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My take: A man whose political success on the way to and inside the White House has often been powered by pushing off of his enemies wakes up in France today with plenty of them:
Chairman Xi, Jerome Powell, the stock market, American companies, Beltway trade associations, the Democrats, (always and forever) the media, Adam Smith, and history.
Candidate Donald Trump promised to use tariffs as necessary to level the trade and economic playing fields with China. The idea was the U.S. needed leverage to force the Chinese to change their behavior.
Where is the leverage now?
Not only is there no leverage (a weakening American economy puts time even more on Xi’s side), there is no obvious off-ramp; no coalition of the willing united with the U.S. against China; and no real stomach among other Republican elected officials and Big Business to pursue a tariff war until the ends of the Earth.
Think this quote is from one of the president’s many enemies?
“I think that’s typical Trump, kind of over the top. He can’t order anybody and he knows that. I think he’s pushing as hard as he can to get the Chinese to take what we’re doing seriously.”
Nope, those are the words of one of his closest allies, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R., S.C), as quoted in the Wall Street Journal.
Let’s try another, from the same Journal story:
“It’s impossible for businesses to plan for the future in this type of environment. The administration’s approach clearly isn’t working, and the answer isn’t more taxes on American businesses and consumers. Where does this end?”
That is David French, the senior vice president of government relations at the National Retail Federation.
Okay, last one. Whose analysis of the situation is this?
“The risk here for China, when it does things like this, is simply to galvanize support even more for the President. Seven-five billion dollars worth of tariffs in terms of the combined $30 trillion economy is not something for the stock market to worry about and we’re cool here.”
If you guessed pro-tariff White House advisor Peter Navarro, speaking Friday on Fox Business, you win.
The New York Times, writing nicely for the ages: “But if a recession and breakdown in international commerce happens in the coming year, histories of the episode may well spend a chapter on the Friday collision of official actions in the government offices of Beijing, in the Grand Tetons in Wyoming and in the Oval Office.”
The New York Times, writing nicely to sum up Trump’s day: “In the space of a few hours, he declared that his own central bank chief was an ‘enemy,’ claimed sweeping powers not explicitly envisioned by the Constitution to ‘order’ American businesses to leave China and, when stock markets predictably tumbled, made a joke of it.”
The AP suggests Trump’s economic team is in over its head.
Dueling Kremlinology, from the New York Times and outside Trump advisor Stephen Moore:
Times: “His aides believe Mr. Trump is being urged on by Robert Lighthizer and Peter Navarro, his trade advisers, who generally share the president’s hostile view of China and who advocated a confrontational path with tariffs. Some said they have filled a void left by Mick Mulvaney, the acting chief of staff, who has not weighed in forcefully.”
Or: “Stephen Moore, a longtime Trump economic adviser whose nomination to a seat on the Federal Reserve board was pulled….said Mulvaney’s role advising Trump on the economy has been underappreciated. He called Mulvaney probably the second most important economic voice in the administration.”
The Washington Post smartly previews the G-7 meeting in France, where the real action gets underway on Sunday, and the president plans a Monday press conference:
“[Trump] comes bearing more grievance than guidance for global powers…The United States requested a special session Sunday focused on the state of the global economy…As the officials outlined Trump’s agenda for the meeting, they indicated the president would spend much of his time touting his own economic record and bluntly criticizing several allies for their slowing growth. He has a long list of grievances he plans to air, the officials said.”
In an online survey of the Gang of 500, respondents were asked if they expected that kind of kvetchy G-7 performance to inspire more confidence in the markets, inspire more confidence in the real economy, or give the U.S. more leverage over China.
The results: 480 said “no.” 20 did not respond, as they were headed out of the town for the weekend.
In other news:
The latest on new protests and violence in Hong Kong.
Democrats face a fractious nomination fight, the AP says.
Essential reading: David Von Drehle of the Washington Post dons green eye shades to gaze at Bernie Sanders’ Green plan and other Democratic proposals.
North Korea does more missile testing.
Nancy Pelosi still is stalling on impeachment.
Top sports story: Australia stuns Team USA, snaps 78-game streak
Top business story: Powell Issues Warning Over Trade, Signals More Rate Cuts Are Possible
Top entertainment story: ‘The Mandalorian,’ ‘Lizzie McGuire’ and Talking Dogs: 5 Things We Learned at D23 Day One
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