And Yes, We Include Gen. Flynn And Bannon In That
Why is John Bolton replacing the recently ousted H.R. McMaster as National Security Adviser and did not come into the Trump Administration as Secretary of State? Simple: National Security Adviser does not require a Senate confirmation. (Bolton did previously serve as George W. Bush’s Ambassador to the U.N., but that was a recess appointment, and he resigned when it became clear the Senate was not going to approve him to continue in that job.)
We crossed paths with Bolton in several green rooms back in our days as TV journalists, and never have we met a person before or since who was more publicly rude to or dismissive of his own staff. In addition, based on TV appearances going back decades, we can say he has consistently remained imperious as hell, a war monger, and a genuine lunatic who goes around talking about “pre-emptive strikes” as the solution to most any conflict involving the U.S. And we do not say things like that about anyone lightly.
He will lead us into armed conflict. He will get people killed.
David Sanger in The New York Times has a pretty good analysis, in which he calls Bolton’s rise, along with Mike Pompeo’s recent appointment as Secretary of State, the creation of an “historically hard-line foreign policy team“.
The only hope is Trump quickly gets fed up with his haughtiness, now that they’ll be spending a lot of time together (not just the occasional conversation on the phone, or Trump catching Bolton on Fox, where he’s a commentator).
And we’d better hope Chief of Staff Kelly sticks around, because set Trump and Bolton loose together in the Oval Office with that “nuclear button” around and who knows what kind of hell-on-earth they’ll be capable of cooking up.
Hey, Wall Street: You Know That Trade War Y’all Thought Trump Would Never Get Around To? It’s Happening…
Trump is slapping $60-billion in tariffs on China. It’s not exactly clear yet which products will fall under the tariffs. That’ll be announced in a little while. But it’ll be a wide range. Probably in the thousands. China says it will retaliate, at first mainly targeting agricultural products. As we’ve said before, Trump does kind of have a point here: outright theft of intellectual property by China is rampant, the Chinese government has repeatedly lied about opening markets, and Chinese companies often start joint ventures or invest in U.S. companies as a way of acquiring technology that they then use to set up parallel companies, which then try to drive the co-owned brand out of business.
But for Trump, again it all comes down to people laughing at us. The President saying: “I really believe they cannot believe they’ve gotten away with this for so long”. Here’s a clip (click on the photo to watch):
For Wall Street, the issue is inflation. A steady supply of cheap imports from China is one of the main reasons there hasn’t been major inflation in the U.S. for decades. A trade war will mean prices will go up. Trump’s folks keep saying the impact on consumers will be minimal. But cumulatively it adds up. At any rate, the Dow Jones Industrial Average closed down more than 700 points after the announcement (and that was before the announcement about McMaster being replaced).
And in some ways, if things go bad, Wall Street will be to blame as much as Trump: because they lapped up his corporate giveaways and deregulation like giddy children gorging on candy, and assumed the trade war talk was just posturing and bluster. They assumed there was never going to be significant inflation in the U.S., just like they assumed 10 years ago that real estate prices could never go down. You know what they say about “assume”: it makes an “ass” out of “u” and “me”.
There’s another, broader issue at play here. Trump and his administration talk about the (for now) economic battle with China as a battle for world dominance. It is. But Trump’s “America First” approach is enabling China to successfully court countries that would much prefer doing business with the U.S. Trump Administration officials talk about China’s new Silk Road initiative as some kind of nefarious plot to co-opt regional economies, when it only really took off after Trump pulled out of the Trans Pacific Partnership, which would’ve aligned many of those same countries with the U.S. against China. (China was deliberately excluded from that pact).
Trump’s go-it-alone attitude excludes the possibility of joining forces with allies like Canada and the EU who are also hurt by unfair trade practices in China, and might’ve participated in a more powerful effort with the U.S. leading the way. That’s just not the way Trump operates, but it brings increased risk to his operation.
In The Meantime, Trump Administration Exempts More Than 50% Of All U.S. Steel Imports From Tariffs
Canada and Mexico were already exempt, pending NAFTA negotiations. Leading suppliers South Korea, Brazil and the European Union now join that list. That accounts for about half of all U.S. steel imports. (There are already huge tariffs on Chinese steel that date back to the Obama administration.)
Shakeup In Trump’s Legal Team Too
Remember just a few days ago when Trump lambasted the “Failing New York Times” for falsely implying there was tension between him and his legal team? Tweeting:
(As a footnote, in the “we called it” department: Remember when we said we were suspicious about White House Spokesperson Sarah Huckabee Sanders’ Tweet a week ago that “there are no changes” at the National Security Council? Because it was in the present tense, when something in the future tense: “will be no changes“, would’ve been more appropriate. And how it made us believe even more that McMaster was on his way out?)
$1.3-Trillion Spending Bill Passes, President Is Expected To Sign It Today (But You Never Know…)
The final tally in the Senate vote early this morning was 65-32. In the House it was 256-167, with the “no” votes pretty evenly split between Republicans angry that the measure didn’t do things like defund Planned Parenthood, while some Democrats protested the fact that it didn’t include a DACA fix. Meanwhile, leadership from both parties declared victory.
And because the bill came in at 2,232 pages, lots of people won’t get around to reading it until over the weekend, so expect lots more interesting details to trickle out. For now, the Washington Post has a pretty good round up of what’s in it. Including a provision that blocks a Trump Administration proposal that would’ve allowed restaurant owners to pool and redistribute tips, even keep them if they wanted.
“This Can Be A Very Mean-Spirited Town, But You Don’t Have To Choose To Participate In That”
Those well-chosen words were the parting words from departing Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. We don’t feel the need to add anything more, you all know by now we like Rex Tillerson, and he says it all as far as we’re concerned in this clip (click on the photo to play):
And The Week Ain’t Over Yet…
Politico’s Eric Geller Tweets that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein has a new conference schedule for this morning to announce a major cyber law enforcement action:
Last But Not Least, Don’t Forget The Parkland Students’ March
If you can’t make it to the biggie in D.C. tomorrow, there are many events you can participate in all around the country. Just check here. As as we’ve said, it’s not just about marching, it’s about voting.
If you need something to inspire you, read this Op-Ed piece by the CEO of Dick’s Sporting Goods, which ran earlier this week in the Washington Post.
See you out there!
(Interestingly, as students from Florida make their way to Washington, Trump is making his way to Florida. He’ll weekend at Mar-a-Lago.)