May 26, 2018

YOU ONLY HAVE TO PUNCH SCUT FARKIS ONCE:

Surprise! Donald Trump is terrible at diplomacy. (Max Boot, May 24, 2018, Washington Post)

President Trump is widely reported, after 16 months on the job, to feel unleashed. Naysayers like economic adviser Gary Cohn and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson have been banished. White House chief of staff John F. Kelly has, to a large extent, been sidelined. Trump is listening to Sean Hannity and doing what he wants.

And how's that working out? To judge by the evidence of Trump's dealings with China and North Korea this week, it's been a disaster. The Trump Train just jumped the tracks.

Trump marched into a confrontation with China - America's top trade partner - in the serene confidence that "trade wars are good and easy to win." As recently as Tuesday, he was claiming: "When you're losing $500 billion a year, you can't lose in terms of a negotiation." (The U.S. trade deficit with China is actually $375 billion; $506 billion is the amount of goods the U.S. imports from China - and we're not losing that money, we are getting sneakers and LED displays in return. But then this president traffics in attitudes, not facts.)

Trump evidently thought he would threaten China with tariffs, and Beijing would fold as quickly as one of the vendors he has made a practice of stiffing. Not so fast. China retaliated by stopping purchases of U.S. soybeans, hurting the farm states whose votes Trump needs. China also made plain it wasn't going to pressure North Korea into concessions as long as Trump was threatening its trade.

Lo and behold, Trump caved. First he tweeted that he would lift sanctions on Chinese telecom giant ZTE before kind of, sort of, walking it back. And then this week he ran up the white flag altogether, with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin saying that the trade war is "on hold."

Posted by at May 26, 2018 7:51 AM

  

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