April 14, 2017


Why Trump is beating a hasty retreat from populism (Noah Millman, April 14, 2017, The Week)

Instead of scrapping NAFTA, they are merely looking for minor adjustments. Instead of showing China who's boss, they have retreated on Taiwan, and are promising a far more favorable stance on trade in exchange for whatever help China might offer on North Korea -- while telegraphing that they know help is bound to be limited. Most dramatically, Trump reversed the overwhelming thrust of his campaign with respect to foreign policy, ordering an attack on Syria and welcoming Montenegro into NATO, saying that the Atlantic alliance is "no longer obsolete." Even if advisor Steve Bannon doesn't lose his job, evidence of his influence is at this point distinctly thin.

But why is Trump beating this retreat? It's not because his new course is more popular. The effort to repeal ObamaCare failed spectacularly in large part because the proposed replacement was obviously inferior, and was wildly unpopular with virtually the entire public. But there is no popular movement clamoring for intervention in Syria, or for the defense of Montenegro. And while the politics of trade are exceedingly complex, with big losers inevitable even if there are also big winners, a committed administration could surely build a case and a constituency for a new trade paradigm. Instead, Trump is rapidly bargaining away his entire agenda. [...]

America's military supremacy is arguably unprecedented in world history. The U.S. dollar remains the world's reserve currency. For all the hand-wringing about the decline of American manufacturing, we remain fully capable of producing the vast majority of our strategic materials, and we are more energy independent than we have been in over a generation. 

Because, as the final para begins to say, his entire agenda was wrong--whether due to dishonesty or ignorance matters little now.

Posted by at April 14, 2017 7:50 AM