is more centrist than she herself is, because she has made the judgment that that is what is required to stop Trump from winning a second term.

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